ISLAMABAD: The PPP is pressing the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — a multi-party opposition alliance — to cancel its planned long march and public meeting in the capital on March 28 in response to the power show being organised by the ruling PTI ahead of the crucial vote on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sources in the opposition camp told Dawn that PPP had formally conveyed its reservations to PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif over their planned public meeting in Islamabad.

The sources said PPP had also informed the PDM leaders that if they insisted on going ahead with their planned public meeting, then party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari might not attend the gathering and the party would nominate the second-tier leaders to symbolically participate in it.

Talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, a senior PPP office-bearer said the party had decided not to give a call to its workers to participate in the long march and the opposition’s public meeting.

He said the PPP believed that after the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the PTI from holding the public meeting at D-Chowk, there was no need for them to hold public gatherings, as such a move could provide an opportunity to the PTI to create some sort of situation to further delay the vote on the no-trust resolution.

Besides, some “undemocratic forces” could also take advantage of the situation and the country could face an “unforeseen incident”, he said.

He believed that since the opposition had succeeded in completing the required numbers to make its no-confidence move a success, there was no need for it to arrange such a power show.

The PPP leader was of the view that the opposition was justified in giving the call for a public meeting when the PTI had threatened to stop MNAs from entering the National Assembly through a public gathering at D-Chowk.

“But now, when the PTI has shifted its venue to Parade Ground in line with the court’s directives and it has also assured the court that no member will be stopped from casting their vote, we should also call off our march and public meeting,” he said.

He said the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had expressed concern over the increasing polarisation in the run-up to the National Assembly session on the no-confidence motion against the prime minister and had also requested both the PTI and the PDM to cancel their power shows.

The PTI has announced to hold its public meeting at Parade Ground in Shakarparian on Sunday (tomorrow), whereas the PDM has announced that it will hold its power show at Peshawar Mor in Islamabad on March 28.

Moreover, the PPP leader said that since the National Assembly speaker had called the session on March 28, it would become difficult for the opposition’s leadership and the members to participate in the rally.

Meanwhile, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar through his official Twitter account has publicly pleaded with the PDM leadership to reconsider its plan to hold the public meeting.

“(The) opposition should seriously rethink plans to hold jalsa in Islamabad on 27th. Imran Khan is on the run anyway. Deny him the wish to create mayhem, run away from no trust, derail democracy and then claim political martyrdom. He deserves political death, not martyrdom,” Mr Babar tweeted.

In a joint statement on Thursday, the PFUJ and the HRCP stated that there was “a danger of violent clashes” between supporters of the rival political camps on the eve of the vote in the NA.

“A breakdown of law and order will not only undermine a constitutional political process inside the [National Assembly] but also play directly into the hands of undemocratic forces,” said the statement, noting that separate venues had now been allotted for the public meetings of the ruling party and the opposition.

But since the route to the two venues for rival workers is almost the same, there is a real danger of clashes between workers on the day, it feared.

It may be recalled that after the announcement by the PTI to arrange a gathering of “one million people” at D-Chowk on March 27 on the eve of voting on the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister, the opposition PDM had also given a call to the public and workers of the component parties to begin a long march towards Islamabad on March 23 to stage a sit-in, which could continue until the completion of the voting process in the National Assembly.

The decision to hold the long march towards the capital on Pakistan Day was announced by PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman while talking to media persons after attending a meeting of the joint opposition at the residence of PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif.

Since the PPP is not a part of the PDM, the Maulana had expressed the hope that the PPP would also announce its decision to participate in the long march, saying he and Mr Sharif had extended a formal invitation to the PPP.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2022

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