Leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) have blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for dragging the “military establishment” into the power politics while also asking the later to admit and apologise for their past mistakes of political adventurism.
Addressing a public meeting in Hyderabad on Tuesday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief and PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others asserted that they had always opposed the army’s involvement in politics.
Tens of thousands of supporters of the PDM’s allied parties, with a far larger presence of the PPP supporters, attended the event organised by the PPP at a ground on the Hyderabad bypass. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz was scheduled to address the gathering but she did not attend due to the accident of her daughter.
“Are those dragging them into politics who say in their public meetings that you [the army] have no role in politics and that you should keep away from politics and that all institutions should work as per their constitutional mandate?” asked Bilawal.
“Or those people drag them into politics who fight elections with their support, who ask them to make them victorious in the elections, who want deployment of the army inside and outside the polling stations.”
He went on to contend that the PTI even urged the establishment to handle the media, support them in passing the budget, to handle differences with friendly countries, support the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) legislation, help create consensus over Gilgit-Baltistan and help them in the Senate polls.
“When they [PTI] see their defeat; when they know that the people are not standing with them; when they realise that with your votes they can’t make government and come to the power than they drag the establishment in politics.”
Bilawal said that the people should be trusted for their wisdom in electing their representatives and their decisions should be accepted. “The people should be given permission to take decisions for their future,” he added.
Bilawal reiterated that Prime Minister Imran Khan was responsible for the economic crisis, inflation, unemployment and the growing corruption as identified in the Transparency International’s latest report.
He again rapped Imran’s knuckles for his statement in which he had said that Sindh was not their province. “Balochistan, Punjab, K-P [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir are also not your provinces,” he charged.
The PPP chairman alleged that Imran only wanted Sindh’s natural resources, tax revenue and the islands and not the province or its people. According to him, around 50% households or the people in half of Pakistan are facing malnutrition because of Imran’s governance.
He also blamed the PTI’s government for being anti-poor and pro-rich. The prime minister was also accused of the ongoing anti-encroachment operations in the province, though, those were being carried out on the Supreme Court’s order.
Referring to the accountability process, Bilawal lamented that Imran was not questioned for the alleged corruption in Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) project, foreign funding case, Malam Jabba, billion-tree project and Aleema Khan’s sewing machines controversy.
The PPP’s chairman informed the gathering that he would set off for the long march next month from Karachi. “There will be a march in the month of March … we will oust the selected, inept and illegal PM and will form the peoples’ government.”
Rehman, the PDM and JUI-F chief, said they also wanted to see the army to remain impartial in the political matters. “When do we want the army to get involved in politics or play a role other than defence [of the country],” he asked. He added that mistakes of the military’s intervention in politics had been made and that should be admitted, followed by an apology to the nation.
Rehman asked the establishment to reply why did they implicitly mock the opposition parties and congratulated the PTI after the 2018 general elections if they were not involved in rigging the polls and in giving power to Khan. “You should clarify whom did you defeat and whom you made victorious [in 2018 elections].”
He said the opposition parties were familiar with the obstacles created on the path of democracy. “We have spent 40 years in politics. Please don’t teach us a, b, c of politics. Rather, if you have to learn politics, become our students.”
Rehman derided the prime minister for being “more virulently infectious” than the coronavirus. “They say Covid-19. I say, no, it’s Covid-18. We have to get rid of the 2018’s coronavirus,” he added, referring to PTI’s election victory in the 2018 elections.
Commenting on the presidential ordinance for the open ballot in the Senate polls, the PDM’s president advised the superior judiciary to stay away from that controversy, which is purely political in nature.
He argued that if the Constitution is silent over the secret or open vote to elect the senators, the court should leave it to parliament to amend the law, instead of trying to interpret the existing law. “Whatever is being done is also a conspiracy against the judiciary.”
According to him, a new controversy has emerged in the PTI’s foreign funding case which has laid bare that Imran’s personal staff at his Bani Gala residence received direct payments. “You are yourself head of the thieves but you blame others for being thieves!”
He asked the people from across Pakistan to gather in Rawalpindi and Islamabad for the long march. “Until these cruel rulers remains in the power, our workers will keep swimming against the tide. We aren’t the people who fall tired,” he added.
The PML-N Senior Vice President and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the 11 parties, which are part of the PDM, had received 70% of the total votes cast in 2018 general elections.
He maintained that the PTI government was trying to usurp provincial autonomy, vowing that the PDM would stand as a bulwark against the usurpation and protect the 18th Amendment. “Who was distributing Rs1,000 notes [at Faizabad sit-in]?”
National Party President Dr Abdul Malik Baloch questioned under what law the Centre was occupying the islands in Sindh and Balochistan. He complained that the people of Balochistan were not being made beneficiaries of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Gawadar port.
According to him, the point of convergence for all the allied parties in the PDM is that the country should be ruled as per the Constitution.
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai asked Rehman and Bilawal to meet the army officers with regards to their statement of establishment’s non-involvement in politics. “If they take oath that they won’t interfere in politics, the PDM will be ended.”