Pakistan opposition holds mass rally calling for Imran Khan to go

The mass demonstration in Karachi was the second in three days launched by Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of political opposition parties. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 19 October 2020

Pakistan opposition holds mass rally calling for Imran Khan to go

  • Mass demonstration in Karachi was the second in three days launched by Pakistan Democratic Movement

KARACHI: Tens of thousands of opposition supporters rallied in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi on Sunday as part of a campaign to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan, who they accuse of being installed by the military in a rigged election two years ago.
The mass demonstration in Karachi was the second in three days launched by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), formed last month by nine major opposition parties to begin a nationwide agitation against the government.
Under Khan, Pakistan has experienced mounting censorship of the media and a crackdown on dissent, critics and opposition. But the campaign against him sought to tap into discontent over his handling of the economy, which was tanking even before the global coronavirus pandemic struck.
“You’ve snatched jobs from people. You have snatched two-time a day food from the people,” Maryam Nawaz, the daughter and political heir of the former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, told the rally.
In the early hours of Monday, police snatched her husband, arresting Muhammad Safdar following complaints from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party that he had raised political slogans at the mausoleum of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, an action deemed illegal.
“Police broke my room door at the hotel I was staying at in Karachi and arrested Capt. Safdar,” Nawaz tweeted on Monday morning. A spokesman of the provincial government said police had not acted on their orders.
During Sunday’s rally she had shared the platform with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose late mother Benazir Bhutto was also prime minister two times.
“Our farmers have hunger in their homes... our youth is disappointed,” said Zardari, whose Pakistan People’s Party governs the southern city of Karachi.
The next general election is scheduled for 2023.
On Friday, the opposition held a mass rally in Gujranwala, a city in the eastern province of Punjab, a stronghold for Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
Addressing the rally via video link from London, Nawaz Sharif accused army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa of rigging the 2018 elections and orchestrating his ouster in 2017, saying the corruption charges brought against him were concocted.
The military, which denies meddling in politics, has yet to respond specifically to Sharif’s accusations. Khan, who denies the army helped him win, has defended the military and on Saturday threatened a fresh crackdown on opposition leaders.

Related


Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

Updated 2 min 43 sec ago

Five UK MPs cheated possible death in 2018 Iranian bomb plot

  • Thwarted terror attack on Free Iran rally in Paris underscores threat posed by Iranian diplomats abroad: Bob Blackman MP

LONDON: Five British members of parliament (MPs) were among the thousands who escaped a terror plot at a rally for Iranian resistance groups in Paris two years ago, that was allegedly engineered by an Iranian diplomat.

A bomb intended to explode at the Free Iran gathering in the French capital in June 2018 was found in the car of an Iranian couple who were arrested in Brussels.

Among the potential thousands of bombing victims were five British MPs: Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers, Sir David Amess, and Roger Godsiff, as well as senior US politicians including American President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The rally, organized by Iranian umbrella opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), had tens of thousands of people in attendance and was aimed at highlighting the global, democratic, and grassroots opposition to the current regime in Tehran.

An Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi — believed to be the mastermind of the plot as well as an intelligence operative — has gone on trial in Belgium for allegedly smuggling the explosives used in the foiled plot from Iran into Europe by using his diplomatic privileges to avoid airport security checks.

Assadi was an ambassador in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, and his alleged involvement in the bomb plot has prompted discussion as to the true role of Iranian diplomats abroad.

*****

READ MORE: Belgium tries Iranian diplomat over bomb plot

Two years after failed bomb plot, Iranian opposition rallies backers online

*****

Bob Blackman, one of the MPs who attended the rally, told Arab News that the plot was an attempt by the Iranian regime to “take revenge” on the NCRI and their leader Maryam Rajavi for the groundswell in support for their group among Iranians inside Iran and abroad.

He reiterated a parliamentary motion in which he urged the UK and European governments to take seriously the security threat posed by Iran’s foreign diplomatic missions.

The politician said he condemned Iran’s “misuse of diplomatic privileges” and “reiterates the need to try the suspects and expel other Iranian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover or as ex-members of the opposition.”

The UK, Blackman added, should “make it clear to the regime that its continued use of diplomatic missions and embassies to facilitate, carry out, and plan terrorist attacks will have serious consequences, including expelling of diplomats and closing Iran’s embassy.”

He also urged the British government to “impose punitive measures on the regime’s leadership including (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei, (President Hassan) Rouhani, and (Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif who decided and were involved in the Paris bomb plot.”

Blackman added: “The UK government must also proscribe the entire IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and the Ministry of Intelligence as terrorist organizations because these organizations are instrumental in the regime’s export of terrorism.”

The NCRI is frequently referred to as Iran’s “government in waiting” and the body continues to attract high-level attention and endorsements for presenting a credible alternative to the clerical regime in Iran.

Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, told Arab News that the 2018 bomb plot saga once again underscored the threat posed by Iran’s regime not just to its own people and the Middle East, but to the world at large.

He said: “Today’s trial, a culmination of more than two years of investigations, makes it palpably clear that the use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft is part and parcel of the Iranian regime’s DNA.

“This is an imperative and deterrent step to prevent the godfather of international terrorism making the European territory its roaming ground. The Iranian regime’s leaders must be prosecuted and face justice.”