Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been trying to start anti-government protests from the beginning. But neither PPP nor PML-N stood behind him. They rather abandoned him during the Azadi March of 2019. This time, Asif Zardari wooed the Maulana after his efforts to unite the opposition. On the other hand, after the failure of the Mohammad Zubair’s meetings (August and September 2020), Nawaz Sharif also threw in his support behind the Maulana. Thus a united opposition emerged in the form of PDM.
Prior to the formation of PDM, PPP was scared. Promises made to it (in a deal) were not kept. Corruption cases against the Zardari family were pursued. PPP also got some indication that it could also be made to lose its government in Sindh. Consequently, Zardari and Bilawal started talking about their ideological views. Meanwhile, PML-N is also realizing that the promises made to it were not kept either. Not only Maryam was not allowed to travel to London but also plans for Nawaz’s character assassination were also being readied. The Sharifs have also become ‘ideological’.
The power/influence that the main members of PDM have is that PPP has decided to resign and throw the ball in the PDM’s court. Nawaz Sharif’s rhetoric and Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s street power are irritating the government. The most surprising moment for the government and the “powerful forces” after the formation of PDM was the attitude of PML-N and PPP. The success of the PDM rallies has shaken the government and the powerful forces. The party workers and voters thought that PDM was becoming ideological. However, the problem with political parties is that none of them is ideological. In the meanwhile, Zardari has started his power politics and taken Nawaz along, who has readily followed. Consequently, it has been decided that their efforts should aim at changing the system, not by destroying it.
Following this, the Maulana and other nationalist parties have two options: either to break away from PDM or let PML-N and PPP go ahead with their politics. They have chosen the latter. Though the PDM would continue, it has no moral high ground any more. In fact, PTI and PDM are now the same pages. Much like Imran Khan used to wait for the “third umpire’s signal”, PML-N and PPP are also waiting for that signal now. The only difference is that PTI licked the boots of the third umpire while PPP and PML-N used pressure tactics through the masses.
Following her father’s footsteps, Maryam Nawaz has once again raised the slogan of Punjabiism. Maulana Fazl Ur Rehman is talking about showing his cards at right time. Reacting to threats from PDM, the government has termed this as nothing but ‘circus’ and rejected the threats of the PDM as mere empty words. The ministers have tried to play the South Punjab card in their statements and stressed that the PML-N had looted South Punjab funds. The fallout of all this is a security vacuum.
The government should think twice before dismissing the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as a spent force because the parties that make up the alliance have just had to rethink some of their positions. It is only natural for new and sometimes contradictory ideas to emerge as the situation changes, and it is a good not a bad thing in a democratic environment for allies to sort out issues through dialogue and mutual give-and-take. If anything recent huddles of the PDM have shown that they are maturing with time and even when they are in the crosshairs of the government as well as the so-called establishment, their resort to democratic practices in fact indicates that they are always improving their game.
The threat of the march on Islamabad, too, cannot be written off as easily as the government would like. The ruling party could have made life easier for itself and everybody else by showing some flexibility at important stages in this build-up, instead it decided to further increase the temperature, betraying an over-confident mindset; one which firmly believed that the opposition was only bluffing and would not carry out any of its threats. Right now our senior-most politicians are driving the whole nation head first into just such a dark alley. As the government of the day, PTI is expected to take the first steps towards an urgently needed thaw. A sincere offer of dialogue would be a nice start.