With more rallies scheduled for February and a consensus on taking part in Senate polls, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) seems to have little room to force the PTI government into submission that gave little importance to the opposition’s ultimatum to resign by January 31.
The PDM — an 11-party antigovernment alliance —on December 14 demanded that the PTI government resign by January 31 or face a long march to Islamabad.
PDM chief Fazlur Rehman had then warned “that if the government does not resign, the final date of the march will be announced on February 1.”
With the deadline for the government having quietly passed, a leadership meeting suggest that the PDM table a no-confidence motion in the parliament to dislodge the government.
“The PPP through the PDM platform will send this government in a democratic, legal and constitutional way,” he had said.
But the PML-N had swiftly turned down the PPP proposal, asking the PPP chairman to present his game plan for ensuring that the no-confidence motion succeeds. The party had reminded Bilawal that the opposition had failed to dethrone Senate Chairman Sadiq Sinjrani despite having a comfortable majority in the upper house.
Even the PML-N de facto chief Maryam Nawaz weighed in on Bilawal’s proposal, expressing her skepticism on its practicality. The PML-N even went on to call the proposal impractical.
To defuse the apparent tensions between the two biggest opposition parties, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari stepped in.
In a call to the PPP Punjab leader Chaudary Manzoor, Zardari said all options were available to the PDM including resigning, no-confidence motion, long march and even wheel jam strike.
This statement was quickly welcomed by PML-N General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal.
However, the PPP leaders later took to the media to declare that their party will manage to convince the PML-N and others on a noconfidence proposal as they managed to convince them to take part in by elections and Senate elections.
Apparently, the PML-N and the JUIF believed that the opposition parties by resigning from legislatures could break the electoral college required for the upcoming Senate elections.
At the very nascent stages of the movement, it was speculated that PPP would not resign from the Sindh Assembly to give up its provincial government. These speculations were vehemently denied then by the PPP which announced its all-out support for the movement.
Spurred on by the commitment from the constituent parties, the PDM leaders especially from the PML-N took to the media to warn the government that all opposition parties would resign from assemblies to take the government down.
The PDM was also confident that its six initial rallies would provide it with enough momentum to stage a successful long march towards Islamabad or Rawalpindi.
Contrary to the expectation, almost all of the PDM main events especially the rallies in Punjab were heavily criticized for being unimpressive. Of all the parties in the PDM, the PML-N in particular was confident that it would take government down before the start of 2021.
Maryam Nawaz, anticipating an announcement from the PDM parties of resigning from legislatures, had termed the alliance’s December 8 meeting a “door-die” affair.
The PPP, however, managed to convince the PDM to shift its narrative from giving resignations to a movement to force the government to resign; hence came the demand that the PTI government must resign by January 31 or face a long march.
Subsequently the PPP also managed to first convince the PDM to take part in byelections and later in the Senate election that the alliance had initially announced to boycott.
Along the way, the PDM constituent parties — especially the PML-N, the PPP and more recently the JUI-F — also turned their guns away from the military establishment on the PTI government in hope to get a widespread acceptability amongst the masses.
However, on expiry of the January 31 deadline PPP chief Bilawal took to Twitter, stating that the long march and no-confidence motion proposals will now be discussed at the upcoming PDM meeting.
“The selected PM has failed to resign by the deadline set by the PDM. Had given this illegitimate regime the opportunity to step aside respectfully and allow for a transition to democracy with free, fair and transparent elections.
“The establishment must leave political battles to the politicians now or risk being drawn into controversies. Only a government chosen by the people can deliver for the people.
“Long march and no-confidence will hopefully be discussed in our PDM meeting. The government’s desperation is clear. [It is] trying to change rules to rig the Senate elections because they can see their defeat. Insha Allah, the Senate elections will show that the government is on shaky ground,” he said.
Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said the PDM was an unnatural alliance as its narrative has badly flopped. Talking to a private news channel, he said the government strongly believes in rule of law but the opposition has always played with its supremacy.
“Maulana Fazlur Rehman is leading the PDM apparently but someone else is controlling it,” he said.