PML-N’s retreat to save PDM

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 04:32 PM, 10 Jan, 2021
PML-N’s retreat to save PDM
File photo.

The Pakistan Muslim League-(N)’s decisions taken in Lahore on Saturday that it will take part in the by-elections on the vacant National Assembly and provincial seats due next month as well Senate polls on half of the seats to be vacated in March, though amount to retreating from the party’s earlier stance, are a welcome step in the right direction. 

Similar decisions have already been taken by the PPP, opposition alliance PDM’s second major component which is also in power in Sindh.  

Now other parties in the PDM will be left with no option to but to follow suit. 

The PML-N’s decisions, ostensibly, will save the PDM from disintegration, give people the much-needed relief, enable the government to focus on its agenda and ward off the instability to be caused by opposition’s activities.

This means even hardliner Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the alliance chief, and other smaller components of the alliance will also have to tread the same course, or the very existence of the newly cobbled alliance will be at stake. 

The PML-N says the PDM parties would jointly contest the Senate elections and by-polls – implying that now the 11-party coalition has changed its political course. 

The PDM has already given January 31 ultimatum to Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign, after which the alliance is due to map out its future strategy, including tendering resignations from assemblies. 

Senior PML-N leader and former federal minister Khurram Dastagir, who attended the party meeting presided over by de facto party chief Maryam Nawaz, has been quoted as saying the party would contest the Senate elections and a decision about resigning from the assemblies would be taken afterwards. 

“In the meeting, we held preliminary discussion on the selection of candidates for the next month’s by-polls. We will announce our candidates soon,” he said.

Asked if the opposition had backtracked from its earlier position to resign from the assemblies before the Senate elections scheduled for March, the leader from Gujranwala said: “We will resign from assemblies but after Senate polls. We will go for it [resignations] when we think that after resigning from assemblies this parliament cannot function.” 

PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal told reporters the field would not be left open for the government in the Senate elections. 

“We will take part in the Senate polls. We don’t want the government to have a two-thirds majority in the Senate and enact laws of its choice. We will contest the Senate and by-polls along with other opposition parties in the PDM,” he said. 

Belated though, these decisions will bring a sigh a relief to people who are already facing a variety of problems. 

Taking part in the by-elections or vacant Senate seats, though contradict the PDM’s earlier stance on the subject, will be a step in the right direction and national interest. 

It will help the government focus on honouring its pre-election commitments and measures aimed at steering the country out of the prevailing difficult situation. In other words, it will not have to waste time on mapping out a strategy to counter the PDM’s moves aimed at destabilizing the present set-up. 

Patriotism demands that now those in power should not taunt the opposition for stepping back or daring them to go ahead with their decision to quit assemblies. 

No doubt that the shift in the strategy is a matter of serious embarrassment for Maryam Nawaz who wanted to oust the PTI government before the end of the last year. But she should take it as part of the political game. 

Retreat for political gains is considered as an important component of the strategy. 

But after deciding to contest the by-elections and the Senate polls there will be no justification for the PDM parties to challenge the legitimacy of the assemblies as they constitute the electoral college for the upper house of parliament. 

The credit for paving the way for shift in the PDM’s policy goes to the PPP as it was the first to take these decisions. Had the PPP not taken the initiative, the PML-N would not have taken a similar decision, especially after the ‘revolutionary’ statements made by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. 

In the changed situation the person who should feel isolated – in fact humiliated – is Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the head of the PDM. As a matter of principle, he should now stop raising a finger at the legitimacy of the assemblies, of which his dear son and party leaders remain members. 

The political situation would improve further once the PDM parties also take back their decision to go for a long march on Islamabad. 

All parties should now prepare themselves for the next elections which would be different from the previous ones. 

While in the past the PML-N and the PPP have been replacing each other in power, this time they would have to face another strong rival – PTI. 

In the next elections people will give their verdict on the basis of the past performance of the two major parties and the achievements of the PTI while in power.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.