ISLAMABAD: The constituent parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) have agreed to prepare a new charter to formally outline their demands and future course of action to achieve their targets with the main aim of “establishing a true constitutional and democratic system in the country”.
Talking to reporters after presiding over a meeting of the heads of the 11-party alliance here on Sunday, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the alliance’s steering committee would meet in Islamabad on Nov 13 in which the representatives of all the parties would present their recommendations for the proposed agreement which would then be given a final shape the next day in another meeting of the heads of the parties.
The PDM meeting was attended by Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari through video links from London and Karachi, respectively. Mr Zardari attended the meeting as party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is currently busy in running the campaign for the Nov 15 polls in Gilgit-Baltistan. PDM secretary general and PML-N stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi later told Dawn that the new charter would not be like the 2006 Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between his party and the PPP.
Mr Abbasi said that in some of their initial meetings they had talked about expanding the CoD, but no such thing came under discussion during Sunday’s meeting. He said the PDM charter would completely be a new document “which will explain as to what will be the demands of the PDM and what does it want to achieve” through its campaign.
Mr Abbasi said Nawaz Sharif had given a basic message that the main objective of the PDM was to “change the system and not the removal of the present government”. He said Asif Zardari had assured the participants that his party was committed to following the PDM’s agenda and “it will operate only from the PDM’s platform”.
Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi admitted that a discussion was held in the meeting as to how the parties would present their narratives in the future. He said there was a complete consensus among the parties over the narrative and it had been left on the parties “to choose the method of presenting it”.
“There was an agreement today that the issue is not the selected, but the selectors,” he said. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also the head of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), said at the press briefing that during the meeting the PDM leaders had expressed concern over the delay in the report of an inquiry ordered by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa into alleged kidnapping of the Sindh police chief to force police to arrest retired Captain Muhammad Safdar, the spouse of Maryam Nawaz, from a Karachi hotel on Oct 19 after he was booked for raising political slogans at the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam
“When the [Sindh] police officers announced their decision to go on [protest] leave, the army chief intervened and announced that the matter will be investigated within 10 days. Three weeks have passed and there has been no [inquiry] report. Why it is being delayed?” he asked while referring to the last month’s dramatic events soon after the PDM’s public meeting in Karachi.
The Maulana said the PDM leaders had also protested over the recent controversial remarks of Minister for Interior retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah in which he had allegedly warned the opposition of attacks by the Taliban. Speaking at a ceremony at his hometown Nankana Sahib, the interior minister had stated that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had in reaction to the policies of the Awami National Party (ANP) on terrorism attacked the party leadership and killed many of its leaders, including Bashir Bilour and the son of Mian Iftikhar.
Maulana Fazl said the minister through his remarks had in fact admitted the role of the state in the killings of political leaders. He regretted that the interior minister had “threatened” that if the PML-N continued its same [anti-establishment] narrative, then “its leaders can also be assassinated”.
“This is a confession from the state as to which are the forces behind the killings of the political leaders and members,” he said, adding that the minister had admitted that the terrorists were on the forefront but actually the state was behind such plans.
“It has been decided that if any [untoward] incident happens in future or during the PDM public meetings, then we will not require any investigations as they already know the names of the persons and institutions which will commit this crime,” declared the Maulana.
Responding to a question, he said it was very well understood who was being addressed to when the word “establishment” was used in the country.
“This is not an issue. The media has made it an issue,” he said when asked if they had made any decision regarding naming the army generals in their future public meetings. “We respect the country’s institutions, but if the names of politicians can be taken [...] then the name of someone belonging to the country’s institutions can also be taken.
This is not a crime,” he added. When a reporter repeated the same question, the Maulana got angry and said that no such discussion took place in the meeting and that he would himself take the names of the people in the next public meetings.
The PDM, which has already held public meetings in Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta, is now scheduled to hold public meetings in Peshawar on Nov 22, in Multan on Nov 30 and in Lahore on Dec 13. The PDM has already given the call for a long march to Islamabad in January next year to seek the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020