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PDM Reiterates Resolve for Long March on Pakistan Day

by Newsweek Pakistan

Screengrab of an earlier PDM press conference

Opposition alliance says it will consider a no-confidence motion against P.M. Imran Khan after it has completed preparations for it

The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a multiparty opposition alliance, on Tuesday reiterated that it will stage a long march on the federal capital on March 23 (Pakistan Day), dismissing pleas from the government to pick a different date to avoid any conflict with a military parade that is expected to include the participation of foreign dignitaries.

“The PDM will enter Islamabad [on March 23]. The government knew this march was scheduled for that date so why are they recommending we change it?” PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced in a press conference after a meeting of the alliance. He said the parties comprising the PDM had all decided to continue their long march per schedule and urged citizens across Pakistan to participate in the protest against rampant inflation. “As far as the parade is concerned, it is held in the morning and ends by Zuhr prayers time. We will be coming after Zuhr prayers so there will be no conflict,” he added.

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed urged the PDM to alter the date for its long march, citing “security threats” and the participation of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation states in the Pakistan Day parade.

“This anti-inflation march will be the last nail in the coffin for this government,” vowed Rehman, adding that the PDM had rejected the government’s mini-budget for adding to the public’s woes. “The PTI leaders have made a mockery of the country’s economy,” he claimed, referring to a bill to grant autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan, which he claimed had now been enslaved by international financial institutions.

To a question on whether the PDM had finalized plans to pursue a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, Rehman said the alliance had not reached this point. “A no-confidence motion is a part of democratic and parliamentary system. But for it, there is a need for complete preparation. There can be no final decision until all the opposition parties and the forces inside the Parliament are on the same page,” he said.

The opposition would hold “serious” talks with all government-allied parties, he said, and convince them of their stance against the government. “If all allied parties support the opposition in Parliament, the motion of no confidence would not be required,” he claimed.

Transparency International

Referring to Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which has Pakistan’s rank sliding 16 points and suggests corruption has spiked during the PTI tenure, the PDM chief—who also heads his own Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl)—said it had exposed the “true face” of the incumbent rulers, who kept labeling opposition politicians as looters. It is rather the PTI-led government who is the most “incompetent, failed and corrupt” government in the history of Pakistan, he added.

The PDM meeting, said Rehman, also discussed a new debate on imposing a presidential system in Pakistan, stressing the opposition would not accept this under any circumstances. “Presidential system is another name for dictatorship,” he said and described any attempt to end parliamentary rule as a “conspiracy.” The country has already suffered under several dictatorships, he said, and would not accept another return to it.

Alleging that the PTI was already making plans to rig the next general elections, Rehman reiterated that the use of electronic voting machines was “unconstitutional” and had already been rejected by the PDM. “We will not accept such elections,” he stressed.

Discussing the foreign funding case against the PTI, Rehman said the Election Commission of Pakistan’s scrutiny committee had found that it hid the details of accounts. “Prime Minister Imran Khan should be disqualified for hiding these details,” he said, claiming the report had “convicted” the PTI chairman. The PTI, he claimed, was established on the basis of “corruption and hence, the entire party is corrupt.”

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