Ral­lies show deep sup­port of ousted prime min­is­ter

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY MO­HAM­MAD YOUSAF AND MU­NIS AHMED

RAWALPINDI, PAK­ISTAN | Pak­istan’s de­posed Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif kicked off two days of ral­lies on Wed­nes­day aimed at demon­strat­ing his po­lit­i­cal strength by mak­ing stops from the cap­i­tal, Islamabad, to his home­town of La­hore, ig­nor­ing se­cu­rity threats and draw­ing thou­sands of sup­port­ers.

Mr. Sharif planned to spend at least two nights along the Grand Trunk Road, the main road from Islamabad to La­hore, in his first pub­lic ap­pear­ances since be­ing forced to step down for con­ceal­ing as­sets late last month.

Prime Min­is­ter Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi, who re­placed Mr. Sharif a few days later, hugged the three-time premier as he boarded a ve­hi­cle along with his sup­port­ers. Mr. Ab­basi is a law­maker from Mr. Sharif’s rul­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League party.

Mr. Sharif’s sup­port­ers show­ered rose petals on his ve­hi­cle and waved na­tional and party flags, chant­ing: “My Lion, your lion, Nawaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif” — the lion was the ousted prime min­is­ter’s elec­tion sym­bol when he won the 2013 vote.

The event re­mained largely peace­ful, though Mr. Sharif’s sup­port­ers as­saulted the crew of two lo­cal TV sta­tions that had been crit­i­cal of him dur­ing the court pro­ceed­ings, po­lice of­fi­cial Hafeez Khan told Reuters.

De­spite the heat and hu­mid­ity, hun­dreds of peo­ple walked for about 1.2 miles with Mr. Sharif’s slow-mov­ing con­voy, as vol­un­teers dis­trib­uted bot­tles of wa­ter. Mr. Sharif’s party dec­o­rated the route with his por­traits and na­tional flags.

Hours later, Mr. Sharif reached the gar­ri­son city of Rawalpindi in a sports ve­hi­cle and moved to an elab­o­rately equipped con­tainer truck that was fit­ted with beds, air con­di­tion­ing and a bath­room.

Speak­ing to en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers at the rally af­ter night­fall, Mr. Sharif said “this mam­moth crowd in Rawalpindi is in fact the start of a revo­lu­tion.”

“This is the court of the peo­ple,” he added, speak­ing from be­hind bul­let­proof glass and say­ing that it seems the en­tire city had come out to greet him. “The dis­re­spect of the peo­ple’s man­date is not ac­cept­able,” he said but added that he doesn’t seek a re­turn to gov­ern­ment but the “re­spect of the peo­ple’s vote.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

De­posed Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif be­gan two days of ral­lies Wed­nes­day mak­ing stops from Islamabad to La­hore in his first pub­lic ap­pear­ances since step­ping down.

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