ISLAMABAD: Heads of the component parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will be meeting again on Monday (tomorrow) in an effort to prepare an anti-government protest plan with consensus.
Sources in the opposition parties told Dawn that there were differences among the parties, mainly between the two major components of the PDM — Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — over the issues of en masse resignations from parliament and converting the long march into an indefinite sit-in.
Besides this, the two parties also have different viewpoints on the issue of boycotting the upcoming local government elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
They said JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman believed that they should start their long march after submitting resignations from the parliament whereas the PML-N was against the idea, saying that such a move would prove futile if collective resignations do not come from all the opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Similarly, they said, when the JUI-F wanted the PML-N and other opposition parties to boycott the local bodies polls, the PML-N believed that they should not leave the field open for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its allies.
In their last meeting on Nov 23, the PDM had failed to come up with a plan to launch its anti-government protest campaign, with the alliance’s president, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, declaring that they would meet on Dec 6 and devise “a final policy” and “announce very important decisions”.
“We had a detailed debate on the prevailing situation in the country. Next meeting of the PDM heads will be held in Islamabad on Dec 6. Before this meeting, all the component parties will submit their recommendations [regarding launching of the anti-government protest movement] after holding in-house consultations within their respective decision-making and powerful bodies,” the Maulana had said while talking to reporters after around four-hour long meeting which was attended by PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, party president Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz via video link.
In the last meeting, the Maulana was so furious with the PML-N leadership that at one stage, he reportedly even offered to quit the opposition alliance’s presidentship. However, at that time, Nawaz Sharif persuaded the JUI-F chief not to do so and sought time till Dec 6 for in-house consultations.
It was the third meeting of the heads of the component parties in six weeks, besides a number of meetings of its steering committee, after which the alliance leaders had announced that they were deferring the plan to launch, what they always say, a decisive and final phase of the anti-government protest that would culminate with a long march towards Islamabad.
Maulana Fazl evaded repeated questions by reporters about the possible long march and en masse resignations from the assemblies and simply asked them to wait till Dec 6.
“The time is not too far. We will move towards a final decision to rid the nation of the present oppression,” he had stated.
Rejecting a perception that there was a deadlock among parties on certain matters, the Maulana had said they wanted to make decisions after thoroughly reviewing the possible outcomes of their moves while maintaining unity among the PDM component parties.
Journalists and political experts were expecting that the opposition alliance would devise a solid plan this time as the meeting had taken place only a day after the alliance’s steering committee announced that it had finalised its recommendations for the anti-government protest plan, which would be announced after the party heads’ approval on Nov 23.
Briefing the reporters about the decisions of the steering committee on Nov 22, PDM spokesman Hafiz Hamdullah had said they had proposed protest rallies, road caravans, sits-in, shutter-down and wheel-jam strikes over the next four months and a final long march towards Islamabad in March next year. He had claimed that the option of resignations from the legislatures was also under consideration.
Earlier on Nov 6, PDM’s general secretary Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had announced that they had decided to launch a “decisive” anti-government protest campaign, starting with a public meeting in Karachi on Nov 13 and culminating with a long march to Islamabad, the date of which would be finalised later.
The PDM had started its protest campaign in October last year with public meetings in major cities. Some of the public gatherings were also addressed by self-exiled PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif through video link.
Two other opposition parties — the PPP and Awami National Party (ANP) — were also part of the PDM at that time.
The first phase of the alliance’s movement came to an abrupt end when the PDM leadership failed to announce any future programme following its last public meeting in Lahore on Dec 31, 2020.
In March 2021, the PPP and ANP parted ways from the PDM after developing differences over the issue of en masse resignations from parliament and the controversial nomination of PPP’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as leader of the opposition in the Senate.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2021