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PDM Announces Another Long March on Islamabad

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Opposition alliance announces it will culminate a new schedule of nationwide protests with a long march against the PTI’s ‘anti-people’ policies

The multi-party opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance on Saturday announced it will organize demonstrations across Pakistan against the incumbent government’s “anti-people” policies, adding that this will culminate in a long march on Islamabad at an as yet unspecified date.

“A protest will be held in Karachi on Nov. 13, followed by one in Quetta on Nov. 17 and one in Peshawar on Nov. 20,” Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who also serves as the secretary-general of the PDM, told media in a statement issued after a virtual meeting of the group’s leadership. “This movement will end only after sending Imran Khan packing,” it said, adding that the alliance would announce a date for its long march from Lahore to Islamabad after consultations.

According to the statement, the PDM meeting discussed the prevailing economic and political situation in Pakistan under the chairmanship of alliance chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who also heads his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. “Inflation, the National Accountability Ordinance, the so-called electoral reforms [were among the] issues discussed,” said Abbasi. He said the opposition had “rejected” the recent increase in the prices of electricity, gas, petrol, wheat flour, ghee, sugar, medicines and other essential commodities, adding that it had demanded that the government reverse its policies.

“The actual reason behind inflation is the historic corruption by Imran Khan’s government,” read the statement, echoing frequent rhetoric by P.M. Khan from the time he was in opposition.

The meeting, according to the statement, also demanded the government make public the terms of its deal with the International Monetary Fund. “The nation is unwilling to bear this government even for a minute, which has inflicted back-breaking inflation on the people,” Abbasi said, adding that the opposition alliance had also rejected the government’s National Accountability Ordinance, proposed election reforms, including electronic voting machines and i-voting, claiming these measures were based on mala fide intentions.

“This [PDM] forum considers government measures on non-democratic, so-called electoral reforms a bigger fraud than the 2018 election fraud,” he said, and accused the PTI of trying to deny the people their right to vote and steal the next general elections through a “conspiracy.”

Rebutting allegations by the PTI that the opposition did not wish to grant overseas Pakistanis the right to exercise their vote from their place of residence, the PMLN leader said that the PDM had committed to ensuring overseas Pakistanis’ representation in Parliament in a “true” sense. “A strategy for the protest to foil this government’s conspiracy will be prepared, and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has been given the responsibility for devising the roadmap,” he added.

Abbasi’s statement also referred to the Daska by-elections. Last week, the Election Commission of Pakistan issues its inquiry into the contested polls, blaming police and security officials for failing to prevent rigging. He said that the PDM had demanded immediate legal action against those found responsible for the rigging in the inquiry report, adding that it had “proven” the government had stolen votes and perpetrated the kidnapping of presiding officers. “The vote robbers and kidnappers should be punished,” he added.

The PDM is set to convene another meeting of the alliance’s top leadership on Nov. 11—right after a joint Parliament session summoned for Nov. 10. The government is aiming to pass 18 bills in the Joint Sitting, including legislation related to granting Overseas Pakistanis the right to vote from their place of residence, and the use of electronic voting machines.

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