THE PDM faces a fresh crisis as the PPP takes a conspicuously soft position on the long march. While the PDM talks of mass resignations and a ‘decisive’ march, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari last week said his party hopes to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government through a no-confidence move in the National Assembly. Mr Bhutto-Zardari also vowed to persuade members of the opposition alliance to adopt this view, which he said is a “democratic, constitutional and lawful procedure”. It is unclear how the PPP chairman will achieve this goal, as not only does the opposition not have the numbers in the National Assembly to pull off such a stunt, but street agitation is still very much part of the PDM’s plans. When the PDM was formed, the opposition parties at the multiparty conference pledged to topple the government with a three-pronged strategy — the ultimate component was a long march. The PPP, too, has publicly endorsed this position. While toppling a government through democratic means such as no-confidence motions or street agitation is within the rights of the opposition parties, the PPP’s volte-face on this key step in the alliance’s strategy puts a question mark on the self-proclaimed democratic character of the movement.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari must explain what has brought about this change of tack. Is there pressure on his party to amend its position? After the early days of hitting out at the government and targeting ‘selectors’, the PPP first buckled with a lukewarm response to the resignation issue and is now abandoning the long march idea. Even if the PPP manages to persuade the PML-N on this issue — the chances of which are slim — together the two opposition parties do not have the numbers in the Assembly to successfully pass such a motion without external engineering. An unsuccessful motion would further strengthen the government’s position and undermine if not decimate the PDM. Ironically, in 2018 when the PPP with its strength in the Senate brought about a no-trust motion against then chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, it fell flat on its face. How then, with a strength of 50-odd MNAs does it plan to pass a motion that requires 170 or so votes? The PPP has some explaining to do, and must make clear what its motivations are one way or the other. For it to adopt a strategy of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds is politically damaging.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021

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