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ISLAMABAD The opposition alliance of nine political parties - the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) - on Monday announced a countrywide protest drive from October 20 against the skyrocketing inflation, and decided not to interfere in "government matters" vis-à-vis the delay in notification about appointment of a new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

A meeting of the PDM chaired by its president Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and attended by senior leadership of the component parties, deliberated upon the prevailing political situation, including high inflation in the wake of the recent increase in prices of petroleum products and the rise in power tariff.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif and party vice president Maryam Nawaz attended the meeting via video link, while the leadership of the other opposition political parties in the alliance were physically present.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, the PDM president and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, said that the meeting endorsed the alliance's earlier decision to launch an "effective" countrywide protest drive against the government, saying that it was noted that people are facing serious hardships due to high inflation.

PDM postpones meeting

He said that the provincial leadership of every component party under the umbrella of the PDM has been instructed to immediately nominate coordinators and start preparations for the protest drive to oversee and organise "effective" rallies across the country.

He said that the PDM would lead the people in the countrywide rallies, who are suffering due to the skyrocketing inflation. When asked, whether the meeting also discussed the option of holding a long march, he said that there would be step-by-step anti-government campaigns, starting with the rallies, strikes and "ultimately the situation would lead to a long march".

To another question about the PDM's point of view about the alleged standoff with regard to the notification of a new ISI chief, Maulana said: "PDM is not interfering into any governmental matter. The PDM only seeks a democratic and constitutional setup in the country, and it has focussed its energies only on its objective."

He said that the meeting rejected the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and declared that the NAB is an institution, which is a remnant of a dictator and "it has always been used as a tool for political victimisation of the opponents. There has been no expectation of accountability from this institution". The PDM, once again, rejected the proposed electoral reforms introduced by the PTI government.

PDM to chalk out future strategy today

"The PDM also rejected the electoral reforms altogether, he said adding that the electronic voting machine (EVM), 'which in fact is another name of the RTS (result transmission system) and it is aimed at rigging the election electronically and stealing the votes," he said, adding that a government which has come to power through an alleged rigging has no right to introduce a formula for holding free and fair elections.

Maulana Fazal said that the meeting also expressed serious concerns over the closure of borders with Afghanistan and Iran, adding that the people on both sides of the borders are suffering due to the closure. He said that the meeting demanded that the borders with Afghanistan and Iran should be reopened immediately for trade activities. Furthermore, he said that they are hearing about local government elections, adding that the PDM's demand is holding of general elections.

"Unless free, fair, and transparent general elections are held and legitimate governments are made, there is no justification of local bodies elections in the country," the Maulana added.

About the option of an in-house change in the parliament, he stated that the PDM only wants fresh elections, adding: "If we had any such plan, then we should have agreed with the PPP on this option."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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