The Pakistan Democratic Movement’s recent declaration that it will engage in the forthcoming by-polls is a promising indication of the willingness of its members to demonstrate versatility for the alliance’s sake, and a sign that the government does not take the challenge of the PDM lightly.
The fact that, despite some of the representatives voicing concerns earlier, the 11-party coalition will contest the by-elections on two seats in the National Assembly and six seats in the Provincial Assembly indicates that although there are differences of opinion on some main issues, the PDM is resolved to remain together and continue in its opposition to the government.
The distinctions are clear. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is a hardliner with little to lose; Maryam Nawaz is reeling from her family and party’s government assault; and the bets are hedged by the PPP. But the shared aim, as demonstrated in the speech of the PDM chairman on Friday, is that these parties can no longer allow the intervention of the security establishment in civil governance matters.
Although the different members of the coalition use language of differing degrees of seriousness when talking about this supposed intrusion, some harsh and others less so, the signals sent to both the government and the security system come from a common point and forum.
In the coming days, resignations and the Senate elections being the biggest hurdles, the PDM has many barriers to resolve and crucial problems to address, and its survival will be decided by the willingness of the coalition to create unity in a politically unstable climate. Yet the shared aim of the campaign up to now has been a unifying force.
The government and the security community do not take their demands and threats lightly if the coalition wants to stick united and step forward even with the coming challenges. If it materialises, the threatened long march will cause a season of dread. It was not too long ago that Mr. Khan’s anti-government dharna had both fixed and paralysed the world, particularly the people and the administration in the capital.
While his main demands were not fulfilled and the dharna was finally called off, the protracted sit-in presented a major challenge to governance and security. The political instability and its impact on the economy were tangible, as was the message to the global.
Given the number of member parties and the scale of their rallies so far, a PDM-led long march would be a thorn in the government’s side. It is not too early to worry about which side will win, based on what sort of strength the coalition will display and how long it can be retained for.
It is naive for Mr Khan to believe that this is going to fizzle out and go down. The government must end its positioning in this climate and focus on the fallout of an upcoming crisis. A smart next move is dialogue.