KARACHI: After weeks of deliberations, meetings with key opposition parties and consultation with several leaders, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday decided not to actively participate in the sit-in that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is set to hold in Islamabad on Oct 31.
However, the PPP assured the rightwing party of its support, announcing that in Sindh, where it has its government, every possible measure would be taken to facilitate the JUI-F’s anti-government protest. On its part, the PPP will carry out its own campaign against the government separately through Awami Rabita Muhim or mass contact drive.
This was stated by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at Bilawal House while talking to reporters after hours-long meeting of the party’s core committee. He said the party did not, in principle, support politics of sit-ins though it supported the JUI-F’s call, noting that space for protests and dissent was shrinking since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power last year.
Says party won’t participate in protest but will carry out its own mass contact drive
“We have decided to support the JUI-F’s call and we would do our best to facilitate his [Maulana Fazl’s] protest in Islamabad,” he said. “Our office-bearers in different cities would welcome their caravans and give them support for the march. We on the other side would keep our [mass contact] campaign on and in the first phase of our Awami Rabita Muhim we would hold a rally in Karachi on Oct 18 to mark the anniversary of 2007 Karsaz carnage. Then we would enter Punjab and pass through different cities of the province.”
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said: “Principally, PPP doesn’t support the idea that any elected government or the prime minister is thrown out only on the basis of protests held in the capital because it sets a negative trend.”
He added: “In democracy there is always a process to elect or oust a government. But unfortunately, this puppet government has eliminated all such options one after another. When there is no way left to bring change through parliament, judiciary, election commission or accountability body, then streets and sit-ins are left as the only option for the political parties.”
In reply to a question about his personal participation in the JUI-F protest in Islamabad, the PPP chairman said it would be “very difficult” to make it, though he offered support to Maulana Fazl on behalf of the PPP’s government in Sindh to facilitate the JUI-F workers in their journey towards the capital.
Answering another question, Mr Bhutto-Zardari called the politics of sit-ins against the democratic norms. However, he was quick to justify the JUI-F’s protest, blaming the ‘incompetence’ of the government for creating such opportunities.
He expressed the confidence that Maulana Fazl was leading the protest march only for better democratic culture and stability of the country.
“I firmly believe that Maulana Sahab is a true democratic man. He has history of playing an active role in pro-democracy campaigns and siding with true democratic forces. I can’t even think that he would be doing all this after getting some signal from any third force,” he added.
The PPP leader mentioned various protest campaigns being run across the country not only by political parties but also by other segments of society as a manifestation of “severe incompetence of the selected government which is more interested in appeasing its selectors”.
“It’s not only PPP or PML-N or Maulana Fazlur Rehman; you see everyone in this country is protesting. Whether it’s traders, labourers, farmers, doctors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or the recently formed PTM, all are staging protests against the government. If the government itself keeps the doors of parliament closed, stops opposition from initiating any legislation business and throws opposition leaders into jail, it would ultimately create space for protests,” he added.
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2019