PDM announces fresh anti-govt drive

Fazl unveils a series of public rallies from July 4 to August 14

News Desk May 29, 2021
PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing press conference in Islamabad. SCREENGRAB

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Saturday announced restarting a campaign against the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan with a fresh round of rallies-cum-mass-contact drive from July 4.

PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman told a news conference after a summit meeting of the opposition alliance that Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif would contact other parties for a joint stance in the National Assembly on the budget.

Fazl, who is also the chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), unveiled the plan for a series of public rallies from July 4 in Swat to the Independence Day on August 14 in the federal capital.

“The PDM has unanimously decided to start holding massive power shows and mass contact drive in the country, with the first such show planned for July 4 in Swat,” Fazl, flanked by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, told reporters.

“The second power show will be held on July 29 in Karachi, while the third show has been planned in in Islamabad on August 14,” he said, adding that on August 14, “we will deliberate on issues” of the country, Kashmir and Al Aqsa Mosque.

He revealed that the alliance had authorised Shehbaz, in his capacity as the opposition leader in the National Assembly, to host a meeting of all parliamentary parties in the opposition to create consensus among them on the issue of the federal budget.

Sharif has already held a dinner in honour of all opposition party leaders, earlier this week, on this issue, which was also attended by a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) delegation, which parted ways with the PDM along with the Awami National Party (ANP) after the Senate elections in March.

When asked at the news conference about the return of the PPP into the alliance fold, Fazl said that the PPP was not part of the alliance and they neither discussed “this matter nor is this matter important enough to be discussed”. He said, “If they (PPP) want to return, they can approach the PDM.”

When pressed further for comments on Shehbaz’s desire to bring all parties on one platform, Fazl said the alliance had handed the matter of creating consensus among the opposition parties on the issue of the budget to Shehbaz. He added, “Shehbaz Sharif is the president of the PML-N which is a part of the PDM but all decisions in the PDM will be taken with consensus among its members.”

The PDM summit meeting was attended by the leaders of eight parties, including the top leadership of the PML-N, besides Aftab Sherpao, Anas Noorani and others. Sardar Akhtar Mengal joined via video link.

The top PML-N leaders present in the meeting, chaired by Fazl, included Maryam Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif. PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif and former finance minister Ishaq Dar joined the meeting via a video link from London.

The PDM rejected the “unilateral election reform ordinance” and especially denounced the suggestion of introducing the electronic voting machines (EVMs). At the news conference, Fazl termed the move “pre-poll rigging”.

“The PDM demands of the ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] to call a meeting of all political parties for discussion on electoral reform and also draft a package with national consensus on this reform; that can be presented before parliament,” Fazl said.

“The PDM has decided to wage a legal war against illegal actions and corruption of the government. The PDM has constituted a legal team, which will be headed by Senator Azam Nazir Tarar while Kamran Murtaza will be its co-convener.”

The PDM leadership also discussed the regional security situation. Fazl said that the PDM demanded that a joint parliamentary session be called, in camera if needed, to explain the defence implications and impact on foreign policy.

“Parliament needs to be briefed on the Doha accord, its security and regional implications, priorities of new American administration. Parliament needs to be informed if Pakistan plans to give bases to American forces and if so the implication of this decision,” Fazl said.

He said the PDM leaders condemned attacks on journalists and decided to visit the residences of the aggrieved journalists. The opposition alliance also condemned taking away properties of the poor in the name of clearing encroachment, and doling them out to the rich for real estate projects.

‘PPP a non-issue’

Pouring cold water on the efforts for the unity of the PDM, Maryam stated categorically that the PPP was no more a part of the opposition alliance. “PDM is a completely independent forum and the PPP is neither a part of it nor my target,” she said.

When she was asked as to where Nawaz Sharif stood on the issue of the ANP and the PPP’s return, she replied that the former prime minister had the same opinion as of Fazl’s, adding that “a non-issue should not be dragged again and again”.

To another question about the PML-N’s future course of action, she said that the PPP recognises Shehbaz as the leader of opposition but added that the PDM has its own strategy and parliament its own, therefore, the two should not be combined.

“If there is resistance in politics, there will be reconciliation. Power talks to power… powerful do not speak with weak. The moment you show weakness, your enemy will hit you hard,” she remarked. “You don’t get anything on a platter… you have to fight for your rights,” she said.

The PML-N leader said that media representatives and judges were being attacked in the country today. “It hurts [when someone’s] punished for speaking the truth and writing the truth. Raising your voice in such an environment is no small matter,” she added.

“We fought for politics, journalism and the judiciary. The struggle for our people has forced undemocratic forces to retreat,” she said. To another question, she said that the PDM had every right to go to the people.

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