Leaders seek to assuage fears about fate of PDM

Senior leaders of JUI-F, PML-N, PPP insist the alliance still intact despite disagreements


​ Our Correspondents March 18, 2021
PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman leaving a press conference in Islamabad. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD:

Leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Wednesday moved to reassure the people about the future of the 11-party opposition alliance, a day after cracks within its ranks on the issue of resignation of the lawmakers became distinctly visible.

On Tuesday, the PDM appeared to be in tatters during its 6-hour long meeting because of serious differences with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on the issue of tendering resignations from the assemblies that forced the alliance to postpone the much-hyped long march against the government.

The PDM meeting chaired by its President Maulana Fazlur Rehman ended without taking any decision on the major issues as its leaders, engaged in heated exchanges over resignations, the Senate elections, and nomination of opposition leader in the upper house of parliament.

During the meeting, former president Asif Zardari called for the return of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif. The call stunned the PML-N and the party Vice President Maryam Nawaz retorted that her father would not return until his recovery from ailment.

In the aftermath of the meeting, PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also the chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), contacted PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif and discussed with him the opposition’s future course of action.

On the other hand, the two former prime minister – from the former political rivals, the PPP and the PML-N – exchanged blames in their media talk on Wednesday and defended the divergent stances of their top leadership in Tuesday’s meeting.

“The PDM stood united despite the disagreements,” declared Fazl, while addressing a gathering in Peshawar. “We have given time to the PPP to deliberate on its decision and consult its Central Executive Committee (CEC) on the matter,” he added.

“Resignations were never meant to be the last option or the atom bomb. Nine parties [of the alliance] were in favour of submitting resignations. If the resignations are tendered, half of the parliament would be empty that would call for re-elections,” he added.

Earlier, Fazl contacted Sharif to discuss the proceedings and deliberations of the Tuesday’s PDM summit meeting, which was held to discuss the strategy for long march, previously scheduled for March 26. They also mulled over the alliance’s future strategy against the ruling PTI government.

A JUI-F spokesperson later clarified that Fazl had not advise Sharif to return to Pakistan. Spokesperson Aslam Ghauri said that the former prime minister was ill and needed treatment, adding that he should decide about his return after consultation with his doctors.

In Islamabad, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of the PPP defended former president Zardari’s address to the PDM summit meeting, saying that his party would do politics inside the parliament as well as hitting the streets.

“We had to make preparations for the long march but when the resignations were linked with it, the PPP asked for time to consult its CEC,” he told a press conference. “The PDM is formed with the efforts of the PPP and its leadership, the PPP will inform the PDM about the CEC decision.”

He said that the PPP would continue its politics in the parliament and on the streets as well. “The PPP will use every democratic option before resigning from assemblies,” he added. “The PPP is a party which believes in democracy and has defeated every despotic with its democratic actions.”

Elaborating further, the former prime minister said that resignations are not the first or the second option but the last option to send government packing. First, he added, the PPP would exhaust all parliamentary options.

When asked about the differences within the alliance ranks, he said all the 10 political parties in PDM have their own manifestos. He, however, expressed the hope that the PPP would convince the other parties about its point of view.

The former prime minister mentioned that it was the PPP which convinced the other parties to take part in the by-elections and the PDM won in all four provinces. “All the decisions taken by the PDM on the advice of the PPP proved correct and mature,” he added.

During the press conference, Ashraf revealed that the PPP wanted to bring a no-confidence motion in the Punjab assembly, saying that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had failed to show any performance there and all its promises to the people turned out to be nothing but lies.

“People are against the government because it has given nothing but price hike, poverty and unemployment to the people,” he said, adding the PTI government has destroyed the country’s economy.

The PPP stalwart said that “the name of opposition leader in the Senate will be announced after deliberations”. Responding to another question, he said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was respectable politician and that he had rendered countless services to the country.

A similar conciliatory tone was heard in the a separate media talk by former prime minister and Senior Vice President of the PML-N Shahid Khaqani Abbasi. “The PDM is determined to continue forward to bring the rule of law and Constitution back to Pakistan with a new government,” he said.

Although in yesterday’s meeting PDM could not see eye to eye, former prime minister Abbasi said, “it stands united and its success comes from the fact that even talks behind close-doors are there before the people today.”

 

March preparations

 

PPP parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Hasan Murtaza claimed that the PML-N and the JUI-F were not prepared for the long march, therefore, they used the resignations issue as an excuse to defer it.

He added that the PPP was the only party in the alliance which actually had started preparation for the long march. “We had formed committees and were busy mobilising the masses when the decision of delaying the march came,” he said.

“To exert pressure, the PPP is being accused of striking a deal,” Murtaza said, adding that the party never struck any deal in its history. He added that the PPP, being a democratic party, did not believe in the politics of confrontation.

Referring to the PPP’s boycott of the party-less elections in 1985, Murtaza said the decision gave way to non-political entities to enter the political. he added the PPP would not repeat that mistake again. “The PPP will not resign from assemblies. By remaining in the system, we can fight,” he said.

Asked if his party was that clear on the resignations issue then why was it taking the matter before its CEC, he said that PPP believes in following political norms. He added that after the CEC meeting, the PPP would once again try to convince the PDM to not to take this road.

Another PPP leader Chaudary Manzoor also said that PPP was the only party, which was preparing for the long march. “Rest had not even formally begun their preparations,” Manzoor added. He also said that the PPP position on resignation was clear.

However, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb dispelled the impression about the long march preparations, saying that all the parties in the PDM were fully prepared for the long march. She said that ones who were giving such statements, did not know of their own party’s position.

Aurangzeb said that there were multiple parties in PDM with different political ideologies, so there was nothing unusual about the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting. She added that the PPP would take the resignations issue before its CEC and later inform the PDM of its decision.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the leaders of the provincial chapters of the party the JUI-F leadership had directed for continuing the preparations for the long march. The provincial leaderships of the party had been told to show no lethargy in this regard.

(WITH INPUT FROM RAMEEZ KHAN IN LAHORE)

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