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December 2, 2020

Showdown in Multan

Editorial

 
December 2, 2020

It is difficult to say who emerged as the winner after the PDM managed to rather successfully hold its rally in Multan. The government was able to prevent the rally from taking place inside the stadium, where it was originally planned for it to be held. Instead, the rally was diverted to the Ghanta Ghar Chowk in Multan city. Ironically, the action taken by the government in making arrests over the past two days simply prolonged the extent of the rally and drew more attention towards it. This may also have led to the defiant speeches at the rally, with the PDM seemingly unrelenting in its determination to carry through with its movement. The main speaker at the event proved to be Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the woman who is becoming the main crowd-puller in Punjab. Her Multan speech seemed to aim at turning around Imran Khan's corruption mantra, with a large part of her speech dedicated to pointing out what she claims are loopholes and hypocrisies in the PM's narrative of honesty.

This was also the inaugural political event of any magnitude for Aseefa Bhutto, the youngest child of Benazir Bhutto. The optics in her case were well-designed, and anyone with any memory of the late Benazir Bhutto addressing the people would have naturally been hit with a strong sense of nostalgia. Pleasantly surprisingly, Aseefa Bhutto managed to well articulate the PPP's message and it seems we may just have welcomed another very young entrant into Pakistan's political realm. It is clear the PDM remains determined, and the government's criticism over the spread of Covid-19 is having very little impact, especially given the fact that the JI was permitted to hold a rally in Dir and Asad Umar, the head of the NCOC, himself held a smaller -- but still significant -- event in Sukkur. For now, there are no takers as far as a 'win' or 'loss' is concerned. The opposition perhaps gains more points for being able to go ahead with the rally, despite all the hurdles.

What happens from this point on is also something that political analysts have been studying with great detail. It will determine the short-term future of the country and its politics. It appears that the long march Maulana Fazlur Rahman spoke of again on Monday will indeed go ahead. How things end there is unclear. There have been many long marches in our recent history. None of them has really succeeded in changing things, but they have created an impact. And if there is violence or a more serious attempt to stop the long march from taking place, this could lead to a situation which creates greater unrest in an already divided country. It is curious that the government has made no attempt to hold negotiations or dialogue despite the damage in terms of Corona and national stability. There may yet be time to reach across the aisle for at least some kind of dialogue. That would be in the best interest of the country and its ever-weary people.