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Maulana Fazlur Rehman unanimously appointed as head of Pak’s new anti-govt alliance

Pakistan’s firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been unanimously appointed as the first president of the Opposition’s newly-formed anti-government alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a media report said on Sunday.

The decision was taken on Saturday during a virtual meeting of the Opposition parties attended by Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, BNP chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal among other senior politicians.

According to PDM’s steering committee convener Ahsan Iqbal, deposed prime minister Sharif proposed Rehman’s name as the alliance president and it was endorsed by PPP chairman Bilawal and others, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Sharif had initially proposed that Rehman should be appointed as the president on a permanent basis, but the idea was opp­osed by Bilawal and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Amir Haider Hoti, who suggested that the office should be given on a rotational basis to leaders of the constituent parties, the report quoted the sources as saying.

There was an agreement among the leaders that Rehman should lead the PDM in the first phase as he had already led a demonstration, dubbed as Azadi March, against the present Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government last year.

“Since the Maulana has already done a rehearsal and his party is more disciplined and has the ability to effectively mobilise the masses, therefore, in the first and decisive phase, he is the best choice,” said one of the participants in the meeting.

Most of the participants were of the opinion that in order to maintain continuity, it was necessary that the tenure of key office-bearers, including that of the PDM president, should not exceed four to six months.

Rehman’s nomination to lead the movement came only a week before the formal launch of the anti-government campaign by the opposition parties with PDM’s first public meeting scheduled for October 11 in Quetta.

Iqbal said it had been decided that the three major parties in the 11-party alliance would share the three top offices of the PDM on a rotational basis. The offices of senior vice-president and the general secretary of the PDM would be given to the PML-N and the PPP.

Iqbal said the Opposition had decided to launch the movement for the supremacy of the Constitution, democracy, the independent judiciary and for the security of the rights of Pakistanis.

The opposition parties’ heads in their meeting also passed a resolution. Through it, the PDM leaders condemned the PTI government’s statement linking the alliance to India, stating that such a statement was a proof of the government’s frustration.

It also “condemned” the allegation of being anti-state, an accusation levelled against three-time premier Sharif who had responded to India’s nuclear tests in 1998 by opting for a series of nuclear tests despite international pressure on Pakistan, the report said.

On September 20, the leaders of 11 major Opposition parties announced formation of the PDM and launch of a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” starting with countrywide public meetings, protest demonstrations and rallies before a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad in January 2021.

The Opposition leaders had announced that they would use all political and democratic options, including no-confidence motions and en mass resignations from the parliament to seek “the selected prime minister’s resignation and an end to the role of the establishment in politics.”

They also issued a 26-point declaration in the form a resolution containing various demands, including “end of establishment’s interference in politics, new free and fair elections after formulation of election reforms with no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies, release of political prisoners, withdrawal of cases against journalists, implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, speeding up of the projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and across-the-board accountability under a new accountability law.”