PDM announces long march, will contest elections jointly

Opp believes in the overall package of election reforms, says Fazl

The Pakistan Democratic Movement has announced that it will hold its long march against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on March 26, and has also stated that the 11-party opposition alliance will contest the upcoming Senate elections jointly.

PDM President and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman made the above announcement to reporters after an hours-long meeting of the alliance’s leadership in the federal capital on Thursday.

Rehman stated that the caravans will leave from all over the country towards Islamabad on March 26 and termed it a “mehengai march (march against inflation)”. He also affirmed that the PDM opposes the open ballot method.

“The opposition believes in the overall package of election reforms,” he said.

“It seems as if PTI does not believe in its members and the PTI leadership wishes to make such unsavoury people senators that their own members are not willing to vote for them,” Fazl remarked.

Rehman claimed that Prime Minister Imran is distributing development funds in a way that is tantamount to “bribery”.

“Now the Supreme Court judges have taken a suo moto notice, the dissemination of these funds should be stopped,” he said, adding that for those government employees protesting against the government on February 10, they would find the support of the PDM.

Regarding the Senate elections, Fazl said: “We will contest the Senate elections jointly; there will be a joint strategy for it and we will not compete against each other. We will field joint candidates.”

When asked about the PDM’s plans to resign from the assemblies, he said the option would be considered later. “You must have patience,” added Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz

The PDM president also said that the skyrocketing prices of electricity, gas and petroleum have made the lives of the common man difficult and declared that the opposition would stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” against the “illegitimate rulers”.

“[We] are ready to give any sacrifice required to bring them out of this difficult situation,” the JUI-F chief said on the occasion.

In regard to the foreign funding case against the PTI, Rehman alleged that 23 accounts were brought to attention, “but 18 are being hidden”. To this effect, he said that PM Imran can no longer be considered honest.

“Justice demands a prompt decision in this regard, otherwise it is the murder of justice,” said Fazl.

“The talk of an open trial of the matter was nothing but a drama and has no standing,” he added.

“The opposition will continue its protest against the behaviour of the speaker and the chairman in the National Assembly (NA) and Senate and we will not cooperate with them in running proceedings of the house at any cost,” the PDM president added.

The alliance also “rejects” the one-member inquiry commission comprising former Supreme Court judge, Justice (r) Azmat Saeed Sheikh, set up by the government to probe the Broadsheet scandal, and “declares it an attempt by the government to mask its corruption”, he added.

Speaking on the report by Transparency International (TI) in which Pakistan fell four places in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Rehman said that Imran, who once lauded the agency, has now himself been declared as “the most corrupt man”.

“He has been declared a certified thief,” Rehman maintained.

To a question by a journalist of what the PDM has decided about bringing a no-confidence motion to overthrow the government, Fazl said that since the alliance has decided to contest the Senate elections, “until the elections are over we will not announce anything final”.

The PDM chief also announced that the alliance will hold a rally in Muzaffarabad on Kashmir Day in solidarity with the people of the region.

“The situation right now is that Kashmir has been sold off and where there is so much oppression against Kashmiris and its special status has been abolished, we will continue to stand with them in this protest,” said Fazl.

Upon being asked by a journalist of what PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif’s message to the PDM today was, Fazl replied by saying: “He said ‘all is well, Insha’Allah’.”

The meeting of the anti-government coalition lasted over five hours and also discussed the no-confidence motion proposed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

PPP’s delegation also included former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Qamar Zaman Kaira, and Farhatullah Babar.

From the PML-N, the party Vice President Maryam, Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyum Aurangzeb, and Rana Sanaullah were present.

Former PM Nawaz and former president Asif Ali Zardari also attended via-video link.

A day earlier, PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gillani had insisted that the anti-government drive was far from over and en masse resignations from the legislative assemblies are the “final option”.

Speaking to media in Islamabad following the hearing in Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) corruption case, Gillani had taken a cue from his party’s position on the matter and said there is no use of tendering resignations at this stage when the Senate elections are less than a month away.

The member parties of PDM take decisions [on all the issues] unanimously, he had said.

Gillani further had said: “The incumbent government’s [members] had also resigned when it [PTI] was in opposition but then National Assembly speaker [Ayaz Sadiq] did not accept their resignations.”

PPP is an expert in forming coalition governments, he had said.

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