PDM’s way forward

Published January 10, 2021

THE opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance has a challenge on its hands: what to do now? After having raised expectations to fever pitch through three months of rallies and public events across the country, and after having claimed time and again that the PTI government would be ousted by January, the opposition is now in the process of shifting the goal posts. Those in the alliance who said they would boycott elections and break the electoral college for the Senate elections are today sheepishly explaining that they did not in fact mean that they would opt out of elections. Those who threatened the government of a long march in January that would drive it out of power, are now explaining that actually what they meant was that the long march would happen at the time of their choosing.

The fact is that the PDM promised more than it could deliver and now it is trying to realign its priorities in the face of some ground realities that were ignored earlier. One such reality was the PPP’s extreme reluctance to boycott the Senate elections or resign from the assemblies. PML-N, JUI-F and other parties’ leaderships should have acknowledged this reluctance and adjusted the alliance’s position accordingly. This was not done and it led to an open fissure between the PPP and others that in turn forced the other parties to make a U-turn and agree to participate in the elections.

It will not be easy for the PDM to sustain the momentum of agitation for at least the next few months. There may yet be a long march, and the PDM parties may yet exercise the option of resigning from the assemblies despite the PPP refusing to do so, but in order for all this to happen, PDM may have to start over with a new plan, a new objective and a new resolve. Easier said than done. This is why it has to first reconcile its realpolitik approach with its ideologically driven ambitions of reforming the power equation in the system. As things stand now, PDM’s narrative is a hotchpotch of conflicting aims that address individual grievances more than collective policy. In addition, the PDM parties will also need to weave some thread of logic between contesting elections and then threatening to resign. A policy of pick and choose in terms of which assemblies to resign from and which to retain control of is an approach unlikely to bolster its argument. The PDM has given itself till the end of the month for its next announcement. It may want to utilise this time to iron out its internal contradiction, knit together a cohesive plan and communicate its logic in an effective and persuasive manner. Having stumbled once, it may not have the luxury of doing so again without risking irreparable damage to its credibility.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2021



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