PAKISTAN Democratic Movement president Maulana Fazlur Rehman speaks during a press conference after the meeting on Tuesday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
PAKISTAN Democratic Movement president Maulana Fazlur Rehman speaks during a press conference after the meeting on Tuesday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

•Rules out talks with govt on election reforms
•Forms five-member committee to prepare ‘Charter of Pakistan’ based on 12 principles
•Terms GB polls ‘action replay’ of 2018 elections in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has rejected the government move to impose restrictions on public gatherings in the country in the wake of Covid-19 and announced that its remaining three public meetings will be held as already planned.

“There is talk about banning the public meetings on the pretext of coronavirus. We reject any such decision of the government and the PDM’s public meetings will be held as per schedule,” declared PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman during a press briefing after presiding over a meeting of the heads of the constituent parties here on Tuesday.

Maulana Fazl categorically ruled out any talks with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government on any matter, terming it an ‘illegitimate’ government.

“We are not ready to hold talks with the government in any way. They (the government people) are not representatives of the people,” the PDM chief said when asked if the opposition parties would talk to the government on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s proposal to hold the upcoming Senate elections through show of hands.

He said the present rulers were habitual of rigging and such proposals were aimed at pressuring the party members of the provincial assemblies, explaining that they were preparing to block such moves.

Calling upon the citizens to observe standard operating procedures (SOPs), Prime Minister Imran Khan in his televised address to the nation after the National Coordination Committee meeting on Monday had announced government’s decision to impose restrictions on public gatherings in the country. He had also announced suspension of the PTI’s public meetings and asked other political parties to follow suit.

The 11-party PDM, which had already held three public meetings in Gujranwala, Karachi and Quetta last month, is scheduled to hold its public meetings in Peshawar on Nov 22, Multan on Nov 30 and Lahore on December 13 as part of its anti-government campaign announced by the opposition leaders after a multiparty conference (MPC) in Islamabad on September 22.

Action replay

The Maulana said the PDM had rejected the results of the elections held in Gilgit-Baltistan and considered the whole exercise an “action replay” of the July 2018 elections. He said they would not rest until sending the present “selected government” packing.

Criticising the National Accountability Bureau, the Federal Investigation Agency and other institutions, the PDM chief said the opposition had rejected the “present accountability system” in the country. He said the PDM leaders had expressed their concern over the delay in the foreign funding case against the PTI by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

He said former chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi had stated that the prime minister had stopped him from proceeding against some “corrupts” who were the financiers of his party. He said the statement of the former FBR chief was a charge-sheet against the prime minister. He, however, did not elaborate as to where the former FBR chairman had made such a statement.

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari attended the meeting via a video link from Gilgit as he had extended his stay in the region to lead the party’s protest against the alleged rigging in the Nov 15 polls.

Sources said that Pakistan Muslim League-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who has been staying in London, did not attend the meeting due to his health issues.

Charter of Pakistan

Maulana Fazl, who also heads the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) faction, said that in the PDM meeting they had approved the basic principles for preparation of a new Charter of Pakistan.

In the presence of senior PDM leaders, including PML-N’s vice-president Maryam Nawaz, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, PPP’s Sherry Rehman and ANP’s Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the Maulana read out the 12 basic principles on the basis of which the Charter of Pakistan (CoP) would be prepared. He said all the constituent parties of the PDM had agreed on these principles. The opposition’s movement was aimed at achieving the objectives set in the charter, he added.

The 12 points of the CoP are “supremacy of federal, Islamic, democratic and parliamentary constitution; sovereignty of the parliament; elimination of the role of establishment and intelligence agencies; independence of judiciary; reforms for holding independent, transparent and judicious elections; protection of the fundamental and democratic rights of the citizens; protection of the rights of the provinces and the 18th Constitution Amendment; establishing effective local governments; defending the freedom of media and freedom of expression; implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism; preparation of an emergency economic plan to end price hike, unemployment and poverty and protection and implementation of the Islamic clauses given in the Constitution.

To prepare the draft of the proposed CoP, sources said, the PDM leaders had constituted a five-member committee comprising Ahsan Iqbal and Khurram Dastagir Khan of the PML-N, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman of the PPP and Kamran Murtaza of the JUI-F.

The PDM constituent parties in their previous meeting held on Nov 8 had 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”.

PTI exposed, says Maryam

Talking to reporters, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said she was aware of the outcome of the GB results, yet she went to the region for campaigning.

She said it was necessary for her to show street power and to expose that the PTI had no existence at all in the region. She once again alleged that the “selectors” were hands in glove in the rigging in the recently held GB polls.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2020