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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Is PDM a product of poor governance?

If the leaders of PDM are a bunch of rogues and traitors, the government in power together with its allies are not angels and have similar traits, writes Asif Haroon.

Comparison of PPP and PML-N rules (2008-2018)

After the five-year black rule of the PPP under Zardari from 2008 to June 2013, during which Pakistan’s economy slumped, terrorism peaked, energy crisis and corruption scaled new heights and prestige of the country nosedived, PML-N under Nawaz Sharif (NS) regained power and he became Prime Minister for the third time. The PML-N’s performance was far better, and it produced impressive results by tackling the issues of energy and terrorism, stabilized the economy and lifted the GDP to 5.8%, and above all signed over $ 60 billion worth CPEC. However, it had to put up with Imran Khan (IK) led PTI which had emerged as a 3rd force in late 2011.

Due to PTI’s politics of agitation and judicial activism, NS was disqualified in July 2017, and the baton was handed over to Khaqan Abbasi for the remaining one year. NS and his daughter Maryam were convicted and jailed in June 2018 on account of failing to give money trail of assets. Under the given circumstances, PTI’s victory in July 2018 was a foregone conclusion and it formed governments in the center, and Punjab with a narrow margin and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with majority.

PTI’s two years’ rule

IK’s vision of Naya Pakistan was based on the fundamental socio-economic principles of Riasat-e-Madina; a corruption free Pakistan and return of the looted wealth of the people of Pakistan. These issues have been pushed strenuously for the last two years, focusing on corrupt politicians, under a smear campaign, launched so vigorously, that has damaged political parties as well as democratic values. The courts of law, NAB, FIA and the intelligence agencies are in hot pursuit of the corrupt without any significant improvement in day to day life of the common folks. Unchecked use of authority and rulers’ inability to govern, has led to loss of authority and power deflation. Restrictions on the press has further eroded the moral authority of the government.

Read more: Can a weak Opposition topple PM Imran’s popular government?

The situation has thus created a stifling atmosphere forcing the opposition to join hands, to correct the course. Bilawal Bhutto was able to put the ‘humpty dumpty’ of the opposition together, which consists of two major political parties and a strong religious party/group JUI-F, that can mobilize large crowd as it did last year in Islamabad. It is a formidable lot, ever garnered together for a common cause, and is creating difficulties for the government, particularly when IK himself says, “Both PML (N) and PPP are the product of the establishment.” He should know that establishment’s mood changes with the mood of the public, though the ‘pitch’ may be the same.

Convicted and ailing Nawaz Sharif (NS) in exile, his convicted daughter Maryam Nawaz and senior leaders of the party have adopted a belligerent posture. Since September 20, NS is giving acerbic statements from London. After his slogan of ‘Khalayee Makhlooq’ (aliens), subtly accusing the military for his ouster in July 2017, he is now openly saying that his fight is not against Imran Khan (IK), but against those who brought him to power in July 2018.

Going a step ahead of what IK had done from 2014 to 2018, he gave a call for disobedience, nonpayment of tolls and taxes, laying siege to the capital and major cities to paralyze the government and to disrupt public life. He couldn’t have behaved so aggressively had he not been assured by the British government that he will not be extradited to Pakistan under any circumstances.

Read more: Can a weak Opposition topple PM Imran’s popular government?

Altaf, tagged with dozens of criminal cases of heinous nature was given refuge in London after he fled from Karachi in June 1992, and was given British citizenship. From that time onwards, he has enjoyed full liberty of action to control the MQM and spew venom against Pakistan. His hate filled speeches against premier institutions were banned by Pakistan after his treasonous speech in August 2016. Similar action is being suggested for NS who is dubbed by his bashers as Altaf-2.

Eleven-party alliance

Finding the noose tightening around their necks and pushed against the wall, most of the political parties in the opposition ganged up under the banner of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) after holding All Parties Conference (APC). The APC held few indoor meetings in which NS, now declared by the court as an absconder took part through online video link from London. JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is not a member of parliament, has been chosen as the leader due his sway over thousands of Madrassa students and his well-organized party’s street power.

Their theme was that the government is selected, confused and inept, has ruined the economy, made the lives of the people miserable, and it must quit.

The lead role has been assigned to JUI (F) with a political purpose, unlike religious parties of PNA who strove for Nizam-e-Mustafa. It means that, in any future set-up, JUI(F) will gain significant political space for itself, something that was long awaited, particularly during the 2018 elections, when religious parties tried to enter the mainstream national politics, they were denied entry, particularly Maulana Samiul Haq, who stood on the side of PTI, but was ignored.

Read more: Imran government will be out by January, claims Maryam Nawaz

Elated by importance given, the JUI-F leaders threatened that if the Army tried to disrupt the movement, they would storm Corps Commanders offices in the capital cities, and they will do what the Afghan Taliban did with the US forces in Afghanistan.

The PDM has 11 parties including PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, ANP, JUP, PkMAP. The PDM took off on 16 October by staging a public gathering at Gujranwala arranged by PML-N, where Maryam Nawaz, Vice President of PML-N, led the show. The stadium was almost full to its capacity and all the leaders delivered fiery speeches and upbraided Imran Khan (IK).

Their theme was that the government is selected, confused and inept, has ruined the economy, made the lives of the people miserable, and it must quit. The sensational part of the session was the online speech of NS delivered from London. Instead of firing salvos upon his political rival IK, he trained his guns on Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, holding them responsible for disqualifying him, converting PML-N victory into defeat and gifting inefficient PTI regime to the nation which has rolled back the progress made by his regime. This is for the first time that such a direct attack was made on the army chief and was not well received by the majority.

Read more: PTI’s government will not see this December, says Maulana Fazlur Rehman

Alarmed by the dangerous course of action of the PDM, the govt in an effort to stem the movement got a FiR registered in Lahore by an unknown person against the whole lot of PML-N senior leaders including three retired Lt Gens as well as PM AJK. They were accused of sedition. It raised a storm since the one registering FiR was found to be a PTI affiliate, close to governor Punjab and police history sheeter. It gave another handle to the opposition to beat and embarrass the government with.

Miffed by the venomous tirade of NS against the army chief and DG ISI, and others casting aspersions on him and his party, the PM pledged not to show any mercy to the corrupt and the criminals. The decision to use force was taken. Shahbaz Sharif was nabbed and put in jail, Zardari indicted and the witch-hunt started. IK mobilized the Tiger Force, as Bhutto used FSF, with dire consequences. It will create a critical situation for the government calling for the Army to take-over. Whereas, the masses are in no mood to invite another military rule.

Read more: Op-Ed: Opposition running ‘Democracy (Pvt) Ltd’ in the name of Democracy

The second public meeting was staged at Karachi on 18 October which was hosted by the PPP under Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Akhtar Mengal head of BNP-M was also present. The event was however vitiated by Capt retired Safdar, husband of Maryam at the Mazar of Quaid-e-Azam where he and his wife and other party leaders had gone to offer Fateha and he disrespected the sanctity of the grave by chanting slogans ‘Vote ko Izzat do’ (respect the vote) and also raising a slogan to pay respect to Miss Fatima Jinnah.

His brazen act was widely condemned, and sentiments were expressed on the social media demanding strict action against him. Carried away by media reporting, the local leaders of PTI overreacted and decided to act against him. An unknown person Waqas registered a complaint in the police station, who was later found to be a proclaimed offender, and was not present on the site. He took a false plea that he was threatened by Safdar.

The military establishment is getting its image spoilt on account of the pervading impression that it is partisan and sticking to its bad choice.

The public meeting took place in Jinnah garden in the evening and it was the biggest ever organized by PPP at Karachi, but like the Gujranwala gathering, the size was underrated by the government spokespersons. Leaders of all the 11 parties delivered fiery speeches and each one highlighted the ills of the government. NS decided not to speak either because of reservations expressed by some within the party, or the PPP leadership conveyed to him that Sindh govt wouldn’t be able to cope with the aftereffects. The meeting dispersed peacefully, and none had any inkling that a storm was brewing up.

Safdar’s arrest

Based on the complaint, the SHO and then the IG Sindh Mushtaq Mehr was pressed by local PTI leaders to register FiR and arrest Safdar, and when the purpose couldn’t be achieved, the ones sitting in Islamabad got activated to get the job done. The story in circulation was that due to the delay by the IG, the DG rangers Sindh was probably asked by some quarters to ensure Safdar’s arrest.

As per Safdar and Maryam staying in a hotel, the ones who came to arrest him at 4 a.m. on Oct 19, broke the latch of the door and barged in. He was whisked away in a police van. The spokesperson of PML-N and former Governor Sindh Zubair Umar reported next morning that he was informed by chief minister Sindh that IG Sindh who had refused to register FiR was abducted from his house by two unknown persons, brought to the Rangers Sector Commander office where he was compelled to register FiR and arrest Safdar.

Read more: Will Captain Safdar be sent to jail for three years after disrespecting Quaid’s mausoleum?

The whole day the media was abuzz with news on the developments in Karachi. Safdar was released in the afternoon on bail. However, the fallout effects continued and signs of misgivings between the federal and Sindh govts on one hand and between the Sindh Police and Sindh Rangers mounted which was not a good sign. Besides rise in political temperature, things took an unpleasant turn when over 60 senior officials of Sindh police put up leave applications for 60 days and the IG didn’t come to his office. Some quarters raised fingers on the Army and ISI arguing that without their involvement the IG couldn’t be abducted from his house at midnight.

After the press conference by Sindh Chief Minister in which he failed to clear the muddle, Bilawal held a press conference and he candidly confessed that he had no face to show to his guests who had been mal-treated and that he took exception to the undermining of the authority of Sindh administration and warned that it will have repercussions. He asked Gen Bajwa to intervene and probe the matter.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar held a press conference and informed that Gen Bajwa after speaking with Bilawal had directed the Corps Commander 5 Corps to hold an inquiry and find out who were involved in the midnight operation. It was a welcome initiative to ease the tension. Sindh govt has also ordered an inquiry. The PPP leadership met the senior police officers and convinced them to postpone their plan to proceed on leave for ten days till the completion of the inquest and they relented. Sindh CM vowed to proceed against the culprit who registered FiR on fake charges at the behest of PTI leaders.

Read more: Capt. Safdar arrest saga reminds many of ‘suicide’ of ASI Asghar Mugheri

Whoever planned the drama in haste without due thought and consideration with a view to discredit PML-N and create strains in the relations between PPP and PML-N, it backfired, and it benefitted Maryam and Safdar. The episode further galvanized the PDM and inhibited the government from taking tough action against the protestors. The Establishment Division in Islamabad has however, backlisted all the police officials who had put up leave applications and would be soon posted out from Sindh starting from grade 20-21 officers.

Third rally in Quetta

The PDM held its third public meeting at Quetta on October 25 which was hosted by JUI-F. The stadium was full to the capacity and the crowd was fully charged raising vociferous slogans. NS made a long venomous speech on video link from London in which he spelled out the charges against Gen Musharraf and his core team, against the present army chief and the DG ISI in detail and about the episode at Karachi which he underscored to prove his contention that there was a state above the state.

Those in corridors of powers and their fans are suggesting the use of sledgehammer to stifle voices of the opponents.

While appreciating Sindh police upon their defiance, he incited the army jawans and young officers to disobey wrongful orders of seniors. His speech was not telecasted but is in circulation on social media. What was disturbing was Maryam’s charge-sheet and invectives against Lt Gen retired Asim Bajwa, and her support to the cause of missing persons.

Read more: PDM formally allowed to hold Jalsa Gujranwala

Donning a Baloch dress, she intermingled with their families and expressed solidarity with the Baloch people. She carried the photo of BLA terrorist Rashid Baloch involved in attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi. Bilawal also spoke on video link from Gilgit. He criticised the detention of PTM leader Mohsin Dawar and Safdar saga in Karachi.

Sardar Mengal highlighted the issues of Baluchistan. Mahmood Achakzai fumed that they should be allowed to visit Afghanistan without visa otherwise they will dismantle the border fence. JUP leader Shah Awais Noorani crossed the limit by stating that he wanted Baluchistan as an independent state. Fazlur Rehman took time to deliver his sermon on failed foreign policy of the govt, and appeared confident that the PDM will bring down the inept government. Besides commenting on the decision of Supreme Court in respect of Jusice Qazi Esa, all the speakers spoke about enforced disappearances and about incompetence and mismanagement of the govt. None had the courage to say that PTI had nothing to do with the inequities of Baluchistan.

Fourth PDM meeting

The fourth PDM meeting is scheduled at Peshawar on Nov 22, the fifth at Multan on Nov 30 and the sixth at Lahore on December 12 which they speculate would be the biggest gathering. I hear that Maryam intends to play the second video of Judge Arshad Malik in that meeting at Lahore. This video shows the meeting between the judge and NS at Jati Umra in which he stated who all pressured him to punish NS. In his speech on October 25th, NS had made a mention of the judge who was allegedly pressured by present DG ISI not to release NS and Maryam before the elections and also indicated his role in the Faizabad dharna enacted by the TLP.

Read more: PDM protest in Gujranwala: Will Opposition parties fail today?

In their view, the incumbent regime has lost the confidence of the people due to its poor performance and making their lives miserable. They consider that due to IK’s inefficiency and naivety how to run the state affairs, the economy is in shambles and is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

The mantra of corruption and now of ‘traitor’ are losing gloss.

The military establishment is getting its image spoilt on account of the pervading impression that it is partisan and sticking to its bad choice.

No movement in a third world can succeed without foreign backing and funding. Possibility of connection of PDM with outsiders cannot be ruled out

Those in corridors of powers and their fans are suggesting the use of sledgehammer to stifle voices of the opponents. This option may give a temporary reprieve but will certainly not be a lasting solution and might further complicate matters given the rising trend of provincialism and constraint of 18th Amendment.

Read more: PDM’s jalsa in Gujranwala: Has Nawaz Sharif’s speech put the government on defensive?

Operation Searchlight was launched to save the country from splitting, but it didn’t help and led to the division of the country. ZAB was hanged but his ghost is still alive, and the PPP is intact. ANP leaders were declared traitors and banned but they are still functional. MQM Altaf has been ostracized but bulk of MQM with same leaders and activists and target killers are politically operative. Even MQM London has not been banned. We have foolproof evidence of PTM playing into the hands of foreign powers and it acts as facilitator and handler of TTP but it has not been banned. No runaway MQM, Baloch rebel leader, HH, Tariq Fateh have been brought back. PTM has not been proscribed.

The big question is, like PTM, why could PDM launch the movement and why was the evil not nipped in the bud? Why are we always behind time and let a mole get converted into a mountain?

Read more: Why did Nawaz not address PDM rally in Karachi?

No movement in a third world can succeed without foreign backing and funding. Possibility of connection of PDM with outsiders cannot be ruled out. If so, have we traced the connection and channel of funding and what steps have been taken to disrupt the linkage. Or, we are too busy in so-called accountability, in fulfilling the demands of FATF and in restoring peace in Afghanistan?

In my view PDM is not the problem, poor performance of the government is the real problem because of which it stands on a weak wicket. Its allies are untrustworthy and so are some own cabinet members and advisers. Had it performed and shown marginal progress in the last two years as compared to its predecessors, the opposition could never have gained heart to adopt a confrontationist posture.

The only way out to cool down the political temperature is national dialogue and for that the policy of confrontation will have to be replaced with policy of engagement, accommodation and reconciliation

Confrontation by the opposition without the support of the public is of no value but what is worrying is that the PDM has begun to draw bigger gatherings in its public meetings mainly due to price hike.

By claiming that the two meetings at Gujranwala and Karachi were a flop will not help in breaking the momentum of PDM. The government is still hoping against a split between the ranks of the PDM without giving leeway to anyone and without showing good results on ground to provide relief to the masses.

The PDM retains the options of sit-in at Islamabad, followed by non-cooperation and mass resignations in January to force the government to step down or call for mid-term elections.

Read more: Will Nawaz Sharif address PDM’s next rally in Quetta on October 25?

The current situation has taken a dangerous turn since foreign powers are involved. Reportedly $ 3 billion has been invested to create disorder. The game-plan includes hybrid war to poison the minds to accentuate divides; brew political instability, ethnicity, Shia-Sunni and Deobandi-Barelvi conflicts; and demonize the army leadership. Pakistan cannot cope with the perilous agenda of Indo-US-Afghan-Israel nexus, water terrorism, war on terror which has been stepped up, low intensity conflict along the LoC, fifth generation war, tumbling economy, 2nd round of covid-19, and now the political instability which is leading towards civil war like situation.

There are reports that CIA along with RAW, MQM London, BLA, interior Sindh militant groups like SLA and PPP would start a new war in Sindh and the aim is to detach it from the body of Pakistan.

IK is loath to meeting the opposition. Knowing Imran Khan, who “fights, till the last ball”, he would prefer the matter to be decided in the open field.

Deep state political manipulations have not worked and has intensified civil-military tensions which have now escalated to the level of hostility.

The way out

The only way out to cool down the political temperature is national dialogue and for that the policy of confrontation will have to be replaced with policy of engagement, accommodation and reconciliation. If that will be the ultimate solution, then why so much of purposeless fuss and tall claims were made?

There is no one inside the country to act as a referee and a pacifier to defuse the explosive situation which has become grave. In the past, the judiciary or the military used to douse the fire. Today, all have become controversial and none can claim to be clean and non-partisan. If the leaders of PDM are a bunch of rogues and traitors, the government in power together with its allies are not angels and have similar traits. Yesterday PTI and its allies were firing salvos against the elected government with no holds barred and today the opposition is playing the same game.

Read more: Case registered against organisers of PDM’s Gujranwala rally

If the politicians of opposition parties are corrupt and thieves, yet amongst them are clean and competent ones also, who have experience of governance, and have respect for rule of law and democratic values.

It is this lot that has to be motivated to take charge and establish the precedence of a clean change-over. I have a gut feeling that the dice will ultimately fall in favor of Shahbaz Sharif (SS), President PML-N who is presently in jail. Irrespective of the propaganda launched against him, none can deny that among the lot he is the best administrator and a deliverer.

Forming a new PML under Shahbaz Sharif comprising politicians from all other factions of PML with a clean record could be considered and Punjab handed over to him.

Read more: Case registered against organisers of PDM’s Gujranwala rally

PTI also needs thorough cleansing since it is full of bad eggs from other parties. So is the case with religious right parties, but there is no mega scandal against any religious leader.

PTI-New PML- refurbished members of religious right after forming an alliance should contest elections and strive to gain two-third majority and form governments in the centre and in provinces.

The new experiment will succeed only if the whole electoral machinery is reformed, and the judiciary, police, bureaucracy are thoroughly revamped. Only then the people will give another chance to parliamentary democracy. Otherwise, the ultimate solution is Islamic system which has never been tried.

Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS and Veterans think tank. asifharoonraja@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space