Half a dozen major opposition parties have joined forces to denounce the military, which they accuse of meddling in politics and rigging the 2018 elections to bring Prime Minister Imran Khan to power.
The six parties and some smaller groups signed a statement late on Sunday during the All Parties Conference (APC), announcing the creation of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to begin nationwide agitation, possibly culminating in a January march on the capital, Islamabad.
According to the statement, joint rallies will be held in October and November 2020 in Pakistan’s major cities, including the provincial capitals Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar. and Lahore.
In the second phase, set to commence in December 2020, large public rallies and demonstrations would be organised in the provincial capitals, while in January 2021, a decisive long march will head towards Islamabad.
A 26-point resolution read out by Rehman stated that the current government has been granted “fake stability by the same establishment” that interfered with the elections to bring the incumbent rulers to power.
It expressed “extreme concern” over the increasing interference of the establishment in internal affairs of the country and regarded it as a “danger to the nation’s stability and institutions”.
“The (military) establishment should stop every kind of interference in politics forthwith,” said the statement, which accuses Khan of failing on multiple counts, from the economy to foreign policy.
The armed forces, which have ruled Pakistan for half of its history since independence in 1947, deny meddling in politics or electoral wrongdoing.
The alliance did not give a schedule for the street protests, except for announcing the march on the capital if the government did not stop the alleged victimising of political opponents.
It demanded electoral reform to ensure “no role for the armed forces and (intelligence) agencies”.
The next general election is scheduled for 2023.
Opposition parties and civil rights groups have long held that the military interferes in politics and runs governments from behind the scene.
Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar has said that the military and civilian government work together.
The forum also demanded that elections be organised again in a transparent manner and that reforms should be passed in order to ensure free and fair polls.
Terming the parliament a “rubber stamp”, the PDM declared that the opposition parties will not co-operate with the government in the legislative process.
It also demanded that a new law of accountability be passed in the country that is in accordance with the Supreme Court’s verdict and recommendations from Human Rights Watch and Council of Islamic Ideology, and would hold everyone accountable, including bureaucrats, lawmakers, judicial and army officials.
In particular, the PDM resolution said that claims made in a recent news report regarding retired Lieutenant-General Asim Saleem Bajwa’s assets and family business should be probed.
The forum said that Bajwa should be removed as the chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority until the investigation is completed.
The opposition will enlist lawyers, traders, farmers, students, media as well as members of the civil society in its movement.
In order to oust the government, opposition parties will use “every legal and constitutional option in and out of parliament, which include moving no-confidence motions and collective resignations from assemblies at an appropriate time”, the resolution states.
Responding to questions during the press conference, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the PDM wants a “non-political establishment” as the Constitution does not allow the establishment to be involved in political matters of the country.
He said that all the options listed in PDM’s action plan and joint resolution are constitutional and legal, including protests and demand for resignation.
Bilawal told reporters that PDM will start working from tomorrow and will continue to work towards its goal of seeing “real democracy” in Pakistan.
The government’s majority hinges on a few votes in parliament, while the opposition has a majority in the upper house.
“Our struggle is against those who have brought Imran Khan (to power),” former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was removed on corruption allegations in 2017, said by video link to the gathering from London.
Sharif’s third term as prime minister ran from 2013-2017, when he was removed by the Supreme Court amid revelations over his personal wealth.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the opposition was “ganging up” to pressure the government to close corruption cases, adding that that would not happen.
Earlier, the APC participants could not reach a final decision on mass resignation from the national and provincial assemblies due to a difference of opinion among major parties, insider accounts reveal.
According to sources, there was heated debate on resigning from the provincial and national assemblies, and the matter was discussed at length between the leaders of the major parties attending.
However, the decision to quit the assemblies was ultimately abandoned even though Bilawal and former prime minister Sharif at one point in the discussions offered to submit their party’s resignations to each other.
Bilawal had offered to submit his party’s resignations to Sharif, who could then present the entire opposition’s resignations to the National Assembly Speaker upon his return to Pakistan, sources informed Geo News.
The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, when presented with the offer, said that he was not against the idea, but wished to first put the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government under pressure before opting for the step.
“You give me the PPP’s resignations, and I will give you the PML-N’s resignations, and you can then hand over all of them to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur (JUI-F)’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman,” Sharif reportedly said in response.
Sources said that the JUI-F chief then debated the matter extensively with the leaders of the various opposition parties, but there were some disagreements over the execution of the strategy.
According to sources, the opposition ultimately failed to agree on the matter.
It was decided in the meeting that those lawmakers who are known for “jumping ship” would not be invited back to the fold of the parties present.
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