With the launch of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), Dawar seeks to mainstream the PTM politics
Mohsin Dawar, a sitting member of the National Assembly and one of the founding members of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), has finally launched a political party called the National Democratic Movement (NDM) saying that the Movement will now be a formal political struggle for the rights of Pashtuns of the region, province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and part of Karachi.
Dawar and his allies launched the party in Peshawar a few days ago. Dawar is the chairperson of the nine-member organising committee of the NDM. The party will soon start a membership drive across the country. The interim constitution of the newly launched NDM says that the state “must provide protection and facilities to all religions and beliefs without prejudice, discrimination or interference”.
“The powers of the state and the government cannot be absolute. They are bound to respect the fundamental rights of citizens outlined in the Constitution of Pakistan,” the document says.
The manifesto, highlighting marginalisation of smaller provinces in distribution of resources, calls for a “struggle to establish a new development agreement between the provinces and to devise a power-sharing system based on political consensus and a decentralised federal system”.
The NDM flag has two colours - red and black – highlighting the struggle for revolution and mourning against the oppression and the losses due to oppression.
Dawar and Ali Wazir were elected to the National Assembly in 2018 general elections largely through the support of the PTM, which was created in May 2014. However, the PTM was not registered as a political entity so that rather than joining any political party in the house they opted for an independent status. This allowed them to maintain their original identity and continue their struggle through the PTM. However, the PTM, was also accused, because of its strong activism against the military establishment, of playing in the hands of Pakistan’s enemies. It has always denied the allegation. Interestingly, Manzoor Pashteen, the current head of the PTM, is not part of the newly-formed party so far.
“The NDM will keep supporting the PTM and its demands,” Dawar tells The News on Sunday (TNS). He says some political parties that previously commanded Pashtun support have grown distant from the masses.
The emergence of a political party from the PTM cadre, transforming their resistance into a mainstream political movement, had been on the cards for several months. At various points in time, the state had indicated that they would accept the PTM leadership if they opted for a “balanced approach” and “moderate resistance”. Wazir, one of the two PTM leaders elected to the National Assembly, however, remains in jail for his activism.
Some analysts say that the creation of the NDM could help the resistance movement mainstream its agenda. Once “balanced”, perhaps ‘diluted’, it may be acceptable to the state that has suspected the PTM of harbouring some miscreants backed by enemies of the country.
Another important aspect of the NDM launch is that it is expected by many to fill the political vacuum resulting from the failure of other major political parties including the like Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP, once a strong nationalist party, has been losing its grip after it came into power a few years ago and its leaders were accused of poor performance and of neglecting party workers. Afrasiab Khattak, a former ANP leader, is now among the NDM organisers. His former ANP colleagues Bushra Gohar, Jamila Gilani, and Advocate Abdul Latif Afridi have also announced plans to join the new party.
“The PTM is a (resistance) movement. The newly-formed NDM is a political struggle. The NDM will keep supporting the PTM and its demands,” Dawar tells The News on Sunday (TNS). He says some political parties that previously commanded Pashtun support have grown distant from the masses.
“People believe that these parties have neglected their workers and compromised their narrative after coming into power,” he says.
“Our focus will be the Pashtun belt and Karachi region where we have [a sizeable] Pashtun vote bank,” he says. He says they would also speak for the oppressed people from other parts of Pakistan and continue to resist the growing militarisation in every sphere of the society. Their aim, he says, is the establishment of a genuine federal parliamentary democracy, where all citizens are equal and can exercise their constitutional rights.
Only time will tell whether the newly-formed NDM will dilute the PTM’s “hardline ideology and approach” and get accused of drifting away from its message or achieves its purpose of striking the perfect balance in a hostile environment.
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @waqargillan