An All-Parties Conference (APC) took place on Sunday. Hosted by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the moot was attended by all major opposition parties.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif addressed the conference via video link. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Mahmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Mohsin Dawar and several other opposition leaders also participated.
It was, however, Nawaz’s speech that set the tone, reflecting in the APC’s joint resolution.
Just days ago, the APC was being dismissed as just another show without much substance but the former prime minister’s speech changed that perception. The foremost reason why the APC was being dubbed a mere show was due to the opposition’s failure in the Senate (no-confidence move) and the passage of the recent FATF bills in the joint session despite protests. The opposition may not have been successful in these two endeavours but they seem to be on a mission now and they want to do it before the Senate elections in March 2021.
Nawaz said their struggle is not against Imran Khan but against those who brought Imran Khan to power by manipulating the elections. He said there is now a parallel government because there is “a state above the state now”.
The 26-point charter of demands by the APC announced the formation of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which will be an anti-government movement. APC resolution states that the establishment’s role in politics must end. All state institutions should stay within their constitutional limitations. It also mentions how media is facing the worst censorship, the opposition demands that accountability of Lt Gen (r) Asim Bajwa be ensured, among other things.
The way the government has reacted to the APC and especially Nawaz’s speech shows there is panic among their ranks. From calling the APC “a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the government to back off on accountability” to asking institutions to take notice of Nawaz’s speech, it is quite evident that the opposition has unnerved the government.
The opposition has also given a roadmap and an action plan for the future. From countrywide protests starting soon to resignations from assemblies to vote of no-confidence to a long march in January, the opposition says all democratic options to get rid of the government are on the cards.
It seems that the opposition has decided to finally get serious. It remains to be seen how it all pans out and whether they will give real tough time to the government in the coming weeks and months. But the opposition cannot be written off.