PESHAWAR: Wrangling on whether Awami National Party or Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl should host the upcoming Pakistan Democratic Movement’s rally in Peshawar has led to a compromise over the two political parties jointly hosting the united opposition’s anti-government protest in the provincial capital.

Among the political leaders from the joint opposition, Maulana Fazl Rehman of JUI-F, Maryam Nawaz of PML-N, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari of PPP, Mahmood Khan Achakzai of PkMAP, Aftab Sherpao of QWP and others are expected to participate in the public meeting.

ANP central president Asfandyar Wali Khan may not participate in the event due to health reasons but the party’s senior vice-president Ameer Haider Hoti will be there to represent his party.

The PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif is expected to address the rally through a video link from London.

Nawaz likely to address PDM public meeting through video link

ANP that has a large vote bank in the Peshawar valley, its key constituency, was of the view that its political and electoral credentials made it a natural host for the PDM rally on November 22.

The occasion, so goes the understanding in the party circles, would provide an opportunity for the party to deliver a tour de force, given its large following in and around the city. This, say party sources, would contribute to the united opposition’s power show at par with its impressive gatherings in Quetta and Karachi.

JUI-F, for its part, has been insisting on hosting the event, given its eminence within PDM. Even though the party’s main constituency is the southern districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal districts, its workers have already been mobilised around the event. They could hit the ground running and could ensure security to the rally, along with logistics and other support, say the party sources.

“Both the parties wished be host on the occasion independently. But to put up a joint front in the spirit of the united opposition, it was decided to host the Peshawar rally together,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, PDM central information secretary.

He said that it wasn’t a difference of serious magnitude within the alliance and such differences of opinion are part of the course when it comes to political decisions. He added that the Peshawar event would be as much of a feat as it was in other cities.

The PDM rally in Peshawar is its fourth after similar anti-government protests in the cities of Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta. PML-N hosted the rally in Gujranwala in the province of Punjab, the party’s main electoral bank.

In Sindh, PPP’s stronghold, the party hosted the rally in Karachi. The rally in Quetta was a joint event with the several leading opposition parties throwing in their weight behind the event.

A JUI-F insider said that the question of hosting the Peshawar rally had implications for the people’s participation in the event.

“JUI-F has put up impressive rallies in Peshawar in recent months with large participation from people and workers. The party, in that sense, is already mobilised towards making protests a success through a show of power. Hosting the PDM rally jointly would split this participation and it may not have the same impact as elsewhere,” he said.

In the run up to the November 22 protest, hectic preparations among the opposition parties are in evidence in the province. Starting on November 9 (today), JUI-F is setting out on a whirlwind visits and consultations across seven divisions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 35 districts to organise logistics for smooth participation of its supporters in the Peshawar rally.

On Sunday, social media teams of opposition parties met in Peshawar to discuss communication strategy for the event. Also held on Sunday was the media coordination committee meeting, in which leading political figures from JUI-F, PPP, ANP and PML-N participated. It was decided that parties would ensure messaging and live streaming of PDM rally in the city through their individual social media accounts.

The participants in the coordination committee said that the PTI government in the province should ensure security to the event. “In case of any unpleasant development during the event, the KP government would be to blame,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020

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