ISLAMABAD: On the eve of Pakistan Day, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced on Monday that it will hold a “anti-inflation march” in Islamabad on March 23rd, while failing to reach a consensus on the option of en masse resignations from the assemblies as part of its ongoing anti-government movement.
The opposition’s nine-party coalition convened virtually with its president Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the chair to make a final decision on the steering committee’s principal suggestions, which included the prospect of a “longmarch” towards Islamabad and resignations from the legislatures.
Quaid Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Shehbaz Sharif, and Ishaq Dar, former finance minister, all attended the meeting via video link, as did other top leadership from the component parties.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the meeting held detailed discussions on the prevailing political situation of the country.
“There is no doubt that the government which came into power through rigged and fake votes in 2018, was lacking the public mandate. This is the reason that it [government] was not only incompetent but also lacked people support and now the worst failure,” he said, adding that the punishment of which is now being given to the whole nation in the shape of inflation, unemployment, poverty, and lawlessness.
“In the wake of these circumstances, the Pakistan Democratic Movement has decided to hold “anti-inflation march” in Islamabad on March 23,” he said, adding people from every nook and corner of the country would come to Islamabad and a “massive” rally related to the problems being faced by a common man. “The entire nation would participate in the massive anti-inflation march,” he maintained.
To make preparations for the “anti-inflation march”, he stated that PDM meetings will be held at a provincial level to prepare a comprehensive strategy. In Punjab, he stated that PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif would hold meetings of the PDM at the provincial level with regard to the preparations for the march, while in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he himself would chair the meetings of the alliance.
He said that Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai has been tasked for Balochistan and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP)’s Awais Noorani for Sindh to chair the meetings at the provincial level with a view to ensure “massive” participation of the people across the country.
Asked whether it was appropriate to choose Pakistan Day for its “anti-inflation march”, he said that the PDM is also part of the nation. “It is a national level issue…no one, but the State owns the country,” he added.
To another query about the duration of the protest, he smiled and replied: “You just heard about March 23rd. Wait and see what happens next.”
Furthermore, he added that a “representative” seminar of the lawyers’ community as well as the representatives of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), business community, civil society, and people from every walk of life, would also be held to take them into confidence over the PDM’s policies.
About the resignations from the assemblies, he said that the issue of tendering resignations from the assemblies was also discussed during the meeting, adding that a consensus on the matter had already existed on the matter.
He added that the PDM would make a decision in this regard at an “appropriate” time. “The PDM had agreed to this option [resignation], but it would be for the alliance to decide as to when this card would be used at an appropriate time,” he added.
However, informed sources said that Maulana who is also the chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is in favour of resignations without any further delay. But the PML-N has a different opinion, as it believes that en masse resignation could not be an effective option unless Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), which has parted its ways with the PDM, is also persuaded to follow suit.
To a question about differences within the PDM over the issue of resignations and the reported warning by the JUI-F chief to quit as the president of the PDM, Maulana contradicted the reports, saying, “I would like to register a protest with the media for running baseless reports.”
The PDM president also stated that the alliance’s steering committee would again meet today (Tuesday) to devise a strategy for the decisions that had been taken.
It was the third meeting of the heads of the component parties in the past one and a half months, besides a number of meetings of its steering committee, the PDM had been saying to use a “decisive” option against the government.
When attention was diverted to the PDM’s previous statement about the “finale and decisive” phase in its ongoing anti-government movement, Maulana said that there used to be no “final phase” in politics and “it’s an ongoing movement.”
He further stated that the meeting also strongly condemned the incident in Sialkot, adding that no citizen has the right to take the law into their own hand. “Such incidents should be stopped,” he said, adding that such incidents cannot be encouraged in any way.
Prior to the PDM meeting, the JUI-F chief, while talking to reporters clarified his earlier statement with regard to the lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot, saying, “we unconditionally condemn the incident”.
“The state and the Constitution will have to become active in dealing with such cases,” he said, adding that even if his own party was in power, he would have still maintained that the government was at fault.
“Whenever an incident is related to religion, it is exceptionally highlighted in the media…In a bid to stop such incidents from occurring again, we will have to bring a unified national discourse to the fore,” he said, adding that he had never believed in forcing an ideology at gunpoint.