PDM mulls long march in January, resignations from assemblies | Pakistan Today

PDM mulls long march in January, resignations from assemblies

–Opposition alliance aims to ramp up anti-govt campaign

–Gulf deepens between PPP, PML-N over Bilawal’s interview 

The 11-party anti-government alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), on Sunday discussed the options for holding a long march against the federal government in the month of January while en-bloc resignations from the assemblies and the Senate were also discussed. It was decided that final decisions would be taken by the senior leadership of the alliance.

Reportedly, the PDM meeting agreed on the schedule of future protest meetings of the opposition alliance in Peshawar on November 22, Multan on November 30 and Lahore on December 13.

Furthermore, the alliance appears to be showing cracks due to the comments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader  Nawaz Sharif, and held a meeting the in PML-N’s central secretariat to decide its future course of action.

The multi-party alliance held its first rally in Gujranwala on October 16, during with Nawaz had named the military leadership that he claimed was making a “state above a state”.

Sunday’s meeting, held in Chak Shahzad, was chaired by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Falzur Rehman and was meant to decide a future course of action for the PDM against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

The JUI-F chief said that it was of importance that the multi-party alliance’s “narrative is unanimous”, adding that the parties need to think about the ideologies they stand for.

He also questioned if the party had any plans in place should it have to face the consequences of its actions and if the parties’ workers were prepared for such a scenario.

These comments come shortly after cracks began to show in the alliance, purportedly due to the direct manner in which the PML-N supremo called out the military leaders. There have been rumours of resignations and allegations of treason due to the PML-N’s so-called ‘anti-state’ narrative.

Among the resignations was long time PML-N stalwart, Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch – who cited the anti-military narrative of Nawaz and his daughter as the reason for stepping down – and another senior leader, Nawab Sanaullah Zehri.

“From today, Nawaz Sharif is our political opponent,” said Nawab Zehri while announcing his resignation from the PML-N’s Central Executive Committee. “I will chalk out future course of action after consulting my friends and aides.”

Earlier this week, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during an interview had admitted to being “shocked” by Nawaz’s statements at the rally.

During the meeting on Sunday, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi raised serious questions about Bilawal’s interview, triggering a heated debate on the matter.

Abbasi said that the PDM has no choice but to adopt Nawaz Sharif’s statement which was the narrative of the entire nation.

However, Asif Ali Zardari, while addressing the participants, said that Bilawal’s statement is the same as the decision taken at the PDM meeting.

“We are bound by the same decision which was made by the alliance,” sources quoted Zardari as saying. They added that the PPP co-chairman said that his party would stand by the decisions taken on the PDM platform and not somewhere else.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman tried to cool the temperature and said that the PDM parties would have to take a common stance beyond the rhetoric of their parties.

Reportedly, the members of the PDM had decided at the All Parties Conference (APC) not to target any specific institutions and only aim at ousting the incumbent government.

PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf said that it was decided in the APC that the establishment would be blamed for bringing Prime Minister Imran Khan to power and no individual or institution would be blamed. He further said the declaration of the APC is the charter of PDM.

When PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan interrupted Raja to say that the party had no choice but to name the individuals, the PPP leader responded that if a person’s name is to be mentioned then a new meeting of the PDM will have to be held to take new decisions.

Aftab Sherpao also backed the PPP argument and said that the issues raised in the first APC declaration are consensus decisions and the same should be followed. The meeting decided to adopt a unanimous action plan.

Zardari said, “We are bound by the same decision which was made by the alliance,” adding that that the PPP would stand by the decisions taken on the PDM platform and not somewhere else.

Zardari, Bilawal and Nawaz attended Sunday’s meeting via video-link.

Other leaders present at the meeting were former prime ministers Abbasi and Ashraf, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Awami National Party (NAP) leaders Amir Haider Khan Hoti, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-M) Akhtar Mengal and Qaumi Watan Party’s (QWP) Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.

Speaking to the media following a meeting between PDM leaders, Fazlur Rehman said that the country’s political situation was deliberated upon and the “most urgent issue” of the economic crisis in Pakistan was also discussed.

“A person is no longer able to lead a dignified life [in Pakistan],” said the PDM chief, adding that the “PDM has decided to take our movement forward and a schedule for more rallies in the various cities of Pakistan”.

The 11-party movement has decided to draft an agreement, Fazl said, adding that the steering committee would meet on November 13, where all the parties would bring forward their recommendations so that “a mutual agreement” can be made.

Furthermore. he said that the “disrespect” shown to the Sindh police’s high command and the incident that had transpired in Karachi with regard to Maryam Nawaz and Captain (r) Safdar Awan was once again condemned.

Fazl added that it had been three weeks since the Karachi incident, but a report has not yet been brought forward.

The PDM chief went on to say that while cases are being filed against the Opposition leaders, there is “silence” when it comes to PTI-leader Jahangir Tareen’s “corruption”. He also said that National Accountability Bureau had yet to make a decision regarding “PTI’s foreign funding” case.

“It clearly means that there is something fishy,” Fazl remarked.

The JUI-F chief said the opposition leaders also expressed serious concerns and condemned the controversial statement of Interior Minister Brig (r) Ijaz Shah.

“The statement tantamount to threatening the PML-N leaders that their party members would be killed in the same manner Awami National Party workers were killed,” he maintained.

The PDM’s rallies in Peshawar, Multan and Lahore are scheduled for November 22, November 30 and December 13 respectively.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]