• Hints at protest march on Rawalpindi
• Defers decision on resignations, Senate elections till Jan 31
• Announces taking part in by-polls
• No consensus on tabling no-confidence motion against PM

LAHORE: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Friday held a marathon huddle at the Jati Umra estate of the Sharifs and announced taking part in the by-polls and for the first time also hinted at holding a long march on Rawalpindi, where the army headquarters are located.

No consensus was reached on submitting resignations to assemblies, forcing the 11-party opposition alliance to defer the decision till Jan 31. It will also decide whether to take part in the Senate elections or not after Jan 31.

The PDM declared that its target was not Prime Minister Imran Khan as he was a “pawn” and the real culprits were those who had imposed him on the nation. It also chalked out a plan to hold demonstrations outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) buildings.

“All opposition lawmakers [in the PDM] have submitted their resignations to the leadership. The PTI government is given a one-month [till Jan 31] ultimatum to resign. If it does not, PDM will announce a long march [after Jan 31] either on Islamabad or Rawalpindi,” PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman told reporters after the meeting.

The Maulana was quick to clarify PDM’s long march plan on Rawalpindi destination, saying that Imran Khan was just a “puppet” and the real culprits were those who brought him to power. “Our target of criticism will now be the establishment which set up a fake government. We respect the army and generals, but now they have to decide to step back and focus on their constitutional responsibilities,” he said and asked why Pakistan’s name was taken with reference to a “deep state”.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had named Pakistan while giving an example of a “deep state”.

“For us the country comes first and we do not want to discuss this puppet [Imran Khan] as our drive is against him but those who are interfering in politics and install such governments,” Maulana Fazl said.

He said the PDM had decided to contest the by-polls in the country. “The decision on taking part in the Senate polls and submitting resignations to the respective assemblies will be taken once our ultimatum of Jan 31 expires,” he said, adding that the opposition parties were also considering ‘prison fill’ movement.

“On Jan 19, we will hold a demonstration outside the ECP in Islamabad and we have also planned to protest outside the NAB offices for its political victimisation of opposition leaders. We cannot ignore the arrest of Khawaja Asif,” he said.

Replying to a question, Maulana Fazl said there had been no consensus on tabling no-confidence motion against Imran Khan.

The meeting was attended by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Farhatullah Babar and Qamar Zaman Qaira of the PPP, Shah Awais Noorani of the JUP, Mian Iftikhar of the ANP, Aftab Sherpao of the Qaumi Watan Party and Maryam Nawaz, Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanullah and Marriyum Aurangzeb of the PML-N. Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal addressed the meeting via video link.

According to a PML-N insider, no consensus on submitting the opposition lawmakers’ resignations to the respective speakers was reached in the meeting and, therefore, the PDM had to defer it. “Some senior members want building up more pressure on the establishment, forcing it to shun its support for the PTI government before taking up the issue of resignations,” he said.

After PPP’s Central Executive Committee meeting on Dec 29, Mr Bhutto-Zardari had hinted at contesting the Senate and by-polls. “Since the PPP had clearly hinted at not boycotting the Senate and by-elections, the outcome of today’s huddle on resignations and taking part in by-polls was quite obvious,” the insider said, adding that the PDM seemed to have left with only protest option.

Talking to reporters, Maryam Nawaz said the PDM had decided that it would take part in any by-poll before the opposition submitted resignations to the assemblies. “We do not want to leave the field open for this fake government,” she said, adding that unanimous candidates of the PDM might also be fielded.

About the Senate polls, she said that since there had been time (till March) in the Senate election, more deliberations could be made whether to take part in it or not.

When asked whether the government or establishment was making contacts with the PDM, Ms Nawaz said: “The PDM has been approached.”

She said Nawaz Sharif had told the participants of the meeting [via video link from London] that this selected government had to be sent home by the people.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2021

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