Saturday October 16, 2021

On the wrong path

September 06, 2021

After having failed to dislodge the government in the first round of agitation and lying low for more than four months, the PDM minus the PPP re-launched the movement with a public rally in Karachi on August 29.

PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rahman announced that the new phase of the movement would culminate in a march on Islamabad. This time, however, the basic objective enunciated is ensuring free and fair elections in the country and prevention of a repeat of what was done in the 2018 elections.

The alliance came together to pull down the incumbent government, which they say is selected rather than elected. Political analysts with deep insight into the political history of Pakistan – particularly the rivalry between the PML-N and the PPP, the two major components of the alliance – rightly thought that the movement against the government had no chance to succeed because at some point they were very likely to pull in the opposite direction, sounding a death knell for the alliance.

As predicted, the two parties developed differences in the backdrop of Yousuf Raza Gilani becoming leader of the opposition in the Senate with the support of ANP and BAP senators. The PML-N felt betrayed by this move of the PPP, contending that as per the decision of the PDM the leader of the opposition in the Senate had to be from PML-N while the PPP denied having agreed to any such proposition.

The PDM issued a show-cause notice to the ANP and the PPP, asking them to explain why they went against the PDM’s decision. Both these parties felt incensed by the issuance of the show-cause notice. The ANP announced its decision to pull out of the alliance. The CEC of the PPP rejected the show-cause notice outright and asked the PDM to apologize from both the parties for this unwanted indiscretion which in its view was an attempt to dictate matters to those parties. It also directed its office bearers in the PDM to resign their posts which they did. This was followed by an exchange of barbs between the PML-N and the PPP, culminating in the PPP saying adieu to the PDM.

The fact is that the PPP right from the beginning was not comfortable with the idea of en-masse resignations and the anti-establishment narrative of the PML-N. Another factor which might have prompted the PPP to have Yousaf Raza Gilani elected as leader of the opposition in the Senate – which ostensibly is the reason for the parting of the ways – is that the PML-N’s move to have its senators elected in Punjab with an understanding with the PTI did not go well with the PPP.

With this split in the alliance, it was evident that the truncated PDM now stood no chance of achieving its objectives for which it came into being. In the first round of agitation, honestly speaking, the PDM failed to impart momentum to its anti-government movement with the support of the people which is essential for the success of any movement. In view of the mega corruption scandals, startling revelations about money laundering, unearthing of benami properties worth billions and discovery of fake bank accounts used for money laundering, the majority of the people did not believe in the legitimacy of the cause the PDM was trying to propagate.

I am also of the firm view that these parties came together to protect their vested interests. The movement was actually aimed at pressurizing the government to abandon the process of accountability, an objective it has failed to achieve as the prime minister is not willing to compromise on the issue merely due to political expediency. The PDM is treading a wrong path.

The second round of agitation by the PDM is also not going to succeed for obvious reasons. They are an alliance of the defeated and the allegedly corrupt. It is therefore advisable for the parties left in the PDM as well as the PPP to seriously rethink their strategy. They have wasted enough of the nation through their agitation and by failing to play their role as a true opposition in a democratic dispensation. In a democratic polity, the ruling party and the parties in the opposition are two sides of the same coin, whose envisaged role is to promote the well-being of the people and protect and secure the national interests by rising above their narrow political agendas.

The parties in the PDM are well advised to abandon their agitation and have faith in the judicial system of the country. If they feel that the process of accountability was a political vendetta against them, they should focus on proving their innocence in the courts of law. It is an opportunity for them to clear their names if they are innocent as claimed. They must initiate engagement with the government for electoral and systemic reforms which are badly needed to rectify the many issues afflicting our body politic and hindering good governance to the people.

The tradition of destabilizing the sitting government has to end if democracy has to flourish in this country. The people have mandated the PTI to run the affairs of the country for five years and they are the best judge of its performance and to give their verdict through the ballot. Even if in the estimation of the opposition parties the government has failed to perform in the economic and social domain, they have no right to launch a movement for pulling it down. There are constitutional and legal means available to them to do so if the situation demands. Digression from the constitutional path and resort to anti-democratic practices is neither going to serve the national interests nor their narrow political agendas.

The government has shown its willingness to engage with the opposition with regard to carrying forward the process of electoral and other reforms – except accountability, very rightly so. If the PDM wants free, fair and transparent elections they will have to sit with the government to deliberate on the issue and bring necessary legislation to plug the loopholes in the current system. It cannot be settled on the streets. The government should be allowed to complete its mandated tenure, irrespective of its alleged poor performance. This is not a legitimate excuse for the opposition parties to have the government dislodged through unconstitutional means.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]