PDM opens ‘decisive drive’, calls for immediate, fair polls

Published November 14, 2021
Maulana Fazlur Rehman (C) waves to supporters during an anti-government demonstration to protest against inflation, unemployment and other economic issues in Karachi on November 13. — AFP
Maulana Fazlur Rehman (C) waves to supporters during an anti-government demonstration to protest against inflation, unemployment and other economic issues in Karachi on November 13. — AFP
THE PDM rally is under way in Karachi on Saturday.—White Star
THE PDM rally is under way in Karachi on Saturday.—White Star

• Fazl, Nawaz discuss their alliance’s strategy
• Fawad thinks people won’t pay heed to what the opposition alliance says

KARACHI/LAHORE: At the start in Karachi of what the opposition alliance called a “decisive” nationwide campaign against the government, leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Saturday termed the federal government led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) a threat to the sovereignty of the country, which they said faced an imminent economic collapse and international isolation.

Also on Saturday, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and supreme leader of the PML-N Nawaz Sharif talked by phone and discussed the possibility of tabling a no-confidence motion against any of the three key figures in the existing PTI-led set-up.

Speaking at a rally at the Regal Chowk in Karachi, the PDM leaders seemed more hopeful about the success of their present protest drive than they did at previous such events, as they asked their workers and supporters to stay firm and united “because their destination is not far away”.

The bad situation obtaining in the country had forced the eight-party opposition alliance to wage a “battle for Pakistan’s survival”, they said.

They termed “immediate and fair general elections” as the only solution to all the crises being faced by the country and declared that the growing anger among the people would soon lead to the ouster of Mr Khan and his government.

Over half a dozen leaders addressed the rally at the jam-packed traffic intersection, with noticeable presence of workers of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) followed by those of the PML-N and then other parties.

Chief of both the PDM and the JUI-F Maulana Fazl and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi made rather brief speeches on the occasion but their statements clearly indicated what the future strategy of the opposition alliance was, as well as its key demands.

“It’s high time for the political leadership of the country to show its character,” said Maulana Fazl. “The nation is united and determined and soon we will let this government drown in the Arabian Sea.

“It’s now about the survival of the country; it’s now about the survival of 220 million people. The parties here are fighting for the sovereignty of this country, which is at stake due to this government.

“And let me tell you. You will be victorious. In this fight, you will emerge as the victor.”

Recalling what he called the “failures of the PTI government” and referring to the “growing number of cases of suicide due to the grinding inflation”, the PDM president also asked the “institutions concerned” to review their policies and sought their “public apology” for their mistakes.

“Pakistan is fast going into isolation,” he warned. “I would also like to urge the institutions to look into the facts… Look into the past mistakes you made. Search your conscience… Make a public apology. Only then will we be able to save this country. It’s not about any party; it’s about the country and its people.”

In his brief speech, former prime minister and PML-N leader Abbasi talked about a possible remedy to the ongoing crises.

He questioned the economic policies of the PTI and called the government led by it as the result of “rigged and stolen elections [of 2018]”. The solution to the problems, he said, lay in free and fair elections.

“We live in Karachi and we are asked to compare our lives with Londoners,” he said. “But we aren’t told why the price of sugar jumped from Rs50 [per kg] to Rs150. Why is ghee, which was available at Rs200 per kg, being sold at Rs400? Why has the power tariff doubled [in the past few years] and why is gas being supplied at three times the previous rate?

“The answer is, when the elections are stolen and rulers are imposed without taking people’s choices into consideration, they make bad policies. They turn people’s lives into hell.”

Mr Abbasi said any formula to bring the country out of its crises would ultimately fail as the incompetent PTI government would “turn everything into chaos. The people of Pakistan were deceived and it would happen again if fair and free elections are not guaranteed”.

“We are alone in the world,” he said. “No one is ready to even hear us. From farmers to students and from daily wagers to industrialists, this government has shattered everyone’s life. The people are losing hope and the solution lies in the true democratic process. There is no other solution but immediate and fair elections. All eight parties [of the PDM] here have a single-point agenda and demand — fair elections. And these should be held immediately before it’s too late.”

Telephone conversation

A PML-N insider told Dawn that Nawaz Sharif had talked to many PDM leaders and asked them to submit a working plan soon so that the opposition alliance could finalise its future strategy by Nov 20.

In his telephonic conversation with the PDM chief, Mr Sharif also discussed the outcome of his meeting with leadership of the PPP.

The PML-N source said that Maulana Fazl had been tasked to take the PPP on board about the PDM’s proposal to bring a no confidence motion against the Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker or the Punjab chief minister, as an initial move.

Maulana Fazl, therefore, met PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday and after their meeting they both declared: “The opposition stands united in parliament.” The meeting was the first one between the PDM and PPP leaders after the latter’s exit from the opposition alliance over the issue of resignations in April.

When a comment was sought from PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, he said: “Although the PPP is currently not a part of the PDM but it believes that any move to oust the PTI government should be initiated on the platform of parliament. We need to force Imran Khan to step down by going for (any) no-confidence motion.”

‘Insolvent political leaders’

Reacting to the speech by Maulana Fazl in Karachi, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PDM was a group of “politically abandoned leaders whose prime aim was to deceive the masses”, APP added.

He said the “politically unemployed leaders” had become “insolvent” after the miserable failure of their previous plans (schemes A, B and C) to topple the government. “They can do nothing but to issue statements.”

The minister said: “The people had not been deceived by [Maulana] Fazl before and will not pay heed to his adventures in future also.”

He was of the view that PDM had no role in the politics of the country after “Prime Minister Khan had exposed the true nature of the corrupt gang”.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2021

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