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PDM deliberations: ‘Trust deficit’ major roadblock to dialogue initiation

January 04, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Barring Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hardliners, all other senior leaders readily consented in the latest Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) deliberations to the view of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) calling for contesting the Senate elections and by-polls and not immediately quitting the assemblies.

“The PPP delegates, led by Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who took part in the discussions via video link were positive and disposed to keep the 11-party alliance not only intact but make it stronger and more united and use every option at the appropriate time,” a PML-N leader told The News on condition of anonymity.

He said that the PPP leaders contended that there was no point in allowing a walkover to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies in the Senate elections when a boycott would not bring any dividends to the PDM.

“It was argued that no superior court would overturn the upper house polls, boycotted by the opposition parties, if these were subsequently challenged, and the PDM would be left high and dry, losing the seats it can easily win on the basis of its numerical strength in the provincial assemblies. The PPP was positive and logical.”

The PML-N leader conceded that there has also been an opinion in his party that the field of the Senate polls and by-elections should not be left to the ruling alliance to occupy without any contest, and that the option of resignation from the assemblies should be exercised at the best time, when the strike would prove to be the last straw that would break the camel’s back. “This view had been aired within the party, but every proponent of this view had made it clear that when a decision is reached, everyone would follow it setting aside their personal opinion.”

The PML-N leader said no previous PDM meeting had been as constructive and productive as the one held in Raiwind, Lahore. He said neither the PPP nor any other constituent party of the PDM attempted to impose its decision on the others. Everyone, he said, worked to evolve a consensus in a congenial atmosphere to avoid any damage to the PDM.

He said there was a general consensus in the discussion that the various efforts being made to initiate a dialogue with different components of the PDM were nothing but a ‘stunt’ and ‘drama,’meant to buy time and create fissures in the opposition alliance.

The PML-N leader said it was the conclusive opinion of every participant that a huge trust deficit exists between the government and opposition, which deters any meaningful and result-oriented talks. That is why every top PDM leader being beseeched for negotiations is refusing to engage, saying that the time for dialogue has passed. “How can any one of them say yes to a dialogue if the major PDM demands are not met for confidence building,” he asked.

“Despite solemn pledges made by General Ziaul Haq at the holiest of places to not hang Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a trumped-up murder case, the dictator had executed him,” a PPP leader was quoted as having told the PDM meeting, dilating on the trust deficit.

The PML-N leader said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has told his party colleagues that dialogue offers were being constantly made, but “I have taken a stand that the time for dialogue has passed and they have delayed in approaching us for the purpose.”

PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the meeting that he too had been contacted, but his answer had been the same as that of Nawaz Sharif. However, neither Zardari nor Bilawal made any such disclosure, although the grapevine has it that they too had been approached for talks.

Fazlur Rehman was dismissive of the meeting that Muhammad Ali Durrani held with him a day before the PDM deliberations. He said the “peace broker” had all of a sudden reached a Lahore mosque where he was staying a night prior to the PDM session.

The PML-N leader made it clear that at no stage has any government emissary made any contact with any opposition party for opening parleys. Those who are taking such positive initiatives are other elements, he stated, adding that everyone in the PDM knew precisely who Durrani represents.

Durrani’s public line is that he met PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif in Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore, and Fazlur Rehman after being asked by his party chief Pir Pagara to start the ‘Track-II’ process to end the confrontation and friction in the political arena.

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