KARACHI: After a months-long lull, the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance on Saturday announced that it would relaunch its anti-government campaign by organising rallies and caravans across the country next month after a public meeting in Karachi on Sunday (today).

After an hours-long meeting of the PDM, its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the alliance had decided to go with “full force” against the government and make every effort for restoration of a “true, democratic and strong parliamentary system” in the country.

In a strong message, the PDM chief accused the Pakistan Peoples Party, once part of the alliance, of “backstabbing” but vowed to avoid direct confrontation with any opposition party.

“Right now we have our focus on the struggle for true democracy in the country,” Mr Fazl said in reply to a question on the role of PPP while talking to the media after the meeting at a local hotel.

“I believe that PPP has tried its best to backstab the PDM but we don’t want to indulge in such issues. We focus on our efforts (against the government) and for that we have decided to relaunch our campaign next month. The PDM would not only organise rallies across the country but also take out a caravan in every district and city engaging with the people for strong democratic system.”

He said the PDM leaders would meet again in September to decide the venues and dates of the rallies and the caravans.

He said that the PDM would issue a “white paper” on three-year performance of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government which had “set records of incompetence, inflation and unemployment”.

He admitted that the opposition alliance remained inactive for past several months but cited “unavoidable reasons” behind its inactiveness.

“There was a wave of Covid-19 and then hot and humid weather conditions prevailed in the country,” said Maulana Fazl. “These reasons made their impact but the impression was created that the PDM has become ineffective. Let me tell you that there is nothing like that and you would see the PDM more active and energised in the coming rallies and caravans.”

He cited a list of areas where the PTI government had “failed miserably” during its three-year government and said it had only made records of unemployment, poverty and inflation. Only recently, he said, some 17,000 people were laid off from different public sector organisations which was self- explanatory of the government performance.

“We will soon issue a white paper on three years of the PTI in power, revealing its financial irregularities and siphoning of funds,” said the PDM chief. “If you talk about three-year performance you would only find inflation, poverty, mismanagement, bad governance and unemployment as the only areas to discuss. We believe that this government has caused Pakistan irreparable losses and it is high time that true, democratic forces of this country struggle together against injustice and fast deteriorating democratic system.”

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz accompanied Maulana Fazl but mostly opted to stay silent. However, to a direct question to him about differences within his party, he categorically ruled out any such possibility and called it just a “speculation”.

Earlier, Maulana Fazl described the details of the discussion held at the alliance meeting, which was also attended by former prime minister and PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz through video link.

“The country’s current political situation was reviewed and the PDM’s future roadmap was deliberated upon,” the Maulana said. “It was unanimously observed that the most pressing issue is the country’s current economic situation which has deprived the common man of peace of mind and made it difficult for him to survive. The PDM meeting also discussed the schedule of its rallies. In September, the steering committee of the alliance will hold a meeting where all parties will give their recommendations for a mutual agreement.”

To a question about any ban on participation of women in Sunday’s rally in Karachi, he said there was no such curb on participation of any segment of the society and creating such impression was deliberate move from the opponents to undermine the PDM’s name and its activities.

Later, Shehbaz Sharif while addressing a dinner hosted by the business community said that PTI had not only erased the economic gains made under PML-N government but had actually dragged the county back into an economic crisis.

Today, after three years of PTI rule 33 per cent of Pakistanis were below the poverty line and 40pc were food-insecure, he claimed.

He said inflation was constantly increasing every week with the cost of fuel, essential commodities and food items moving further and further out of the reach of the hardworking Pakistanis.

He said the per capital income was reduced by 13pc over the PTI’s three years as the volume of national economy shrunk to $296 billion from $315bn which was a reduction of a whopping $19bn.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021

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