PDM a divided house over resignations

Rift forces multi-party alliance to put off its much-hyped long march

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) appeared to be in tatters on Tuesday because of serious differences on the issue of lawmakers’ resignations from assemblies, which forced it to postpone the scheduled long march against the government.

The PDM summit meeting chaired by its President Maulana Fazlur Rehman ended without taking any decision on major issues as leaders engaged themselves in heated exchanges over resignations, the Senate elections, and on the question of who to nominate as leader of opposition in the upper house of parliament.

The meeting was also attended by all the top leaders of the constituent parties. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and Balochistan National Party Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini joined the meeting via a video link.

According to sources, the PPP flatly refused to resign from the assemblies, while the PML-N refused to recall Nawaz Sharif from London. On the other hand, Fazl demanded accountability over the defeat of Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in the election for the post of Senate Deputy Chairman.

Later, Fazl briefly appeared before a battery of waiting journalists to announce the postponement of the long march, which was scheduled to begin on March 26, until the PPP returns with its formal decision on the resignation issue.

“The agenda of the meeting was about the long march on March 26,” Fazl told reporters. “Nine parties were in favor of the long march along with resignations but the PPP had reservations on this [resignations] matter,” he added.

According to Fazl, the PPP leadership sought time to consult the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) on this matter and come back to the PDM. “We have given them [PPP] a chance and we will wait for their decision until then the March 26 Long march is postponed.”

Immediately after making the brief announcement Fazl left the press conference, without taking any questions from journalists. However, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and senior PPP leader and former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani stayed there and took the questions.

“I don’t want to speculate until the PPP comes back and answers us,” said Maryam. “The PDM [parties] stand by each other and [the alliance] is practically together and will also cooperate,” the PML-N leader added.

“Since the long march was conditional to the resignations, so Chairman Bilawal and I asked the entire leadership of the PDM to give us time because the first decision of the [PPP] CEC was not in favor of resignations,” Gilani told reporters.

“If you want us to resign from assemblies, give us time to go back to the CEC so that we can come back to you with its permission. That is why they have unanimously given us time,” the former prime minister added. “And it will be decided soon.”

Maryam faced a barrage of questions about the return of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and a tough stance taken by former president Zardari in the PDM meeting. “I respectfully told them that return of Nawaz Sharif will be tantamount to handing him over to killers,” he said.

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“Neither the PML-N leaders nor the PML-N’s voters want any danger to his life. “We need living leaders, not the bodies of the leaders,” she told the media persons “I told Zardari that Nawaz Sharif’s struggle and sacrifices are not hidden from anyone.”

Maryam said that his father was “convicted in a false case” but still he left his sick wife on her deathbed and came back to Pakistan with his daughter and “bravely went to jail”. Sharif, she added, had a heart attack in jail. “This government sent him abroad when his life was in danger.”

She said that Almighty Allah has given a new life to Nawaz Sharif, adding that the former prime minister is in England while his party remains active in the country. She stressed that the whole party is united and fighting under his leadership. “I am the representative of the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif. Anyone who wants to talk to Nawaz Sharif should talk to me first.

Contingency plan?

Separately, talking to The Express Tribune, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that during the PDM meeting, the PPP was asked to decide whether or not it wanted to move with PDM. “The decision of not resigning means that the PPP does not want to move forward with PDM,” he added.

“In case the PPP decides to part ways with PDM, our movement against the incompetent and selected government would continue as per it plan,” Iqbal said, adding that there was a contingency plan but as of now it could not be shared with the media.

On the other hand, PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar told The Express Tribune the party would only exercise the option of resigning from assemblies as a last resort and “currently there is no need for that”.

Khokhar said that the PPP feels that there were several options available with the PDM. Resigning at this stage would bear no fruit rather it would be counterproductive, he added. “The PPP will only consider resigning from assemblies when it will yield the required outcome.”

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Asked if the PPP could consider the resignations option to save the alliance, Khokhar said that it was not about what PDM wants. “This entire struggle is for democracy and if any step adversely impacted that struggle, it must be reconsidered.

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