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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Saturday said it rejects the government's ‘unilateral’ electoral reforms, which include use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and announced a fresh wave of anti-government protests.

Speaking at a presser after hours-long meeting flanked by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N vice president Maryam Safdar, and other prominent PDM figures, the PDM chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said: “The PDM rejects the government's one-sided electoral reforms ordinance, including the voting machines, and terms it as pre-poll rigging”.

To a question, he said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) were not discussed during the meeting, as both the parties are no more part of the alliance and time should not be wasted on things like this.

However, he said that the two parties can still inform the alliance of their intentions.

When Maryam was questioned about Nawaz Sharif's stance regarding the PPP and the ANP, she said that her father had a similar stance like that of the cleric.

“Don’t drag out a non-issue again and again and try to make it into something. We have said what we wanted to say about that,” said visibly perturbed Maryam.

The PDM chief called upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to convene a meeting of all political parties to take a unanimous decision on electoral reforms as it is the responsibility of the top electoral body to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections in the country.

He said that the PDM has decided to initiate legal course of action against the PTI-led government's “unlawful acts”, adding a team of legal experts with Azam Nazeer Tarar of the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s will be constituted as its convener and co-convener, to look into it.

The alliance decided a future course of action, and on July 4, a massive anti-government protest will be held, followed by a huge demonstration in Karachi on July 29. On the occasion of August 14 – Independence Day of Pakistan – a massive protest will be held in Islamabad, with the PDM showing solidarity with their brethren in Kashmir and Palestine. Rehman said that the PML-N will host a budget seminar soon to form a unified strategy during upcoming budget session, while the task to hold the event has been given to PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. The cleric said that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal, attended the meeting via video, while other opposition party leaders were present in person.

The PDM, during the meeting, expressed concerns over the ongoing situation in the region.

"Our government is not “elected”, and the government which “does not have the backing of masses could not face any challenge like we all see in case of the PTI,” said the cleric known for his rivalry for the ruling PTI.

Rehman said that through the platform of the PDM – the alliance which the government dubs as a pressure group of opposition parties to get NRO to get rid of their corruption cases – “we demand to convene a joint sitting of parliament in light of prevailing situation in the region and Afghanistan to discuss the foreign and defence policies”.

In an obvious reference to the powerful military, the cleric said that “the relevant officials overseeing the policies should brief the house over the developments in Afghan peace process and other matters related to the process”.

He continued that the parliament should be taken into confidence on the issue of giving airbases to the US as there are reports that the country has agreed to give airbases to the US as it has started troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The cleric seemed quite concerned about the ongoing crackdown on the land mafias in the country, and said that the government was taking over the “legitimate” lands of common people to benefit some people.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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