October 18, 2020

Are PDM parties committed to delivering what they are promising?

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has brought some much-needed light and colour to the otherwise lack-lustre political scene in the country. Some of the major political parties have for quite some time preferred a wait and see policy. When Maulana Fazlur Rehman went for a sit-in in Islamabad last year and invited the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party to join his Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, the response he got was quite discouraging. Disappointed and resentful, he was reported as having announced that he would no longer pin hopes on the two.

But today he is again in the driving seat and both these parties are putting their weight behind him. Can one be sure that this alliance will remain intact and achieve its stated objectives? The stakes for the allies vary in scale and value. The general perception is that Nawaz Sharif has burned his boats and gone for a frontal attack which is totally in contrast with his brother Shahbaz Sharif’s apparent policy of appeasement. The way he seemed to ignore Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech and instead addressed those who, according to him, had brought him to power showed that he was in a confrontational mode. This also set the tone for the combined opposition and the standard narrative.

The PDM is demanding resignation of the PM, free and fair elections, impartial accountability and an end to political victimisation. The PTI government’s inability to control prices of essential commodities, its failures on the economic front and mass unemployment are some of the factors that give legitimacy to these demands in the public mind. However, the PTI government is trying to put up a brave face and show that it is not worried. And yet, it is also trying hard to deter the opposition by pointing out the danger of Covid-19 spread if mass gatherings are held.

Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see whether the PDM sticks to its demands or settles for something less - like a let-up in the NAB drive against political leaders from the opposition and other concessions. Whether a faction of the establishment is extending its support to the PDM or not is another interesting question. Lastly, how far can the PML-N and the PPP go together in terms of resignations from the assemblies? The latter has a secure government in Sindh and does not want to part with powers prematurely whereas for the former it is a matter of survival.