PDM Lahore Rally and its Aftermath for Pakistan Government

PDM leadership has signalled that they might have to stop their anti-government movement till February 2021 because of the cold weather. This provides an opportunity to both the government and the opposition to find a political way out of the problem. Only through political dialogue can Pakistan strengthen the democratic system in the country. The condition for this is that both the groups should come on the negation table with good intentions. The trend would be set by the conditions they put in for the talks. If these are according to the constitution, no one should have any problem with them.

For that, the government and opposition need to bring down their aggressive tone with which they have been speaking against each other, to create an environment of trust in which talks would be possible. The opposition also needs to revisit its agenda. So far, it has not had any constructive agenda on strengthening democracy in the country. It needs to identify and highlight the issues that the country is facing. The economy can be one such issue on which the government can be asked to reveal as to what plans it has to address the problem. Another issue can be the Coronavirus pandemic.

Highlighting these issues is not only the responsibility of the opposition but also it would be beneficial for their political future: people in the country want to know which party has a better solution to their problems. If the opposition plays that role better, they can expect people to back them in the coming elections. The government needs to offer genuine talks and avoid any further political crisis in the country. To start with, it should invite the opposition for talks.

Some opposition leaders are also expecting ‘behind the scenes’ developments in January, before the long march, which can rattle the government. It is not clear what these developments could be, but one could speculate that the opposition is either counting on a wedge within the ranks of establishment, creating pressure on it to withhold its support for the government or it is banking upon some pressure from international quarters. The opposition has already used its ammunition by naming and highlighting specific individuals and harping on the individuals-versus-institution narrative, which has failed to create enough pressure on the establishment.

This is unlikely to change without the PDM playing any new cards. Regarding the latter option, the PM last week did hint at some possible international support for the opposition. But it seems highly unlikely that any such support can push the government to resign. For now, it seems that the opposition would stage a reasonably well-organised long march towards Islamabad sometime in February, but that’s not likely to disrupt the upcoming Senate elections or jeopardize the ruling party and its coalition partners’ chances to secure a majority in the upper house.

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