ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), announced on Monday that it would now formally launch its anti-government campaign with a public meeting in Gujranwala on Oct 16, instead of Quetta.
The newly-formed 11-party alliance, headed by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, had earlier announced holding its first rally in Quetta on Oct 11.
The PDM’s steering committee at its meeting on Monday released a schedule of six public meetings in the four provinces as part of the first phase of its movement in line with decisions taken at the Sept 20 multiparty conference (MPC) in Islamabad. Besides, the steering committee finalised offices of the alliance.
The decisions taken by the steering committee were announced by its convener Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with leaders of other PDM component parties at a media briefing.
According to Mr Iqbal, the PDM would hold its second public meeting in Karachi on Oct 18, third in Quetta on Oct 25, fourth in Peshawar on Nov 22, fifth in Multan on Nov 30 and the last one in Lahore on Dec 13.
Mr Iqbal said that members of the steering committee had unanimously elected Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as senior vice-president of the PDM whereas PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had been nominated as its secretary general. He said all parties had unanimously chosen Mian Iftikhar of the Awami National Party (ANP) as the information secretary of the PDM.
Sources in the opposition told Dawn that the decision to hold the first public meeting in Gujranwala, instead of Quetta, was made after resentment was shown by some parties, particularly the PPP, over the unilateral decision of JUI-F to change the date of the Quetta public meeting.
The sources said that on the request of the local leaders of JUI-F and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), the JUI-F on its own decided to hold the public meeting in Quetta on Oct 18, instead of Oct 11.
However, the idea was opposed by the PPP as the party had already announced its plan to hold a public meeting on the same day to mark the 13th anniversary of the Karsaz tragedy in which hundreds of party workers had been killed due to a blast at a rally on the occasion of return of Ms Benazir Bhutto to the country ending her nearly eight-year exile. The sources said that the JUI-F representatives apologised to the leaders of other parties for not taking them into confidence before changing the date of the Quetta public meeting, which now had been fixed for Oct 25.
It may be recalled that the PML-N had also announced its own programme to hold a public meeting in Gujranwala on Oct 16 as part of its protest campaign against the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif. However, during the steering committee’s meeting on Oct 3, it was decided that all future events already announced by the parties would now be held from the PDM’s platform.
Mr Iqbal claimed that the Dec 13 Lahore public meeting would be “biggest gathering” in the country’s history after which the present “fake set-up” would no more be able to stand against wishes of the people of the country.
He said the members of the steering committee condemned registration of sedition cases against the PML-N leadership. He termed the registration of the treason case against Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Farooq Haider an effort to damage the Kashmir cause.
Speaking on the occasion, PDM information secretary Mian Iftikhar asked the media to support the opposition’s campaign to protect media freedom and the country. He said the opposition wanted to see fresh elections in the country without outside interference.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2020