The final public meeting of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) seeking to oust the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) through public revolt was termed by the opposition alliance as ‘historic’, wherein all the major players staunchly called for the removal of the incumbent government while highlighting its supposed shortcomings.
THE PDM show in Lahore has taken place among chilly winds and heated discussions. The narrative of the numbers was at its peak on Sunday evening with both sides claiming a decisive victory the opposition insisted the numbers were historically high and hence the Lahoris had rejected the PTI while the government saw the low turnout as a vote against the PDM, especially the PML-N.
But the numbers game is an old one without an end. The turnout, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder and the social media user. But the parties are not alone in this pointless debate. The commentators will continue this numbers debate for some days to come about who won and who lost this round. However, all else suggests a deadlock.
Pakistan Muslim League vice president Maryam also spoke her heart out about the Panama Papers case. She alleged that the former chief justice had told the incumbent prime minister to file an application after which Imran Khan took Nawaz Sharif to the cleaners on the basis of an iqamathrough a fixed match.
Similarly, PML-N Supreme-self-exiled leader; Nawaz Sharif, addressing the crowd via video-link was not shown on the digital media. Nawaz Sharif address was broadcasted at various social media platforms. He was outraged and was looking irritated. He said that the Prime Minister says that he will not give an NRO to any opposition party on heads of corruption. Nawaz Sharif questions the authority of Imran Khan by asking him a question again that “Who is asking you for an NRO? You and Aleema Khan got an NRO from Former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar yourself”.
PPP Chairman and the imported student from Oxford; Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while addressing the crowd at Minar-e-Pakistan alleged that the government is not cognisant of the difficulties being faced by masses “because it did not come into power through people’s mandate, but through the blessings of someothers”. He further added that “Imran Khan has become the prime minister with the help of selectors hence sabotaging the already weak democracy”.
He recalled that his grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had founded the party in Punjab. The PPP workers in Lahore went through torture but continued to support democracy. He said that the country is suffering hugely at different fronts because of the “fake, incompetent and illegitimate government”.
JUI-F chief and the heading authority of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM); Maulana Fazlur Rehman has warned during his address that the growing resentment and anger of the people against the “illegitimate government can lead to anarchy in the country.”
He urged the establishment to stop meddling into the political affairs of the country and let the people choose their leaders to govern the country. “If people’s rights are continued to be abrogated then the national unity cannot remain intact,” he cautioned. “Imran Khan’s government has weakened the country so much that we could not even protect Kashmir,” the JUI-F chief lamented.
Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) Chairman Aftab Sherpao addressed the gathering, saying that the platform is of the view that domestic and foreign policies have failed. He said that “All institutions have become paralyzed. We do not accept the inflation and unemployment and the country’s economic policies,” he said while lamenting the poor policies for sugar and wheat.
Meanwhile, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal started off his address by saying that the PDM public meetings were “funeral prayers of the dictators” and demanded to know who was to be held responsible for the violence in the province. Mengal said that “10,000 Baloch people were still missing; all the people of Baluchistan want was to be treated and respected as humans.” He also spoke about provincial autonomy, saying that if “provinces were autonomous [in Pakistan, Bangladesh would not have been created”.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai called for a “Turkey-like revolution” in Pakistan and encouraged Maryam, Bilawal and Fazlur to lead the movement.
Having had its fingers burnt rather badly in Multan, the government tried to play it cool by not interfering with the gatherings and crowds in Lahore; however, the restraint was only limited to the use of the force. Its members still spent most of Sunday obsessing over the PDM show and the size of the crowds.
Once the rally began, Mariam thanked the people who had come out in huge numbers to attend the gathering against government. She did not name Prime Minister Imran Khan but did say that a certain person had used a rough tone while admiring the PDM to hold a large rally.
Nonetheless, the government was at pains to show how unruffled its feathers were. The hardworking prime minister was shown playing with his dogs and the police was nowhere to be seen, thankfully not doing what it does best. Multan had done the trick where the government’s heavy handedness and nervousness helped the PDM and also led to much criticism from within the ranks. The PTI’s Multan representatives are said to have complained about the use of force during cabinet meetings.
The vague references to the resignations on Sunday night make it evident that for the moment only the long march to Islamabad is possible. And the government will now play up the idea of the PDM differences and its lack of consensus.
It does not mean the pressure on the government will ease much. As long as the opposition is holding gatherings and making speeches, television channels will continue to broadcast their speeches and the narrative about a selected and incompetent government will continue to echo the power corridors of Islamabad.
Sometimes the worst outcome is not a showdown but the constant threat of one. And similarly, the prime minister should not assume that because the government doesn’t face any realistic departure, he doesn’t need to fear the PDM. Now that the jalsa phase of the PDM is over, it is now the government’s turn to act.
The author is doing M. Phil in Public Policy and Governance. He is working as a freelancer. Previously worked with HubPages and Washington Post.