ALL talk and no action is a fitting summary of the Pakistan Democratic Movement whose members make plenty of noise but appear to have no concrete plan of action. This week once again, despite four-hour-long deliberations by senior political figures, no clear decision emerged, and yet another meeting was announced to determine a so far elusive strategy. PDM members have already met multiple times in the past two months and expectations had been high that the alliance would finally reveal a solid plan. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the movement’s steering committee announced that it had finalised recommendations for its anti-government protest plan. However, the big decisions have been deferred to next time. It has been nearly one year since the platform made effusive declarations about its ‘strategy’, which includes the option of resigning en masse from the assemblies to trigger a crisis, as well as a long march. But the reality has been different, with internal politics, a break-up and general hemming and hawing marring joint action. For an opposition alliance determined not to engage with the government, its lack of strategy is diluting its political sting. Though its demand of keeping the establishment out of political governance is a big one, the alliance has failed to show the spirit required for such a movement. Mammoth rallies, provocative slogans and power shows may have raised expectations but tangible results are not apparent. The JUI-F chief keeps going around in circles, building hype but delivering little. With 2021 drawing to a close, election year is not too far off. Is the PDM really going to resign from the assemblies and attempt to topple the government next year, just before a scheduled general election? On a TV show, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal insisted that the platform has a plan, but alleged that the help the ruling party gets from secret phone calls that yield parliamentary numbers is the problem.

It appears that the alliance will continue down this indecisive trajectory, which while full of bluster has proved to be nothing more than a damp squib. Despite serious reservations against the ruling party, NAB and even the judicial process in some cases, the combined opposition is unable to pack a punch that will dent the government or pose any serious threat to it. Unfortunately for the followers of the PDM, who are crushed by inflation and unemployment, empty promises will give them no relief.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2021

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