Heads of the member parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) are scheduled to meet again on Monday (tomorrow) for the purpose of preparing an anti-government protest plan.
According to reports, there have been differences among the parties, mostly between the two major components of the PDM; Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Both the parties are in disagreement over the issues of en masse resignations from parliament and converting the long march into an indefinite sit-in.
In addition, the two parties also disagree on the issue of boycotting the upcoming local government elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The reports say that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is of the opinion that they long march should commence after submitting resignations from the parliament however, the PML-N is against the idea saying that this step would prove futile if collective resignations do not come from all the opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Reportedly, when the JUI-F asked the PML-N and other opposition parties to boycott the local bodies polls, the PML-N was of the view that they should not leave the field open for the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its allies.
During their last meeting on Nov 23, the PDM had been unsuccessful in devising a plan to launch its anti-government protest campaign, with the alliance’s president, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, announcing that they would meet on Dec 6 and come up with “a final policy” and “announce very important decisions”.
After nearly four-hour long meeting with PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif in attendance and the party president Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz joining via video link, Maulana shared with media, “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.”
During the last meeting, the Maulana was so infuriated with the PML-N leadership that at one point, he purportedly even offered to quit the opposition alliance’s presidentship. However, Nawaz Sharif persuaded the JUI-F chief from doing so and sought time till Dec 6 for in-house consultations.
Maulana said to reporters, “The time is not too far. We will move towards a final decision to rid the nation of the present oppression”.
Rejecting the perception that there was a deadlock among parties regarding certain issues, the Maulana had said they wanted to reach decisions after thoroughly reviewing the possible outcomes of their moves while maintaining unity among the PDM component parties.
Telling the media about the decisions of the steering committee on Nov 22, PDM spokesman Hafiz Hamdullah had said that 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 also stated that the option of resignations from the legislatures was also being considered.
Earlier on Nov 6, PDM’s general secretary Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had made an announcement that they had decided to launch a “decisive” anti-government protest campaign, starting with a public meeting in Karachi on Nov 13 and concluding with a long march to Islamabad, the date of which would be finalised later.
The PDM had started its protest campaign in October 2021 with public meetings held in major cities. Some of the public gatherings were also addressed by self-exiled PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif via 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 ended abruptly 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 exited from the PDM after having 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.