EDITORIAL: The opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) seems to have fallen on dark days. The 10-party alliance headed by Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman came into existence after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government came to power through the controversial 2018 elections. The Maulana lost his traditional seat in D I Khan in that election, although his party did not do too badly. Maulana Fazlur Rehman therefore felt hard done by at the alleged hands of the establishment, with whom he had enjoyed a long past of collaboration that proved extremely beneficial for him as long as it lasted. The other two major parties in the PDM, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), were differently placed after the 2018 elections. The PML-N was ‘out’, especially after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court and subsequent imprisonment, a confinement from which he was ‘rescued’ by illness and travelled to London. The PPP on the other hand could be considered ‘half-in’ and half-out’, given its government in Sindh and carryover strength in the Senate. However, both these parties were then subjected to the tender mercies of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on corruption charges against both leaderships. The PTI government swore itself blue in the face denying any role in this campaign, but given its overriding anti-corruption mantra, which arguably had finally persuaded the powers that be to back it, fingers of suspicion were, and continue to be, pointed at it for being behind what has been described as a political witch-hunt against the PML-N and PPP. The commonalities therefore that brought Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the PML-N and the PPP together on the platform of the PDM were their being targeted by the establishment through its chosen horse, the PTI government. Necessity they say is the mother of invention. No surprise therefore that these three opposition forces, with seven minor parties in tow, came together in the PDM to fight against this motivated targeting and to oust the incumbent PTI set-up. In this coming together, given the pressure on them, all parties were prepared to forgive and forget each other’s mutual transgressions of the past.
But it has taken barely two and a half years for the not so well hidden from view past differences to re-emerge with a vengeance and bite that reminds us of the sorry past of their up and down ‘relationship’. The stew began simmering over the issue of en masse resignations from parliament as a prelude to, or accompanying, the planned PDM long march on Islamabad, a combination the JUI-F and PML-N at least, believed would spell the end of the PTI government. Although this scenario may have reflected the triumph of hope over reality, given the lack of certainty and guarantees that these two ‘weapons’ would suffice for the country to see the back of the PTI government, it also failed, despite assertions that resignations were decided unanimously by the PDM, to take account of the PPP’s interests within the prevailing setup. It also signaled a failure to take account of the PPP’s Central Executive Committee’s (CEC’s) decision not to go for resignations immediately, but keep them in reserve as the ultimate weapon. Nevertheless, the manner in which the issue was raised and discussed in the last PDM meeting, especially PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s needlessly rude barbs at Nawaz Sharif, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the PDM had split on the issue 9-1. This too may not have been seen as an irreparable breach, but what followed in the Senate Chairman election, which Yousuf Raza Gilani lost despite the entire PDM voting for him (those by now notorious seven ‘rejected’ votes), and the ‘snatching’ from the PML-N the agreed post of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (handed to Gilani as a ‘consolation prize’), may prove the last straw that broke the PDM camel’s back. Ostensibly, the PDM chief announced an indefinite postponement of the long march until the PPP CEC meets to revisit its decision not to resign from parliament just yet, but realistically, that decision is unlikely to be revoked. The PDM therefore, is all but dead in the water. That may cause sighs of relief in the corridors of power, but it has the unintended consequence of shifting focus back on the non-performing PTI government.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021