THE Pakistan Democratic Alliance says its campaign against the PTI government will escalate in the coming days and has declared that it will launch its long march to Islamabad in late January.
On Monday, a day after the alliance conducted its final jalsa in Lahore, PDM leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman made this announcement. The much-hyped rally drew a huge crowd at Minar-i-Pakistan, but as many reported, it was not a ‘game changer.’ The tone and tenor of the speeches made by the opposition leaders were incendiary, irrespective of the numbers in attendance.
Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan, took turns attacking the state. In response, on the Lahore jalsa, the government poured scorn and called it a ‘flop’.
The next weeks to come deliver an unpredictable situation. What is more certain is that both sides refuse to cede. The intransigence, if anything, has risen, and it is reasonably evident that both sides have dug in their heels. On Monday, PDM leaders categorically said the time for talks was over and they would not talk to anyone even the establishment.
For their part, cabinet ministers spent the day ridiculing the opposition and reiterating their stance that the government was here to stay. Therefore the climate is ripe for further escalation. The government would be tempted to use coercion if the PDM chooses to launch unrest in multiple ways for the next few weeks.
This could relate to aggression that would spin out of control quickly. If problems are not settled in the coming days, and if a middle ground is not reached until the PDM begins marching towards Islamabad, opportunities for a compromise for all parties involved will begin to slam shut.
The PDM may be buying time to find a common ground by not announcing something concrete at this point. It should be well made use of this time. Therefore the government could de-escalate its violence and give the opposition some dialogue. The official stance so far is that the government is eager and able to have a dialogue in parliament. This has to be more improved so that the political temperature is kept down, if nothing else.
On its part, the opposition should therefore ensure that any conduct to which it responds does not spill over into violence. It is understandable that both sides must keep an eye on their constituents and position themselves for electoral gain, but this must also be achieved in a measured fashion. Even sickness should be treated.
The possibility that remains until the drums of the long march and resignations begin to pound loudly should be sensed by safe minds. Negotiations are the best way out of this logjam to reach an opportunity.