News Desk |
The opposition parties of Pakistan all jointly announced to observe a “Black Day” on the 25th of July to organize in the streets against the PTI government and protest. However, confusion remains as to what exactly the protesters were hoping to achieve.
Some opposition leaders claimed that this was the anniversary of a black day for democracy as the PTI government was “imposed” on them exactly a year ago, some emphasized it was to express solidarity with the common man and the hardship he is experiencing under the status quo, and some portrayed it simply as a show of the popular support the opposition parties enjoy.
PPP and PML-N’s rhetoric that they are coming out in solidarity with the common man’s economic woes is an inherently weak one
While there are grains of truth to be found in all these causes, the opposition failed to build a unified narrative and left observers wondering what exactly the unique selling point of this “Black Day” was. The skepticism of onlookers was significantly exacerbated by the fact that in one way or another, every major protest’s crux ended up being the same: take our leaders out of jail.
The Agenda Behind Protests
This incessant demand puts the sincerity of the protests in question. With an opposition whose entire narrative is built around having a moral high ground, it is an optical disaster to be perceived as playing politics on the economic hardships of common people to get your respective fathers released from jail.
Furthermore, it was perceived as highly irresponsible by many quarters of civil society that Maryam Nawaz chose the company of figures like Mehmood Achakzai in her visit to Quetta, in a rally swamped with posters in support of Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, members of the controversial, boldly anti-state Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). Raising incendiary slogans in such a setting could only serve to further distance any prospects of conciliation with state institutions.
Protestors in Quetta during opposition Jalsa holding placards & posters asking for the release of @Aliwazirna50 & @mjdawar. Also demanding justice for the victims of #KharQamarMassacre. Mehmood Khan Achazai, Maryam Nawaz & other leaders on the stage. #BlackDay25July #BlackDay pic.twitter.com/6gXUbLgb0z
— Saleem (@memzarma) July 25, 2019
Naeem-Ul-Haq, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister also said that he believed that this was a diversionary tactic by the opposition parties that was to shift focus away from their failures and apply pressure on the state to compromise on their cases. He said that “Black Day and other tactics of opposition cannot defeat the government as the PTI government is taking all significant initiatives in favor of nation that will definitely change the fate of common man in near future.”
Bilawal Bhutto took a strong stance on the basis of democracy in the country being under attack. He claimed that it was not just a few laws that were under attack in the current political scenario, but the entire constitution and federation of Pakistan that was under threat. He attempted to paint rising fascism in the country which Ahsan Iqbal of the PMLN also called out in an earlier press conference, saying “we will not let Imran Khan become the Hitler of Pakistan.”
Although these press conferences are evidence of press freedom in Pakistan, it is true that the opposition’s coverage is limited. The government’s defense for this and for not issuing permits of rallies for individuals like Maryam Nawaz is that they are criminals and cannot be allowed a platform to create anarchy. When asked about press censorship in Pakistan by a journalist during his press conference with President Trump, PM Imran Khan called the idea of censorship in Pakistan a “joke.”
With the opposition marking July 25 as a ‘Black Day’ when the public’s mandate was allegedly stolen in last year’s general election.https://t.co/ZhIyc19O2J
— Daily Times (@dailytimespak) July 26, 2019
The sheer ideological breadth present in the protests – the secular PPP, the religious JUI-F and the center-right PLMN – begged for a more cohesive and clear vision as to what the black day hoped to achieve. Opposition “strength in numbers” mantra failed spectacularly; while it is true that mainstream media did not give the rallies due coverage, even the independently posted pictures online by party leaders show the meager turnout by workers. Even their discriminatory camera angles could not hide the reality that people just did not turn out in the overwhelming numbers they had hoped.
— Gul Bukhari (@GulBukhari) July 25, 2019
The claim that they were coming out in solidarity with the common man’s economic woes is an inherently weak one. This is coming from the occupants of a parliament where a meaningful shadow budget has never been proposed, and all parties of the house including the PTI are complicit in this failure. In the end, the opposition succeeded only in throwing a glorified tantrum which did not even generate the kind of leverage they needed to do any kind of arm-twisting with the government.
Considering the amount of political ammunition that the opposition has with an inexperienced and debacle-prone government at hand, a concerted effort that was thought through better would have gone a long way in terms of shaping public opinion. When staring down a PTI of Azam Swatis and Parvez Khattaks, the opposition, simply put, needs to do better.