ISLAMABAD   -  The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) comprising major opposition parties seeking the PTI government’s ouster, will hold their first anti-government public rally in Quetta on October 11, the opposition leaders announced here yesterday.

The Quetta rally will be followed by a full-fledged anti-government movement in the country. The decision was reached at a meeting of leaders of all the major opposition parties at the PML-N secretariat here.

Leadership of all the opposition parties including PML-N, PPP and JUI-F attended the meeting. Addressing the media after the PDM’s first formal meeting, PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the Quetta rally will be followed by more rallies in all other provincial headquarters and the campaign would continue till the government is ousted.

“The campaign will continue until the undemocratic process is eliminated”, he said and added it will bring a real change in the country. “This movement will keep intensifying and will be successful in ridding Pakistan of this undemocratic process,” Abbasi said as he was flanked by other opposition leaders. 

It is to mention here that PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not attend the meeting as Shahbaz Sharif is in the NAB custody and Nawaz Sharif is staying in London. 

Abbasi strongly condemned what it viewed as the shrinking space for democracy in the country. He said that rising inflation, unemployment, corruption and deteriorating economy were the real issues that compelled the opposition parties to come out against the government.

The meeting also gave approval to PDM’s steering committee, which Abbasi said, will play its role in taking the PDM movement forward. He said the steering committee will comprise two members from each party. He told the media that the steering committee would frame organisational structure of the PDM. 

The steering committee is likely to replace the Rehbar Committee and set guidelines for the future action of the opposition’s alliance.

He said all the opposition parties had consensus on the decisions taken in the meeting. He said the PDM’s future strategy will be decided in the second meeting of the steering committee next Monday. He further told media that the steering committee’s convenership will be changed on a rotational basis, with PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal to serve as its convener for the first month.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP leader and former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif, saying that NAB should not have arrested him after filing a reference in the court. He said ‘government-NAB nexus’ became quite clear after the ministers predicted arrests of various opposition leaders on media. He also condemned alleged humiliation of the opposition leaders at the hands of the ministers on media. 

Coming to the anti-government campaign, he said the names for PDM’s steering committee have been finalised which will mull over the organisational structure of the newly-formed anti-government alliance. He said the committee will be headed on rotational basis and PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal will be the first convener of the committee.

Ashraf said that Quetta rally would write a new chapter in the country’s history. He was of the view that Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest will weaken democracy and the anger and grievances of Pakistanis will rise. He said the October 11 rally will be followed by a series of public meetings in all the provinces. 

JUI-F’s Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri also addressed the media and vowed to continue their struggle until the government is ousted. He said the PTI-led government has lost its credibility in public and claimed that it failed to provide five million low-cost houses and millions of jobs to the masses as promised prior to the 2018 general elections. 

He also condemned the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif and added that the anti-government movement will continue until the government is dislodged.

Ghafoor Haideri claimed that NAB was a tool allegedly being used by the government for suppressing and harassing the opposition leadership.

He stated that they will not tolerate the regular harassment of the opposition leaders through NAB and other cheap means.

The PDM’s huddle comes a day after PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif was arrested by the NAB in a money laundering case. The PDM was formed at the APC in Lahore where opposition parties had announced launching a three-phased anti-government movement starting from October with countrywide public rallies, protest demonstrations and rallies in December and a decisive long march towards Islamabad in January 2021.

According to sources within the PDM, the major opposition parties expect the JUI-F and PkMAP to mobilise their workers in Balochistan as they had the street power there.