The PDM split

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) appears to be falling apart at the seams

April 08, 2021

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) appears to be falling apart at the seams. This was not unexpected. The rag-tag alliance spans from leftist parties to far-right ones, and the little that they have to unite them is opposition to the establishment's alleged involvement in politics. The last few decades have shown that this kind of alliance may achieve short-term success, but is doomed to fail in the longer term.

Most recently, the Awami National Party (ANP) formally quit the opposition alliance that initially comprised 11 parties, while the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) continue bickering. This follows show-cause notices being issued to the ANP and the PPP for various alleged infractions.

One of the first signs of the split came during the last month’s Senate elections, when the other members of the PDM had broken off over the PPP's decision to field former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as a candidate for leader of the opposition, allegedly against what had been agreed by the PDM. The PPP's wooing of the Balochistan Awami Party – which is a part of the ruling coalition and is thought to have been formed with the establishment’s backing – during the polls was also a problem for the PDM.

But the PPP has countered by accusing the PML-N of derailing the PDM's agenda and creating the rifts that forced it to chart its own path. Tuesday's announcement from the ANP seemed to echo this position, with the party saying that the PDM had been "hijacked”. Ameer Haider Khan Hoti of the ANP noted that while the PML-N and others took issue with the PPP's tactics for getting Gilani voted as opposition leader, the PML-N had no qualms about working with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to ensure its candidates won from Punjab. Hoti also made it clear that one of the other issues was the PDM demand for component parties to resign from assemblies across the country.

This has been a common empty threat used by many opposition parties over the years. But when it is made, it is done with care to avoid quitting an assembly where the threat-making party has power. Just think back to the PTI's resignation threats during its 'dharnas'. The party never threatened to resign from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, where it was the ruling party. The PDM did not think their threat through, as the PPP was not about to give up the Sindh government. Indeed, the PPP is the only PDM member that is heading a provincial government. Incidentally, the ANP is the only other party that is allied with a provincial government — in Balochistan.

So what has the future in store for the PDM? Will it disintegrate further or there still are some chances of the component parties to overcome their differences? Well, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has instructed his party leaders to drop a conciliatory tone and get aggressive in replying to the PML-N’s criticism. This leaves little to hope that the PDM will be able to stay intact and give a tough time to the ruling coalition. As of now, the PDM’s bifurcation is for all to see. And the fact is that this so-called grand alliance of opposition parties is like a marriage union that is in serious trouble but wants to avoid a divorce just to avoid embarrassment in social circles.


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