• Parties sign Lahore declaration, giving Jan 31 deadline to govt • Fazl says date of long march will be made public on Feb 1 • Time has come for PM to go home, says Bilawal • Maryam unhappy over propaganda by some channels

LAHORE: For the first time since its formation in September, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has given a clear deadline to Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down by January 31, with the warning that a march on Islamabad otherwise would result in the ouster of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

The January 31 deadline was announced on Monday evening at a press conference after the leadership of opposition parties drafted and signed ‘Lahore Declaration’ during a meeting in which a threadbare discussion was held to finalise a strategy against the government.

PDM convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mehmood Khan Achakzai, JUP’s Shah Owais Noorani, BNP-M’s Akhtar Mengal, ANP’s Mian Iftikhar and leaders of the allied parties attended the meeting, which lasted more than four hours.

“In case the government does not step down the date of the long march will be announced on Feb 1. We ask the people of Pakistan to start preparations for the long march from today,” the PDM chief told the presser after presiding over its meeting at Jati Umra.

Maulana Fazl said: “(Prime Minister) Imran Khan has time till Jan 31 to resign (from the office). He is under pressure that is why he is talking about NRO.”

Dissolution of assemblies

Replying to a question, the PDM chief said the opposition could hold talks (with the powers that be) only after dissolution of assemblies. “Dialogue is only possible if assemblies are dissolved and fresh elections called,” he said, adding the opposition lawmakers would submit their resignations to (their leadership) by Dec 31.

Terming the Minar-i-Pakistan rally ‘historic’, Maulana Fazl said it revived the memory of 1940 gathering (in connection of Pakistan resolution) here. He said the PDM meeting condemned the effort to control the electronic media by the ISPR for a negative propaganda against the rally and putting pressure on anchors. “We are fighting for freedom of the media. They want to make the media a personal property which we will not allow,” he said.

Maryam Nawaz also shared similar views complaining that some channels had launched propaganda against the PDM rally even before it had started. “Foreign media made factual reporting as I had never seen such a huge public meeting in Lahore before. There has been mourning in the ranks of the PTI government after the PDM Lahore rally,” she said, adding that the agencies’ reports about the successful PDM rally would have come that was why ‘they’ were worried.

Ms Nawaz, the de-facto president of PML-N in the absence of Shehbaz Sharif who is in jail in a money laundering case, warned those news channels which ran ‘fake news’ about the PDM rally and her address to the party lawmakers in Model Town on Monday.

“Some channels reported that I chided my party whereas we actually congratulated each other and I praised them for the stellar jalsa (rally) against all odds. Amazed at how some elements in the media are lying and misreporting blatantly,” she said, while referring the reports in a section of media that some party men had not performed their duties in the Lahore rally and she had told the lawmakers that they should not be worried about the en masse resignations as they would be consulted over it.

Responding to a question, Ms Nawaz said the time to hold talks with the ‘selected and selectors’ was over. “The selected and the selectors will have to take the back seats and now talks will be held with the people,” she asserted.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari reiterated that there would be no talks with the PTI government. “The time has come for Imran Khan to go home after resigning,” he said, adding that all opposition parties adhered to the joint decisions being taken by the PDM.

‘Hybrid, inefficient’ govt

The PDM’s Lahore Declaration says there has been unprecedented price hike, inflation, unemployment and social injustice and the selected government and its facilitators are responsible for this. These facilitators had stolen the people’s mandate in the 2018 election and imposed a ‘hybrid and inefficient’ government on the masses.

The opposition parties pledge that it will make sure that there is no interference of the institutions of ‘the establishment and intelligence’ in politics and at the same time it will make the security institutions stronger on the professional lines.

The declaration, which was signed by leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Balochistan National Party, National Party, Awami Nation Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Quami Watan Party, also gives an ultimatum to the incumbent ‘selected’ government to resign by Jan 31, as it is responsible for plunging the country into crises, otherwise the PDM, will announce a long march against it on Feb 1.

Earlier in the day, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal told the party’s central working committee at the Model Town Secretariat that all resignations from the PML-N lawmakers would be submitted to its leadership by Dec 31. “Once the PDM submitted resignations there would not be any by-polls,” he said, adding that this would be the first time that the opposition with the help of the masses rather than establishment was going to topple the ‘selected’ government.

However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid while talking to a private news channel was of the opinion that a final decision regarding the long march would be taken by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. “I invite the opposition to launch the long march even today as I am ready to receive it,” he said, adding that the PPP was not ready to resign from the assemblies.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2020

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