No threat from long march

No threat from long march

Synopsis

PDM may go ahead with its plan to stage a protest on March 23 but has not plan to topple PTI govt

No threat from long march
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The top leadership of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – an opposition parties’ alliance – seems determined in their public statements about staging a “long march” against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government on March 23.

But leaders from some of the PDM parties as well as political analyst view these announcements with a pinch of salt in view of some recent developments including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) success in the first phase of the local governments (LG) election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

It transpired from background interviews with some of the leaders from the PDM member parties as well as information shared with Bol News by the sources aware of behind the scene developments that the PDM chief who also heads the JUI-F, Fazlur Rehman, has soften his stance against the government.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – the biggest party in the alliance – is also not in a mood to take embroil itself in a deadlock like situation where things might get out of political parties’ control and “the third party” may get a chance to intervene.

The PML-N leadership wants to get rid of Prime Minister Imran Khan but at the same time it does not want to see any harm or damage done to the political system.

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Fazl was the person who wanted to bring down the PTI government from the day one and soon after the 2018 election he had not only rejected the election’s results but also proposed to the mainstream parties including the PPP and the PML-N to ask their elected parliamentarians not to take oath.

The proposal of the JUI-F chief had, however, failed to inspire the mainstream parties.

But now that the next general election is round the corner, the JUI-F chief has softened his stance.

Political analysts also link this flexibility with the extraordinary performance of the JUI-F candidates in the first phase of local government (LG) elections in the K-P, the bastion of the religious party. The JUI-F even won seats from the areas where it had never won elections in the past.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman is now eyeing up the next phase of the LG elections which were rescheduled for March in view of harsh weather in some of the districts where these elections are to be held. Earlier these elections were to be held on January 19.

In his chat with media after a PDM meeting in Islamabad a few days back, Fazl had expressed his unflinching commitment to stage a long march on March 23 but some insiders in the alliance said the JUI-F would focus on the next phase of the LG elections in the KP and not on the PDM protest plan.

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Some analysts are of the view that the JUI-F chief would try to use the preparations for the long march for public mobilization in the KP in favor of his party candidates for the second phase of the LG polls.

Some analysts are of the view that the second phase of the LG polls in the KP would result in further weakening of the PDM as the component parties would contest these elections separately like they did in the first phase leaving their voters baffled and confused.

The PDM parties are jointly struggling against the PTI government but in the first phase of the LG poll they contested against each other, pointing out each other’s weaknesses and taunting each other in their election campaigns.

Commenting on the alliance’s internal politics, chief of one of the PDM parties said after the exit of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Awami National Party (ANP) from the alliance, the decision to contest the LG polls separately was a major blow to the strength of the alliance.

“If they would contest the upcoming second phase of the LG elections in the KP separately, the strength of the alliance would further dwindle,” he said on condition of anonymity.

He said due to this dichotomy, the last three PDM rallies – held a couple of months back – had failed to attract big crowds as their supporters and voters were confused to see the otherwise allies in an anti-government alliance, contesting against each other.

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Sources aware of the developments informed Bol News that there are little chances of the PDM contesting the next phase of the LG elections in the KP jointly. However, chances of some seat adjustment in some areas could not be ruled out.

As the next phase of the LG polls will also be held in Hazara Division where PML-N has strong footing, there are chances of the JUI-F cutting some deal with the PML-N. But by and large, the PDM parties would contest these elections separately and against each other.

Political analysts are of the view that the JUI-F would try to repeat the performance they had shown in the first phase of the elections. If they manage to do well in Hazara and other main cities of the KP, the JUI-F will get a solid ground to perform well in the next general election as well.

Some insiders in the JUI-F said the party was not expecting the victory they achieved in the first phase of the LG elections and now they are eying on the KP government.

They said the JUI-F would not press for early ouster of the PTI government and would like to see it complete its mandated term. Only then the JUI-F would get time to serve the people at grassroots level through the basic tier of the LGs and translate its extraordinary victory in the LG elections into a vote bank.

The PDM can launch a long march on March 23 but it is not likely to stage a sit-in and stay in the federal capital for a longer period because of their engagement back in the province where the LG elections would be in full swing by the time, a senior political analyst commented.

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On the other hand, the PML-N leadership also wanted to see a change of government through the parliament and was against any unconstitutional measure to dethrone PM Imran Khan as such a change could endanger the whole political dispensation, which no political party in the country wanted.

The head of a PDM party said all the member parties are in favor of holding a long march against the government but so far no plan to stage a sit-in in federal capital was finalized, especially the PML-N and the JUI-F are indecisive about staging a sit-in.

The PPP would be launching its long march from February 27. The march, which started from Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi on February 27, would reach the federal capital after passing through various cities and towns of Sindh and Punjab. Sources in the PPP said they have no plan to stay long in Islamabad.

Political observers said the PPP’s protest plan is mainly aimed at mobilizing its voters and supporters and not to bring down the PTI government. The PPP wants to see the PTI government complete its term because it would give it time to mobilize its supporters and to enhance their vote bank in the Punjab.

So in the given situation, the PTI government faces no serious threat from the opposition parties. If there is some threat to the government, it is due to its own bad governance, escalation of prices of essential commodities, growing joblessness and other issues directly affecting the common people.

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