• Opposition party chiefs attend first PDM meeting, pass two resolutions
• Events already announced by PPP, PML-N to be held under PDM banner
• Major parties to get key offices on a rotational basis
• Govt slammed for calling political opponents ‘traitors’
ISLAMABAD: Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-Fazl), has become the first president of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) after his unanimous nomination by the heads of all the constituent parties during their first formal meeting through video link on Saturday.
According to PDM’s steering committee convener Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader and deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif proposed Maulana’s name as the alliance president and it was endorsed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and others.
Sources told Dawn that Mr Sharif had initially proposed that Maulana Fazl should be appointed as the president on a permanent basis, but the idea was opposed by Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Amir Haider Hoti, who suggested that the office should be given on a rotational basis to leaders of the constituent parties.
The sources said there was an agreement among the leaders that the Maulana should lead the PDM in the first phase as he had already led a long march, dubbed as Azadi March, against the present Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government last year.
“Since the Maulana has already done a rehearsal and his party is more disciplined and has the ability to effectively mobilise the masses, therefore, in the first and decisive phase, he is the best choice,” said one of the participants in the meeting.
The sources said most of the participants were of the opinion that in order to maintain ‘continuity’, it was necessary that the tenure of key office-bearers, including that of the PDM president, should not exceed four to six months.
The Maulana’s nomination to lead the movement came only a week before the formal launch of the anti-government campaign by the opposition parties with PDM’s first public meeting scheduled for Oct 11 in Quetta.
Talking to Dawn after the Saturday meeting, which was attended by the leaders of the opposition parties from different cities through video link, Mr Iqbal said it had been decided that the three major parties in the 11-party alliance would share the three top offices of the PDM on a rotational basis. The offices of senior vice-president and the general secretary of the PDM would be given to the PML-N and the PPP.
The final decision about the term of these offices and nominations on other posts, including information secretary, will be made in a meeting of the steering committee to be held on Monday. Also, PDM’s provincial structure would be decided in the steering committee meeting, disclosed the convener who is also the PML-N secretary general.
Besides, he said, the steering committee would finalise programmes of public meetings and future strategy of the PDM.
When asked why the PML-N had announced a separate schedule of its public meetings in Punjab, Mr Iqbal said that the party had initially announced public meetings and rallies to protest the arrest of party president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif. However, it was decided in the meeting of the PDM party heads that all the upcoming events of the parties would be held under the PDM banner, he said, explaining that the PML-N would extend invitation to all the PDM component parties to attend the October 16 public meeting in Gujranwala. Similarly, he said, all PDM member parties would also participate in the activities that had already been planned by the PPP including an event in connection with the 2007 Karsaz tragedy.
Mr Iqbal said the opposition had decided to launch the movement for the supremacy of the Constitution, democracy, the independent judiciary and for the security of the rights of Pakistanis.
The opposition parties’ heads in their meeting also passed two resolutions.
Through their first resolution, the PDM leaders condemned the PTI government’s statement linking the opposition’s PDM to India, stating that such a statement was a proof of its frustration. It also “condemned” the allegation of being anti-state being levelled against a three-time premier Nawaz Sharif who had responded to India’s nuclear tests in 1998 by opting for a series of nuclear tests despite international pressure on Pakistan.
The contents of the resolutions were later released to the media by PML-N’s information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb.
The resolution stated that the vision of Quaid-i-Azam regarding the supremacy and rule of the people was PDM’s objective. It also “strongly condemned” the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and termed it an attempt to rig the upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan elections.
It pointed out that the people facing the ‘government-created’ inflation, unemployment and heavy taxation wanted to get rid of this administration.
The PML-N supreme leader attended the meeting from London whereas the PPP chairman participated in the proceedings from Karachi after returning from Dubai, while Maulana Fazlur Rehman attended it from Islamabad.
The virtual meeting of the PDM heads was also attended by chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) Akhtar Mengal from Dubai, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) President Aftab Sherpao and ANP leader Amir Haider Hoti from Peshawar, Dr Abdul Malik of National Party from Quetta, while the convener attended the meeting via video link from Lahore.
Earlier speaking at a news conference, Marriyum Aurangzeb lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for calling Nawaz Sharif a “traitor” and an “Indian agent”.
Declaring opponents ‘traitors’ had become a cliché, she said, adding that people like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir, Akbar Bugti, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz had also been dubbed as traitors in the past.
Ms Aurangzeb warned the PTI government and its spokespersons to stop hurling allegations against Nawaz Sharif and the PDM of being anti-state and to stop issuing “certificates of treason” or else the opposition would open the Pandora’s box of the “true traitors” of the nation. She said an army of “rented PTI mouthpieces” had been working on an agenda for the past 24 hours, playing the “dangerous game” that could go horribly wrong if reciprocated by the opposition.
She said the entire world knew how Mr Khan had accused Pakistan’s intelligence agencies of creating and training Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the past. She said he would forever be known as the “selected prime minister” during whose tenure “the Fall of Kashmir” happened. Compromising on Pakistan’s interests over the ‘questionable’ foreign funding was just the tip of an iceberg, she remarked.
“They have the audacity to accuse Nawaz of treason. Nawaz made Pakistan a nuclear power despite crushing foreign pressure. During Nawaz’s tenure, (Indian PMs) Vajpayi and Modi came to Pakistan because they respected an elected prime minister. But Imran and his cabinet beat their chest when Modi doesn’t attend their phone call,” she lambasted.
On September 20, the leaders of the 11 major opposition parties during a PPP-hosted multiparty conference (MPC) in Islamabad had announced formation of the PDM and launch of a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” starting with countrywide public meetings, protest demonstrations and rallies before a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad in January 2021.
The opposition leaders had announced that they would use all political and democratic options, including no-confidence motions and en mass resignations from the parliament to seek “the selected prime minister’s resignation and an end to the role of the establishment in politics.”
The MPC had also issued a 26-point declaration in the form 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.”
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2020