Opposition parties form alliance to oust govt

Published September 21, 2020
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif give a press conference at the end of multiparty conference in Islamabad on Sunday. — AFP
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Shahbaz Sharif give a press conference at the end of multiparty conference in Islamabad on Sunday. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Giving a formal shape to their alliance with the name of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and demanding resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country’s major opposition parties on Sunday announced launching of a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” starting from next month with countrywide public meetings, protest demonstrations and rallies in December and a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad in January 2021.

Briefing reporters at the conclusion of more than eight-hour-long PPP-hosted multi-party conference (MPC) which was also addressed by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari through video link, the opposition leaders announced that they would use all political and democratic options, including no-confidence motions and en mass resignations from parliament, to seek “the selected prime minister’s resignation and an end to the role of the establishment in politics”.

The details of the “action plan” were presented before the media by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the presence of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and vice president Maryam Nawaz, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and other prominent opposition leaders at a press briefing after the MPC.

Before announcing the “action plan” aimed at ousting the present government, the JUI-F chief also read out a 26-point declaration in the form of a resolution containing various demands, including “end of establishment’s interference in politics, new free and fair elections after formulation of election reforms with no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies, release of political prisoners, withdrawal of cases against journalists, implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, speeding up of the projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and across the board accountability under a new accountability law”.

Announce three-phased anti-govt movement from next month

Maulana Fazl said that a special committee would soon be formed to give final shape to their programmes under the action plan and announce dates for public meetings and other activities. Terming the present parliament a “rubber stamp”, the JUI-F chief declared that the opposition would no more cooperate with the government in parliament. He said the opposition parties would seek the participation of people from all segments of society in the protest movement.

Through the resolution, the opposition parties also demanded sacking of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and a transparent investigation into the media report about his offshore businesses and properties. They said that investigation must be carried out in the way it was done with the politicians. The resolution calls for accountability of all those belonging to the judiciary, defence forces, bureaucracy and parliament under a uniform law.

“This meeting has declared that the present selected government has been provided strength by the establishment which had imposed it on the people through rigging in the elections. The meeting has expressed grave concerns over the increasing role of the establishment in politics and considered it a threat to country’s national security and institutions,” said Maulana Fazl.

He said the “failed policies” of the government had ruined the country’s economy which had put the country’s defence, nuclear capability and sovereignty in danger.

The MPC, he said, had rejected the idea of imposing a presidential system in the country, adding that they would make no compromise on the supremacy of parliament.

The MPC also expressed concern over price hike, increase in terrorism incidents and non-implementation of the NAP on terrorism. It also expressed concern over the growing tension in the country due to recent sectarian-related incidents and termed it “dangerous and a result of the government’s criminal negligence”.

The MPC expressed concern over the filing of references and cases against upright and impartial judges. It endorsed the resolution adopted at a conference of the Pakistan Bar Council on Sept 17, terming the present process of judges’ appointment a hurdle in the way of independent judiciary.

The MPC called for presenting the “missing persons” before the judiciary and an end to the practice of lifting people. It rejected the plan for holding local government elections on non-party basis and called for implementation of the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan Programme. The MPC called for formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document the country’s history since 1947 in the true perspective. It decided to review the Charter of Democracy signed by the PPP and PML-N in 2006 and a committee would be formed for this purpose.

Sources said that both Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari remained present in the MPC for most of the time. Besides, both Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also held separate consultations with the two leaders over telephone during the moot.

According to the sources, the option of resigning from parliament to mount pressure on the government was included in the declaration on the demand of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. They said the Maulana was of the view that they should immediately resign from parliament, but the PPP and PML-N opposed the idea.

Some of the leaders, including Mr Bhutto-Zardari, were of the view that Nawaz Sharif should return to the country and the opposition lawmakers should hand over their resignations to him. Mr Sharif suggested in lighter vein that they should hand over their resignations to Maulana Fazl. However, no final decision could be made and it was decided to include the option in the declaration.

While talking to reporters after the MPC, Maryam Nawaz said that her whole party was with the narrative of Nawaz Sharif. Replying to a question if her uncle Shahbaz Sharif also supported this hard-line stance, she said Shahbaz Sharif was the party president and he considered Nawaz Sharif’s advice as orders.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2020

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