ISLAMABAD: Though it has not been officially announced, the largest political alliance in the country — the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — has become ‘defunct’ and the larger political parties with considerable vote banks think they do not need the platform anymore.

Smaller players, on the other hand, still hope for its revival ahead of polls likely to be held at the start of next year.

Two years after its formation, PDM leaders are not even interested in convening any meetings of the alliance. Its key members were striving to form new strategies for the upcoming elections.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said that unlike the Islami Jhamoori Itehad (IJI) the PDM was not established as an election alliance. “It was established in a completely different scenario,” he said.

JUI-F spokesperson says bloc served ‘short-term strategic’ goals; for PML-N senator PDM was not ‘electoral alliance’

“Practically the PDM is dissolved; its discipline is not visible; there are no meetings of the PDM now,” Senator Siddiqui said. However, he added there was no need to pursue the alliance as all the members were busy analysing their election strategies.

“The parties in power after the elections will decide to form a new coalition to govern and those in opposition would establish their alliance,” he added.

Rise of PDM

The PDM was born on Sept 20, 2020, at a multi-party moot organised by the PPP in Islamabad, with an aim to oust the PTI government.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was a harsh critic of the military establishment at that time, read out the 26-point resolution adopted by the moot.

The declaration included the “end of establishment’s interference in politics, new free and fair elections after the formulation of election reforms with no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies, the release of political prisoners, withdrawal of cases against journalists, implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, speeding up of the projects under CPEC, and across-the-board accountability under a new accountability law”.

Now, the PDM has become redundant. There was no announcement marking its end because, in the words of the PML-N senator, it was not a registered entity so there was no need to announce its dissolution at an official level.

‘Short-term partnership’

JUI-F spokesperson Aslam Ghori said that the PDM was not formed for a long-term struggle or any revolution, it was only a “short-term strategic partnership to end the hybrid regime”.

He said there was no need to end the PDM as there was always a chance of repetition of the 2018 election scenario. “But this time we will have the horses [in the form of defunct PDM] ready…instead of starting the struggle anew,” he added.

Regarding the conversion of the PDM into an electoral alliance, the JUI-F maintained that the party has authorised its provincial and divisional chapters to go for seat adjustments as per the local conditions.

“That is why we are with the MQM in Karachi and some other parts of Sindh, while there are chances of seat adjustments with PML-N and Qaumi Watan Party led by Aftab Sherpao in some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.

Rifts in PDM

Apart from the three mainstream parties PML-N, PPP and JUI-F, the PDM initially consisted of Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan led by Awais Noorani, Awami National Party (ANP), ANP-Wali, Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith, National Party-Bizenjo, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), and the Qaumi Watan Party.

PTM leader Mohsin Dawar who got elected to the National Assembly in 2018 as an independent candidate was the first one to leave the ranks of the PDM after developing differences with other groups which had a strong political presence in the Pashtun community.

“I felt that JUI-F, ANP, PkMAP, and Sherpao too did not want my presence on the stage at public rallies,” Mr Dawar said.

“So I decided to quit the platform in March 2021.” However, he criticised the leadership of mainstream political parties over the current political situation in the country.

“We need PDM now — to demand elections as per the constitutional requirements and all the parties should be united in their demand for an election date — it may be anytime next year but it should be a final date,” Mr Dawar said.

In April 2021, PPP and ANP parted ways with the alliance after they were served show-cause notices over their public statements. ANP had said the movement was “hijacked” by some parties, but the criticism was targeted towards the JUI-F whose chief headed the alliance as well.

Balochistan parties want PDM

In Balochistan, three political parties which were part of the PDM are in a state of disarray. The PkMAP led by Mehmood Khan Achakzai is facing a rebellion as Khushal Khan, son of the late Usman Kakar, has formed a new group with a considerable following in Kila Saifullah, Zhob and Mastung.

Senator Shafiq Tareen of PkMAP criticised the senior members of the PDM and said that instead of continuing with the “revolutionary idea upon which the PDM was established these parties [PPP, PML-N and JUI-F] were only focused on being in the good books of the establishment”.

“We want an alliance and a support base to contest elections so that supremacy of parliament is restored,” Senator Tareen added.

Balochistan former CM Dr Abdul Malik, leader of the National Party, meanwhile, formed a high-level committee to meet political leaders belonging to the PDM as well as the PPP to reactivate the democratic alliance to play an effective role in the next elections.

On the other hand, the BNP-M is faced with another kind of ‘revolution’ in its power base. Party chief Akhtar Mengal is facing “terror attacks” from a group led by Shafiq Mengal in his native area Wadh, district Khuzdar. The political activities of the entire party have been undermined due to these clashes.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2023

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