Shehbaz’s move to heal the PDM rift is unlikely to succeed

ISLAMABAD: PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif is hosting a dinner on Monday (today) to try to resurrect the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, but the gathering is unlikely to result in a breakthrough due to differences among the constituent parties.

Political observers anticipate that the event will serve as a platform for mainstream parties to trade accusations and hold each other accountable for the failure of the movement launched to destabilize the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

Background conversations with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders indicate that the alliance will not last long.

The PPP is likely to become a punching bag at the meeting, facing difficult questions such as why it has virtually split from the PDM and has remained hesitant to stage a long march against the government, as well as why it has refused to resign from the assemblies.

The PPP is expected to face questions about its refusal to join the long march and resign from assemblies.

“We are meeting with the PPP at the dinner, but our wounds are deep and will not heal so quickly,” a PML-N source said.

Farhatullah Babar, a PPP leader, said party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had been invited to the dinner and would return from Dubai on Sunday night.

According to sources, Mr Bhutto-Zardari may not attend the dinner, but he is expected to send a delegation from his party.

If Mr. Bhutto-Zardari does not attend the dinner, the alliance will be further strained.

The PDM was founded in September 2020, and it has held large rallies in major cities throughout the country. It had planned to march on Islamabad in January or February of this year, but canceled the plan due to the PPP’s “weak response” to the proposal.

The PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, two major parties in the PDM, believe that the PPP abandoned the opposition alliance by deviating from the PDM’s main goal of being reluctant to take “aggressive” steps against the government.

According to PML-N sources, Mr Bhutto-Zardari will definitely attend the dinner because, while the PPP is hesitant to cause serious harm to the government, it wants to stand with the N-League to remain “alive in Punjab.”

“The PPP has seen where it stands in the province in recent by-elections in Punjab.

Another PML-N leader said his party had shown generosity by giving Mr Bhutto-Zardari the stage at crowded public meetings in Punjab, which irritated several PML-N leaders and workers.

Differences between the PML-N and the PPP were highlighted when former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, running as a PPP candidate, won the election for Senate leader of opposition. The PML-N accused the PPP of obtaining votes from Balochistan Awami Party lawmakers, an ally of the ruling PTI.

The dinner will also address the issue of “alliance of some opposition parties with the PTI” for Senate elections in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “If we (the PDM) have joined forces to rid the country of this inept government, then why have opposition parties made poll adjustments with the PTI?” This will also be discussed at Monday’s meeting, according to a PDM leader.

According to a PML-N insider, Shehbaz Sharif will present the PDM’s future course of action to the constituent parties, which will include a strategy for opposing the passage of the upcoming federal budget in parliament.

According to a PPP source, Mr Bhutto-Zardari had logical reasons why the PPP did not agree with some PDM decisions, and if he attended the dinner, he would definitely answer each and every question from other PDM parties.

He claimed that the PPP had opposed the PDM’s decision to resign from assemblies because the party’s leadership wanted to fight the government while remaining within the system; otherwise, the PTI would have an open field to do whatever it wanted.

Zainab Murtaza

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