LAHORE - Chanting slogans of change and waving banners, high-spirited marchers of PTI and PAT set off for the capital late Thursday night with dreams of changing the system.
PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri led two separate processions from Lahore and attracted larger crowds as they headed towards Ravi Bridge on their way to Islamabad.
Imran Khan set out with the aim of making Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign from his office and Dr Qadri left his Model Town residence pledging to restore real democracy.
“I ask you to resign, Mr Prime Minister, before the Azadi March reaches Islamabad”, said Imran Khan as he led thousands of party activists from his Zaman Park residence. He also demanded resignation from Election Commission members for allegedly assisting the ruling party in stealing people’s mandate in 2013 polls.
Imran covered 4km distance from his residence to Faisal Chowk, the main venue of the drive, in more than six hours. Imran’s sons Qasim and Suleman besides his other close relatives were also with him on a specially prepared container.
Mr Qadri wished the countrymen a happy Independence Day before leaving from his residence.
“The Revolution March will ensure constitutional and democratic rights to the oppressed of this country,” he said.
In case of Azadi March it was pre-decided that PTI workers would be allowed to move out, but government initially had a different policy vis-à-vis PAT activists. It was after prolonged negotiations with Dr Qadri involving MQM chief Altaf Hussain, Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad and Punjab Governor Ch Sarwar that Revolution March was allowed to proceed. The PAT chief held out assurance to the mediators that he would keep the march peaceful.
Imran launched his long march from his Zaman Park residence at 1pm, after offering special prayer along with the marchers for their success. PTI top leaders including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Asad Umer, Ijaz Ch, Dr Arif Alvi, Naeemul Haq and Shafqat Mehmood were also on the container. A bullet-proof vehicle closely followed the special container which was to be used by party chief if needed.
Addressing the charged party workers after reaching Faisal Chowk, Imran said: “I brought victory for the people of Pakistan in the World Cup and I will win the match in Islamabad to restore real democracy in the country.” He said the people of Lahore by joining the Azadi March have established that electoral match of 2013 was fixed.
The PTI chairman said he would die for the cause of freeing the working classes from the slavery of dynastic politics, and he asked the people living along GT Road and beyond it to join the Azadi March on its way if they desired a real change.
Imran while saying that he was going to create a new Pakistan warned that any Gullu Butt confronting PTI march would be held accountable and sent to jail when PTI would be voted to power. Calling the ruling family and their close associates a group of Gullu Butts, he warned they would be put behind the bars for their crimes to end Gullu Butt culture for good.
“I will reach with a million marchers to the capital and get resignation from the prime minister,” Imran declared. He said: The ruling family kings are preparing their princes and princesses to enslave the masses but I will not let them do so. My sons will not dictate the affairs of the state if PTI will be voted to power.
The PTI chief also pledged: I will not maintain my assets abroad but bring the looted public funds from the foreign banks. The ‘begging bowl’ would be broken when the ruling elite, specially the ruling family, pay their taxes, he added.
Large crowds of PTI flag-waving workers gathered at Faisal Chowk to receive and join the march. There were men, women and children of all ages all around. Youth danced to party songs and raised slogans. Food stalls, PTI badges, flags and bands stalls were also set up there. The route from Zaman Park to Faisal Chowk and onwards was crowded with PTI banners and posters inviting the masses for Azadi March.
On the other hand, Dr Qadri in his address to his supporters said that restoration of real democracy and poverty-alleviation were the main aims of his struggle. He promised accountability of the corrupt and establishment of an egalitarian society where all segments of society would enjoy their social and legal rights without any kind of discrimination.
As part of his 10-point charter, Qadri ruled out any space for martial law. He said his revolution would remove terrorism and extremism while provision of efficient justice and devolution of power would also be ensured. He also promised creation of an environment where there will be no misery, poverty and unemployment.
The allied leaders accompanying Qadri included Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Sardar Asseff Ahmad Ali, SIC chief Hamid Raza, MWM leader Nasir Abbas Jafri, Raheeq Abbasi and Khurram Nawaz Gandapur. Ch Pervaiz Elahi-led PML-Q workers joined the march several hours later, after 4pm, near FC College at Canal road. Pervaiz Elahi in his speech said they would not return till resignation of Nawaz Sharif and registration of murder case of 14 innocent people killed in the Model Town tragedy.
The PAT marchers, taking the route from Model Town to Muslim Morr, Canal Road and Dharampura, had reached Azadi Chowk at the time of filing of this report. They were to proceed to Islamabad via GT Road crossing the Ravi Bridge at Shahdara.