The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s plan to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan enters its most important phase in the coming days.
The PDM is set to hold its next big rally in Lahore on December 13 before it moves to the next phase of the movement, which involves a long march and mass resignations from the parliament.
The upcoming rally of the PDM in Lahore is going to be significant. The gathering is taking place in the heart of Punjab, which arguably forms the backbone of the Pakistani security establishment’s institutional power and public support base. A rally from Lahore targeting the military’s leadership for its alleged support for Khan and his government will tell a lot about the next move of the opposition parties.
The opposition parties have decided to resign from the provincial assemblies in a move to confirm commitment to their ultimate goal of removing Khan’s government in Islamabad. However, if the PDM follows through on the threat of mass resignations, it is unlikely to harm the PTI government in any way.
Reportedly, one of the reasons the PDM has declared its intent to resign has to do with the incoming Senate election scheduled to take place in March 2021. “When this struggle (of the PDM) reaches its peak, our 84 MNAs will resign from the National Assembly, and then we will see how the Senate polls are held,” said Khawa Asif, a senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. However, experts warn that PDM’s mass resignations cannot hinder the process of holding the Senate elections.
Legal and constitutional experts in Pakistan believe that the opposition’s planned mass resignations from the assemblies cannot stop the ruling party from obtaining a majority in the upper house of the parliament after the Senate polls. They believe that Pakistan’s constitution and laws are “silent on any specific requirement related to a number of lawmakers to be present in the house for voting.”
Already, Khan has said that if the opposition parties resign from assemblies, the government will hold elections for the vacated seats. It is unlikely that the PDM will follow through with their threat of resignations as that will only strengthen the ruling party.
The other big challenge for the PDM is their plan regarding the long march against the federal government. So far, all of the PDM’s threats against the government and efforts to engage Pakistan Army leaders have failed. In fact, arguably, the PDM has gone too far with its targeting of military leadership. And quite simply, the PDM’s movement faces an uphill battle from here onward when it comes to pulling off a long march successfully on technical grounds.
This involves mobilizing thousands of workers across the country, challenging a massive state bureaucratic apparatus, carrying out a prolonged sit-in in the capital, keeping workers motivated, and unity in the ranks of all parties involved. Even if the PDM successfully meets all these challenges, it is unlikely that it will secure the removal of a sitting government and that too without the support of the military leadership.
From here onward, the road for the PDM gets messier and bumpier. The government has already started arresting PDM leaders on charges of violating COVID-19 protocols. Rising cases of COVID-19 in the country pose a challenge on its own as several PDM leaders have been infected with the virus. Continuing an agitation movement in the midst of a pandemic is not likely to win support for the PDM’s agenda either.
We have also not seen much activity or active support from the grassroots levels for the PDM’s movement even after some major rallies by the coalition. Further, the PDM’s plan of going after the top leadership of the military may have harmed it further.
For the PDM, the next phase is all about a show of street power and solid commitment to the widely peddled plan of removing the government at all costs. The time for talk is over and the PDM will find it hard to get their plans of en masse resignations and long march moving.