ISLAMABAD: The 10-party opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has announced that it will jointly contest the coming Senate elections and “start” its anti-government long march to Islamabad on March 26.
These decisions were announced by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief and PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman while briefing reporters after presiding over more than six hours long meeting of the heads of the constituent parties of the alliance here on Thursday.
The meeting was also attended by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Zardari and supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif through video link.
Flanked by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and other PDM leaders, the Maulana said they had decided to devise a joint strategy for the Senate elections and the PDM constituent parties would not compete against each other and field joint candidates.
“The decision to hold a long march towards Islamabad has been taken. Caravans from all over the country will leave for Islamabad on March 26,” the Maulana said, while refusing to divulge further details of the plan.
He said the opposition would continue its protest against the conduct of the National Assembly speaker and the Senate chairman in the parliament and would not cooperate with them in running the proceedings of the two houses at any cost.
Replying to a question, Maulana Fazl said they would hold further discussion on the PPP’s proposal to move a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan and the option of using the resignations of parliamentarians after the Senate elections. He said when they had decided to participate in the Senate elections and use their votes in the legislatures then how they could talk about resigning from the assemblies at this moment.
The PDM chief said the opposition had rejected the government-proposed constitution amendment bill seeking open Senate vote, saying they believed in a comprehensive package for electoral reforms.
The Maulana said it seemed that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) did not have trust in its lawmakers. He said the PTI leadership wanted to bring some “undesirable people” in the Senate but its members were not ready to vote for them.
He said the PDM parties had decided to “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the common man” on the issue of price hike. Moreover, he said, the PDM would join and support the government employees who had announced their plan to hold a protest in Islamabad on Feb 10.
The PDM, he said, rejected the one-member inquiry commission comprising retired justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh to probe the Broadsheet scam, considering it an “attempt by the government to cover up its corruption”.
The Maulana termed the prime minister’s offer for an open trial of the foreign funding case currently being heard by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as a “drama” and called for an early decision of the case.
Sources told Dawn that in the meeting, the PDM leaders mostly discussed the PPP’s proposal of moving a no-confidence motion against the prime minister and the strategy for the long march. On both the issues, they said, the PDM leaders remained indecisive and agreed to continue further consultations. The sources said the PPP was not in favour of converting the long march into an indefinite sit-in. They said the participants of the meeting would soon finalise a date for entering Islamabad after starting long march from various parts of the country.
The sources said all the PDM component parties expressed their reservations over the PPP’s no-confidence proposal and termed it not viable.
Some TV channels reported that during the meeting, Maulana Fazl and Mr Bhutto-Zardari had heated arguments over the issue. The sources said the PPP had suggested that a no-confidence motion could first be moved in Punjab Assembly where the PTI stood divided. However, the proposal was forcefully opposed by both the PML-N and the JUI-F on various grounds as they were of the view that any such move could not succeed without the support from the “establishment”.
The PPP chairman defended his proposal, saying no-confidence motion was a democratic tool and in line with the decisions of the multi-party conference held in September last year.
The sources said the JUI-F and the PML-N were of the view that the opposition lawmakers should submit their resignations during the long march. The two parties, they said, had suggested to the PPP that they could consider the option of resigning only from the National Assembly, if the PPP was not ready to sacrifice its provincial government in Sindh.
During the meeting, the sources said, Nawaz Sharif also suggested that before launching the long march, they should also consider the option of giving a call for shutter-down and wheel-jam strike in the country.
Later, talking to the reporters informally while leaving the meeting venue, Maryam Nawaz said the discussion on the issue of no-confidence motion and resignations would continue.
She said the local bodies issue had been raised by the government only to divert attention from the opposition’s long march.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2021