After an overnight stay at a hotel located on the banks of the River Jhelum, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has resumed a long road trip to his hometown of Lahore via the Grand Trunk (GT) Road.
Today, he is expected to make a stop at Gujranwala. Possible stops along the way include Kharian, Lalamusa and Gujrat, where he may address his supporters.
PML-N workers in Gujranwala have set up a stage and sound system for the former premier to make an address to his loyalists.
It normally takes 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Gujranwala from Jhelum via GT Road. However, the convoy is expected to reach by dusk.
According to the scheduled issued by PML-N, Sharif will spend the night in Gujranwala and leave for Lahore in the morning. He is expected to reach Lahore at 4pm on Saturday.
The rally, which started on Wednesday, halted at Jhelum yesterday where Nawaz addressed his supporters at Sohawa Junction and levelled his harshest criticism yet against the judiciary.
Nawaz spoke specifically about the five judges who formed the full-bench of the Supreme Court and passed the verdict that disqualified him under Article 62 of the Constitution in the Panamagate case.
"I became the prime minister of Pakistan through votes, whereas five honourable judges sent me home. Only those who vote politicians into power have the right to depose them," Nawaz had thundered.
Apparently addressing the judges who had disqualified him, Sharif bellowed: “How will you answer your God? What answer will you give this nation? The people want answers to all these questions.”
According to the former premier's schedule, he will head to GTS Chowk in Gujrat today, where MPA Hanif Awan is expected to organise his reception.
Lack of planning in PML-N
A two-hour delay in Nawaz's departure from Rawalpindi a day earlier and his rush to reach Jhelum as the rally proceeded indicated a lack of planning and coordination within the ruling PML-N.
DawnNews reported today that the convoy has been advised to only stop at spots where they have been given security clearance.
The rally was made to wait outside Punjab House in the hope of attracting more and more people, but when it did not happen, the convoy rushed out of Rawalpindi district, bypassing the planned stopovers in Rawat and Gujar Khan, disappointing the local leaders who had set up camps to receive their leader.
Interestingly, the vehicle ousted prime minister Sharif was travelling in sped up all of a sudden while passing through the constituency of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, making it difficult even for the other vehicles, including those carrying the personnel of protocol and security, to keep pace with it.
The former interior minister was present in the Parliament House when Mr Sharif’s convoy was passing through his constituency, and attempted to shut down speculation over his absence from the rally yesterday.
Speculators said that the key spots were skipped due to low turn outs.
The PML-N supremo expressed his displeasure over the arrangements and asked Senator Pervaiz Rashid and Khawaja Saad Rafique to convey this to leaders of the party's local chapter.
According to local leaders, Nawaz Sharif made his anger known by not inviting any of the local leaders to the container except Chaudhry Tanveer and his son. He also did not mention the local leadership in his speech.
Nawaz criticised over rally
PTI Chairman Imran Khan took to Twitter on Thursday to criticise statements made by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif against the judiciary.
Imran challenged Nawaz that he can do whatever he can think of to shift the blame, “but in the end you can't avoid the sinking feeling that the game is over and you have lost”.
The PTI chief also criticised Nawaz for taking refuge in the container and hiding behind a bulletproof glass. “Speaking from a bulletproof car doesn’t inspire confidence in already-dwindling crowds."
Responding to the criticism levelled by the PTI chief, Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, replied to Khan’s tweet saying, “Nawaz Sharif’s struggle is bigger than all…”.
“You [Imran] have lost it completely. Your heartburn is understandable. You're irrelevant,” she said.
Tehmina Durrani, wife of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, also shared a string of tweets targetting the rally, lending credence to the perception about rift in the Sharif family.
A day after requesting Nawaz Sharif to “spare Shahbaz Sharif the responsibility of protecting and assisting his own party’s rally,” Durrani went a step ahead on Thursday and held Nawaz’s “immature advisers” responsible for his ouster.
Durrani also took on the advisers to Nawaz whose “ill-advice” caused him the unceremonious departure from the Prime Minister House.
“Nawaz Sharif Sahib you hired the most mediocre advisers. You rejected your most sincere, politically experienced and astute colleagues. Your advisers are immature, untutored in vision – your welfare and your role – they lost it for you. Pakistan is a complicated nation… they don’t know,” went another tweet.
It added, “Nawaz Sharif lost the opportunity of making Pakistan a social welfare state. I pray that Nawaz Sharif Sahib arrives home safely… and fires all his advisers.”