THE opposition alliance PDM has announced a ‘long march’ on Islamabad on March 23 in a bid to de-seat the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The magnitude of this announcement appears to have taken no one’s breath away. With no agreement or consensus on the key issues of resignations from the assemblies, and a decision to hold benign events like seminars and conferences, the message that the PDM seems to be conveying is that it really does not have many options left in its political armoury.
The government can rest easy. But then, ever since the PDM’s whimpering end to its first campaign earlier in the year, it has hardly given any reason for the government to have sleepless nights.
The PDM has struggled with clarity ever since the PPP walked out of it in a huff. The original dilemma that the alliance faced in the early phases continues to haunt it. Resigning from the assemblies is apparently the most potent weapon it wields but that can only work — and that too is an assumption — if the combined opposition were to tender the resignations together.
The PPP was clear even last year that this would be a bad move. It turns out now that the PML-N has also moved closer to the PPP’s position and its various senior leaders have acknowledged so by arguing that they want to retain the option of a no-confidence vote against the prime minister instead of leaving parliament open for the government. The scheduled march on the capital more than three months from now is therefore little more than inaction dressed up to look like a strategy. In fact, increasingly it looks like the alliance would rather wait and see if the situation worsens both politically and economically before the PDM brings itself to commit to something more than vague threats. Three months is a long time in politics and no one knows this better than the politicians who drive the alliance. It may be safe to assume that by opting for such non-options, they are acknowledging that they are running on empty.
The opposition parties on their own, however, believe they can be more effective than the alliance. The PPP and PML-N are both pursuing various options to play the numbers game in parliament and their energies are focused on timelines that are shorter than the one set by the PDM. This leaves JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in a difficult spot. With insignificant numbers in parliament, the only weight he carries is on the streets. The street option, however, is a risky one because it is very hard to translate it into a clear pathway to the government’s ouster. The PDM for now, therefore, appears to be more of a pressure group than a real threat to the government, and the opposition realises it too.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021