PDM’s anti-govt movement & Shehbaz Sharif’s national dialogue proposal

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 06:02 PM, 1 Dec, 2020
PDM’s anti-govt movement & Shehbaz Sharif’s national dialogue proposal
File photo.

The Pakistan Democratic Movement held its fifth anti-government public meeting at Multan’s Ghanta Ghar Chowk on Monday despite the government’s initial decision to not allow the 11-party opposition alliance to stage the show. For this purpose, containers had been placed at various places and other steps taken.  

The Qasim Bagh Stadium, the declared venue of the event, had been locked by the administration. 

The Multan bench of the Lahore High Court ordered the authorities to remove all hurdles and free those arrested to prevent them from participation, a decision that raised the morale of the opposition. 

The PDM’s insistence to stage the show at all costs and the government’s resolve not to let the event take place because of the fear of the spread of coronavirus had created a clash-like situation.

Whether the government ultimately gave the PDM a go-ahead because of the LHC’s order or its inability to dissuade the organisers – the stepping back decision averted an imminent clash. Otherwise, the nature of news after the event would have been totally different from what is being reported now. 

Now emboldened by the government’s retreat the PDM would employ all resources to make the December 13 rally in Lahore a stupendous success because of the political importance of the metropolis. 

The November 30 event in Multan has established beyond doubt that we people don’t care much about coronavirus, no matter what the world thinks of us and what consequences the nation may have to face because of this care-free attitude. 

The event has also proven that prayers in the Grand Mosque (Makkah) and the Prophet (PBUH)’s mosque (Madinah) can be suspended for months together because of the contagious disease, the scheduled PDM rallies can’t be cancelled – or delayed. 

Maybe the organisers think that we are a nation of more than 220 million and it won’t make any difference if some of them succumb to the deadly disease, which has revived the world over with the number of fatalities going up every day. 

Despite this attitude of the opposition alliance, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has stressed the need for a national dialogue to solve the multiple problems facing the country. He reiterated the proposal while talking to reporters a few days ago who had met him to condole the death of his 95-year-old mother. 

The former Punjab chief minister and his son – Hamza – have been released on five-day parole by the Punjab government. (He sought an extension to the parole duration, but his plea was rejected on Tuesday). 

It is not understandable how the national dialogue would be possible when PDM’s campaign is going on to oust the PTI government, and when his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, who has been staying in London for the past one year and is relentlessly targeting the military and ISI leaderships, the judiciary and the NAB. 

Significantly, the former prime minister’s daughter – Maryam – who is leading the party and has been recognized in this role by friends and rivals, also targeted the alleged selectors of Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PDM’s Multan rally.  

On the other hand, no leader of any PDM component even talked of the national dialogue at the rally. 

On Tuesday, at a press talk PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman ruled out the possibility of talks with the government, and reiterated the opposition’s resolve to throw out the government through public pressure.

In such a situation, it is hard for anyone to predict the future political situation. 

The only thing that can be said without doubt is that the government and the opposition will continue to stick to their guns.

TAILPIECE:  On Monday Multan may have appeared as a city that hosted the PDM event – for the restoration of ‘democracy’. 

But not many people remember that it was the same city – in fact the same Qasim Bagh where then Chief Martial Law Administrator Gen Ziaul Haq had announced his plan to hold a national referendum to get himself elected as president for five years. 

The announcement was made on December 1, 1984 and the referendum held on December 19. 

(The writer had covered Gen Zia’s address for a news agency). 

The referendum made Gen Zia the president for five years. However, the Aug 17, 1988 air crash resulted in the death of Gen Zia along with many other military officials – and the tragic incident changed the political situation in the country.

Because of Gen Zia’s death, Gen Aslam Beg became the new army chief and Ghulam Ishaq Khan (then Senate chairman) acting president.