PDM’s fate hangs in the balance

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:43 PM, 26 Jan, 2021
PDM’s fate hangs in the balance
File photo.

(Late) Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who cobbled together many a political alliance in his eventful political life of several decades, used to say that setting up a coalition of opposing parties is not an easy task. He always likened political parties to ‘frogs’. If one is under control, the other just slips away. 

The Pakistan Democratic Movement, in existence for the past few months, is facing an uncertain future at present because of policy differences among its constituent parties. Without exaggeration, it can be said that its fate hangs in the balance.  

There are three major parties in the grouping – the PML-N, the PPP and the JUI. The remaining half a dozen constituents have little political weight, notwithstanding their claims to the contrary. 

The PPP has its own thinking and interests that don’t synchronize with those of the PML-N and the JUI. As a result an invisible tension is going on in the alliance. 

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said recently that ousting Prime Minister Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion would be a better strategy. For this purpose, his party leaders say, the PPP would convince other allies.

The PML-N and JUI, on the other hand, insist on staging a long march on Islamabad after which collective resignations should be tendered by the opposition legislators to make the system dysfunctional.  

Other parties in the PDM have a divided opinion.

In this situation a meeting of the heads of the PDM parties would be held on February 4 in Lahore to map out the alliance’s future course of action. 

If the on-ground situation is taken into consideration, the PPP’s line is in consonance with the Constitution and will also not create any problem for the common man.  

Through a laid-down procedure those opposed to the prime minister for whatever reasons are required to show their majority in the 341-member house. Once their majority is established the prime minister will have to vacate the seat.

Then, through a laid-down procedure, a new chief executive of the country is elected. 

This is the safest and most peaceful way of bringing about a change. 

But protests, rallies and long marches create problems for the people. Already protests and rallies staged in various parts of the country over the past few months have wasted millions of man hours without creating any results. 

Tendering resignations is another way of establishing majority of anti-government elements in the house. 

But there is a world of difference in bringing a new confidence and tendering resignations.  

A no-confidence motion against the prime minister, as suggested by Bilawal, by implication amounts to recognizing his legitimate character. It is a departure from the PPP chairman’s earlier stance that the prime minister is ‘selected’ and a product of rigged elections.

It is yet to be determined what led to this change of heart, although there are speculations that the PPP is in contact with the establishment. 

The shift in the PPP’s thinking has upset the PML-N leadership. 

Mian Nawaz Sharif, ensconced in London for more than a year and consulting lawyers to prolong his stay there, is not in favour of a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan. PML-N legislators, who participated in a parliamentary party meeting held under the chairmanship of Maryam Nawaz in Islamabad on Monday, are also averse to the PPP chief’s idea. They believe that such a strategy negates Mr Sharif’s ‘revolutionary’ approach made public a few months ago. 

Some of the PML-N leaders believe that for the success of a no-trust motion the opposition would have to seek support from the same quarters the three-time former prime minister wants to oust from politics

JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supports the PML-N’s thinking. 

The differences over the future strategy have landed the PDM into a difficult situation. The survival of the alliance will be at stake in case the differences are not ironed out. 

Political observers are of the view that the system should be allowed to function smoothly and the PTI government be given time to focus on addressing people’s problems. 

The ruling party has already served out half of its constitutional term. By the end of the current year those interested in contesting next elections will start their political activities in their respective constituencies and once electioneering starts, though in low gear, political atmosphere will start changing. 

The opposition parties will not be able to cut short the term of the present setup, especially when it enjoys the backing of the establishment. 

In such a situation the PDM leaders should take mercy on people – and their own parties – and use only constitutional methods for bringing about a change. They should go by the methodology suggested by Bilawal – without making it an ego problem.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.