PDM fails to firm up plan for anti-government drive

Published November 24, 2021
PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing the press conference on Tuesday. — Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing the press conference on Tuesday. — Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement on Tuesday again failed to come out with a plan to launch its announced anti-government protest campaign as PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman after presiding over a meeting of the heads of the component parties declared that they would again meet on December 6 after which they would make “a final policy” and “announce very important decisions”.

“Today we had a detailed debate on the prevailing situation in the country. Next meeting of the PDM heads will be held in Islamabad on December 6. Before this meeting, all the component parties will prepare their recommendations [regarding launching of the anti-government protest movement] after holding in-house consultations in their respective decision-making and powerful bodies,” Maulana Fazl said while talking to reporters after the nearly four-hour long meeting which was also attended by supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif and party president Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz via video link.

The Maulana smilingly evaded repeated questions asked by over-enthusiastic reporters about the possible long march and en masse resignations from the assemblies, by simply telling them to wait till December 6. “The time is not too far. We will move towards final and last decisions to rid the nation of the present oppression.”

Maulana Fazl says heads of component parties to meet on Dec 6 to ‘announce very important decisions’

Responding to a question, the Maulana rejected a perception that there was a deadlock among the parties on some matters and said they wanted to make decisions after thoroughly reviewing the possible outcomes of their moves while maintaining unity among the PDM component parties.

When asked as to why the PDM had adopted a policy of duplicity as on one hand, it was not ready to hold reconciliation and, on the other, it was hesitating to launch a confrontational politics, the Maulana again briefly replied: “You will get the answer to this question also on December 6.”

The journalists and political experts were expecting that the PDM, which had already met thrice over the last six weeks to discuss the issue, would this time come out with some solid plan as the meeting was taking place only a day after the opposition alliance’s steering committee announced that it had finalised its recommendations for the anti-government protest plan and these would be announced after the approval of the party heads in Tuesday’s meeting.

Briefing the reporters about the decisions of the steering committee on Monday, PDM spokesman Hafiz Hamdullah had said they had proposed protest rallies, road caravans, sits-in and shutter-down and wheel-jam strikes over the next four months and a final long march towards Islamabad in upcoming March. He had claimed that the option of resignations from the legislatures was also under consideration.

Mr Hamdullah also announced that the opposition had decided to challenge the recently passed controversial legislation, including the electoral reforms bill, in court and that they had also constituted a lawyers’ panel for the purpose.

However, when the same question was put to Maulana Fazl on Tuesday, he was found non-committal, stating that they would go to courts but before that the judiciary needed to take steps to restore its confidence after the recent controversial affidavit of former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim and the alleged leaked audio clip of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

He said the controversial affidavit and leaked audio clip had “damaged” the judiciary’s image and now it was up to the judges to restore its image through their conduct. He regretted that the voices were coming from within the judiciary about the decisions taken against the democratically elected governments in the past.

“It is up to the court to decide whether it is announcing verdicts after getting instructions [from some institutions] like Saqib Nisar or doing justice in line with the Constitution and laws,” he said.

Maulana Fazl, who is also the chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, said the 33 bills passed by the government in a joint sitting of parliament on November 17 was a “mockery of parliamentary traditions”.

Once again rejecting the idea of use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next elections, he termed it a “pre-poll rigging plan”. He also said the opposition would come out with a strategy in line with the Constitution and laws to give true representation to overseas Pakistanis in parliament. He asked overseas Pakistanis “not to fall prey to the present illegitimate government which is a product of the rigged elections”.

The Maulana lashed out at the government for bulldozing the EVM bill through parliament despite objections by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He also warned the government against taking any step to “make the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) a branch of the IMF (International Monetary Fund)”.

This was the third meeting of the heads of PDM component parties in six weeks’ times, besides a number of meetings of its steering committee, after which the alliance leaders had announced deferment of its plan to launch what it always calls a decisive and final phase of the anti-government protest that would culminate on a long march towards Islamabad.

After a similar meeting on Nov 6, the PDM had announced that it had decided to launch a “decisive” anti-government protest campaign, starting with a public meeting in Karachi on Nov 13 and culminating in a long march to Islamabad, the date of which would be finalised later.

The announcement had been made by PDM secretary general and senior vice president of the PML-N Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a statement issued after a meeting of the heads of component parties of the alliance held through video link.

According to Mr Abbasi, the PDM leadership had decided to hold the last public meeting in Lahore. However, he did not announce any date for it, saying that after the Lahore’s public meeting, they would launch a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad.

“This movement will come to an end only after sending [Prime Minister] Imran Khan home,” Mr Abbasi had said, adding that the people of Pakistan were not ready to tolerate the government even for a moment.

The PDM had launched its first protest campaign in October last year with public meetings in major cities of the country and some of them were also addressed by self-exiled PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif through video link.

Two other opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) — were also part of the PDM at that time.

The first phase of the PDM’s movement came to an abrupt end as the alliance leadership did not announce any future programme after its last public meeting in Lahore on December 31.

In March 2021, the PPP and ANP quit the alliance after developing differences over the issue of en masse resignations from parliament and controversial nomination of PPP’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as leader of the opposition in the Senate.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2021

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