PDM indecisive about protest movement, long march

Tariq Butt
Thursday, Nov 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Indecision and vacillation mars the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) over resuming its protest movement, culminating in a long march onto the federal capital.

The multiparty opposition alliance has been giving the impression that it is about to reach a conclusive decision about the start of the street agitation, but every time it dithers owing to a lack of consensus among its components.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman wants a decisive strike but his other partners are not impressed with his idea that has caused frustration to him. The PMLN appears to be in two minds, expecting that the evolving situation may land the PDM in an advantageous condition. Among other factors, the chilly weather may be a reason behind the PDM decision of postponing the long march. The frosty season was obviously going to be unfavourable for the organizers and the participants of the long march that had earlier been scheduled to be held sometime in December which is always the coldest month.

Last time in 2019, the Jamiate Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had undertaken such campaigning in end-September when the weather is not usually very inclement. When the climate is icy, it becomes quite difficult for the protesters to remain camped for a long time at a place to press their demands. Much more arrangements have to be made to save the attendees from the biting cold. This involves a heavy cost and comprehensive paraphernalia as well.

Fazlur Rehman had to wrap up his protest after 18 days without achieving what he had envisioned. The Imran Khan government remained well-entrenched and the agitators’ demands including the prime minister’s resignation were not met. The protest had not weakened the regime much although during the demonstration in Islamabad it had become nervous and scared, fearing that its participants might storm the D-Chowk to jam the government as was done by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in 2014. It was a solo flight of the JUI-F as other opposition parties did not stand with it. Some of them had just verbally expressed solidarity with it and that too not very frequently. The long march was premature as the PTI led coalition had come into power only 13 months back. At the time, Fazlur Rehman had given the impression that he had got assurances from the quarters that matter which he later stated angrily were not fulfilled. The show of power had turned out to be inconsequential. Then, the political situation was not very promising for the opposition parties as against the present circumstances, which, the organizers feel, are somewhat conducive for the acceptance of their demands. They believe that they can now shake and shock the government if they undertake such a venture. Previously, the same page mantra was harped on by the regime day in and day out but now, no such refrain is being heard from the government. The PDM has been talking about its long march for a long time, but has not reached a firm decision about its timing. The PPP, which is not part of the PDM, is likely to maintain its time-tested policy of confining the anti-government movement to the parliament instead of stirring up the streets. It continues to be obsessed with tabling no-confidence motions in the national and Punjab assemblies. If ever the PDM organized the long march, the main contribution to it will be made by the JUI-F which has a huge committed following always ready to obey the call of Fazlur Rehman. The track record of the PMLN is that it is not a party of street agitation. A majority of its followers do vote for it but stay away from such protests. The vibes coming from the opposition circles make it clear that the long march, if held, will, in their view, be their last powerful protest to achieve their objectives. For that, the opposition requires mass mobilization which is not in sight at the moment. Not only this, PDM constituents are confused and uncertain about launching the anti-government campaign. When Fazlur Rehman had undertaken the 2019 long march, he had toured several parts of Pakistan for weeks, preparing his workers for the protest. This time, he has not done anything of this kind.