Lahore, Oct 28: The opposition PML-N today launched a scathing attack on President Asif Ali Zardari, with senior party leader Shahbaz Sharif saying the Pakistan People's Party chief and his associates would be “hung upside down” at a square if he did not resign from his post.
Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab province and younger brother of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, led a gathering of about 30,000 supporters in chanting the slogan “Go Zardari Go”.
Sharif and several other PML-N leaders criticised the PPP-led government and Zardari for failing to tackle problems like corruption, price rise and power cuts.
“With this gathering as witness, I want to tell Zardari that the 180 million people (of Pakistan) have risen up against you. Vacate your seat by yourself, return our money or you and your looting associates will be hung upside down at this chowk,” Sharif told the rally at Bhatti Chowk in Lahore.
The gathering in Lahore was “ready for the final battle against Zardari and his associates” Sharif said. Comparing Zardari and his aides to “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves,” Sharif said the PML-N would not rest in peace till it “chases them away”.
The outburst marked a new low in relations between the PPP, which heads the federal government, and the PML-N, which rules Punjab, the country's most populous and politically crucial province.
Though the PML-N joined the PPP-led government after the 2008 general election, it pulled out of the coalition within six months.
In recent weeks, the PML-N has repeatedly attacked the PPP for alleged corruption and failure to tackle a crippling energy crisis that triggered violent protests across Punjab.
Political analysts said today's rally marked the PML-N's decision to direct its tirade against President Zardari, whose popularity has fallen over the past few years.
Shahbaz Sharif pointedly targeted Zardari in his speech but spared Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. “Give your resignation or parliament will hold you accountable,” he said.
Sharif claimed there would be an Egypt-like uprising and Zardari would have no chance to escape the people's wrath. “Just as we destroyed dengue, we will destroy you (Zardari) and your associates,” Sharif said.
“We have to restore the original map of Pakistan and for that we will hold Zardari by his collar,” he said.
Political analysts said the PML-N had launched the drive against Zardari with an eye on elections to the Senate or upper house of parliament scheduled for March next year. The PPP is widely expected to gain a majority in the 104-member Senate in the polls.
The PML-N's campaign is also aimed at countering the rising popularity of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who has increased his following in Punjab. Some analysts believe the PML-N wants to topple the PPP-led government through its protests and force an early election.
The PML-N has claimed that its drive will eventually force Zardari to quit the presidency.
Though PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was supposed to lead the campaign, he is currently on an private visit to Turkey.
The PML-N rally was also a demonstration of its strength in its stronghold of Punjab.