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Islamabad, Pakistan Thousands of people have gathered in the Pakistani city of Gujranwala to protest against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, as an opposition alliance has launched a campaign that it hopes it can take advantage of rising prices. prices and other frustrations to overthrow the government.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim Leagues Nawaz (PML-N) faction, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and the Jamiat Ulema Islams Fazl faction (JUI-F) held its first major public demonstration on Friday after being formed last month.

Key leaders from each of these main opposition parties addressed the rally later on Friday, including PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and JUI-F leader Fazl-ur-Rehman .

Sharif spoke live via video link from London, the capital of the United Kingdom, where he has resided since leaving Pakistan on medical bail as he continues to appeal corruption convictions handed down by a court in Islamabad .

He accused the country’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, of overthrowing his government, putting pressure on the justice system and installing Khan in the 2018 election.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, you have packed our government, which was working well, and made the nation and the country your way, Sharif said in censored comments on all Pakistani TV stations, based on government orders.

throw them away

Maryam Nawaz, his daughter, also addressed the gathering of thousands of people who traveled to Gujranwala from all over Punjab province, which is home to more than half of the 207 million Pakistans, and other areas.

Governments should come from your votes and also from your votes. And no one should have the power to take your chosen ones and kick them out of office. And if they do, you should have the power to kick them out of office, she said.

The government has dismissed the protests as a side spectacle, with Information Minister Shibli Faraz challenging the opposition to fill the stadium where it will be held.

The way they systematically destroyed institutions and placed people in positions to serve them is why the economy was destroyed, Faraz said earlier on Friday, addressing the country’s Senate.

This country has seen itself impoverished and institutions are weakening as they grow richer.

The PDM alliances campaign, launched after its formation on September 20, was marked by how it brutally targeted the country’s military, which directly ruled the country for about half of its 73 years of service. history and is accused of rigging the polls to bring Prime Minister Khan to power.

That same candor rare in Pakistani political discourse was visible at the rally on Friday.

We want there to be an end to corruption, for that you will need a law for every Pakistani, said PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

To end corruption, we must have responsibility at all levels. If there is an accusation, then there should definitely be an investigation of a former prime minister or president. But if there is a charge against a general or a judge, we also need to investigate that.

He also referred to the historic highs of poverty [and] inflation, blaming the Khan government.

Top leaders from each of the main opposition parties were due to address the rally later Friday. [Arif Ali/AFP]Anti-corruption campaign

Khans Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was elected to power after a general election in July 2018 in which the opposition alleged that there had been widespread rigging during the counting process, while a results system online broke down on election night.

They also alleged that an anti-corruption campaign by the country’s independent National Accountability Bureau over-targeted PML-N and PPP candidates before the polls.

Sharif was removed from his post as prime minister in 2017 after the Supreme Court ruled he lied about a declaration of assets, and the former prime minister was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption a few days before the July 2018 elections.

After his election, Khan made this anti-corruption campaign a centerpiece of his reign, with scores of opposition politicians jailed, tried or investigated for corruption.

Among those arrested in the past two years are three-time former prime minister Sharif, PPP co-chair and former president Asif Ali Zardari, daughter of Sharifs Maryam, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and several other main opposition leaders of the PML-N and PPP.

Several of those arrested have since been released on bail, although authorities arrested Sharif’s younger brother, Shehbaz, a key PML-N leader, on charges of corruption days after the formation of the PDM. He remains in detention.

Critics, including rights groups and the opposition, say the anti-corruption campaign has been one-sided, mainly targeting political opponents of the Khans while leaving members of his ruling party or their allies largely intact.

the [anti-corruption watchdog] seems reluctant to prosecute people on one side of the political divide while those on the other side are arrested and jailed for months and years without providing sufficient cause, read a Supreme Court verdict in a case of corruption in July.

Food prices skyrocket

Khan dismissed the criticism, saying on Friday that the opposition was only demonstrating to try to get concessions in bribery proceedings against him.

The PTI rule has also been marked by a narrowing of media freedoms, with heavily restricted coverage of opposition figures or critics of the military.

Following Sharif’s speech at the PDM training event on September 20, the Khan government ordered that media channels no longer be allowed to broadcast statements by him or any other political leader currently wanted for corruption. .

The Khans government remains broadly popular, supported by its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen Pakistan record a relatively low death toll, with 6,718 dead and 321,877 cases since the start of the epidemic.

In recent weeks, however, it has faced a new challenge, with inflation rising across the country, especially for staple foods like flour, pulses and vegetables.

In October, Pakistan’s Bureau of Statistics recorded year-over-year inflation of 9.04%, as the prices of basic necessities like potatoes and tomatoes rose by more than 50%.

Asad Hashim is the digital correspondent for Al Jazeeras in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

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