The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Thursday announced it will stage a long march against the PTI government on March 26, seen as one of the major components of the opposition's anti-government movement started last year.
Speaking to reporters after an hours-long meeting of the alliance's leadership in Islamabad, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the opposition parties in PDM will contest the upcoming Senate elections jointly.
"Caravans of long march will leave for Islamabad from across the country on March 26," Rehman said.
He added that the PDM had decided that "we will contest the Senate elections jointly; there will be a joint strategy for it and we will not compete against each other. We will field joint candidates."
Answering a question, Rehman said the PDM will decide about the PPP's suggestion to move a no-confidence motion against the prime minister, as well as about resigning from assemblies, after the Senate elections.
He refused to divulge details of how long the long march would last, but said its objective was "to rid the nation of an illegitimate and incompetent government and return to it the vote that was stolen from it".
Besides PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and other representatives of opposition parties, the meeting lasting more than five hours was attended by PML-N supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari via video link.
The PDM also "rejected" the proposed constitutional amendment presented by the government for open balloting in the Senate polls, Rehman announced, as "the opposition believes in a comprehensive package for electoral reforms."
"It appears that the PTI does not have confidence in its members and the PTI leadership wants some undesirable people to become senators for whom their own members are not ready to vote."
The JUI-F chief said the PDM parties had decided to "stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the common man" against the rulers, whom he held responsible for a steep rise in the prices of electricity, gas, petrol and food items.
The alliance also "rejects" the one-member inquiry commission comprising retired Supreme Court Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh set up by the government to probe the Broadsheet scandal, and "declares it an attempt by the government to mask its corruption", he added.
Rehman said Prime Minister Imran Khan himself used to say that doling out development funds among lawmakers was tantamount to "bribing", but had now announced similar funds for MNAs. Noting that the Supreme Court had taken notice of the issue, he said the premier should be "stopped" from giving out such funds.
He announced that the PDM will also join and support government employees coming to Islamabad to protest on February 10.
Demanding an immediate decision in the PTI foreign funding case, Rehman said the prime minister's call for an open trial in the case was a "drama" because 18 of the party's bank accounts identified by the State Bank were being kept secret.
"The opposition will continue its protest against the behaviour of the speaker and the chairman in the National Assembly and Senate and we will not cooperate with them in running proceedings of the house at any cost," the PDM president added.
He said Transparency International, whose analysis Prime Minister Imran used to laud in the past, had today "declared him a certified thief".
On Sunday, Bilawal had called upon the joint opposition to "force the removal of puppets", after the January 31 deadline set by the PDM for Prime Minister Imran to quit passed without any signs of the government retreating.
After a meeting of the leadership of its member parties, the PDM in December had given a deadline to the government to step down by Jan 31, with the warning that a march on Islamabad would otherwise result in its ouster.
“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,” PDM chief Rehman had told a presser after presiding over the meeting. The government had swiftly rejected the deadline.
The PDM constituent parties have also collected the resignations of their lawmakers in the national and provincial assemblies, but have decided against submitting them for now.