The first public meeting of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — an alliance of almost all major opposition parties that seeks the government's ouster — will be held on October 11 in Quetta, opposition leaders announced on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference after PDM's first formal meeting in Islamabad, PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the anti-government movement will be launched across the country after the "historic" rally in Quetta.
"This movement will keep growing and will be successful in ridding Pakistan of this undemocratic process," said Abbasi, accompanied by other opposition leaders. PML-N's Maryam Nawaz and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did not attend the meeting.
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Abbasi said the meeting strongly condemned the "shrinking" space for democracy in the country and discussed rising inflation, unemployement, "historic corruption", the state of the economy and people's issues.
The meeting also gave approval to PDM's steering committee, which Abbasi said will play its role "in taking the PDM movement forward".
He said the steering committee, which will comprise two members from each party, held its first meeting today as well and an "organisational structure" will be sent to the opposition parties' leaders following which the movement will be presented before the people.
"You will see that this movement will give rise to a true political change in Pakistan's political history," Abbasi said, adding that all opposition parties had consensus on the decisions taken today.
He said the movement's future strategy will be decided in the second meeting of the steering committee next Monday.
The steering committee's convenership will be changed on a rotational basis, with PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal to serve as its convener for the first month.
The PDM huddle comes a day after PML-N president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in an assets beyond means and money laundering case.
Referring to the arrest, former premier and PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf said the meeting resolved that "such tactics will weaken democracy and the anger and grievances of Pakistanis will rise."
Questioning the need to arrest Shehbaz after a reference against him had been filed, Pervez said the "government-NAB nexus" became apparent after government ministers predicted on television the arrests of various opposition leaders.
Ashraf said the Oct 11 rally will be followed by "a series of public meetings" in all provinces.
The meeting was expected to review the situation after Shehbaz’s detention and possible arrest of other leaders, the PTI government’s alleged plan to rig Gilgit-Baltistan and local bodies polls and give a final shape to the decisions taken at the opposition's September 20 multi-party conference (MPC).
The PDM was formed at the MPC, where opposition parties had 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.
With additional reporting by Nadir Guramani.