Opposition’s power show  


THE newly formed multi-party alliance of the opposition – Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – organized its maiden rally at Gujranwala, drawing impressive response from the people and hammering out issues that appeal to the masses. The estimates of the spokespersons of the Government about the number of the people that the opposition was able to attract notwithstanding, the event was apparently a success for the opposition parties that are otherwise considered to be in disarray.
          The holding of public meetings and rallies is part and parcel of the democratic process and it was in this spirit that the Government allowed the PDM to do so if things remain within the ambit of law and the Constitution. The rally was totally peaceful in nature and speeches of most of the leaders were also in line with the role of the opposition, which has a responsibility to act as watch-dog over policies and programmes of the rulers. Head of the alliance Maulana Fazlur Rehman transmitted positive signals by declaring that politicians had no quarrel with institutions, just wanted them to act within ambit of the Constitution. However, former Prime Minister and supremo of PML(N) Mian Nawaz Sharif, deviated from good traditions of not naming institutions and their top leadership in public speeches and during his video-link address to Gujranwala public meeting spoke in the same tone which he set earlier during his address to All Parties Conference (APC) of the opposition, where decisions were taken to launch agitation. His address to the public meeting confirmed once again that he was bent upon fully participating in the political activities despite rumours that his departure abroad was the result of some tacit understanding not to indulge in politics. The Government is entitled to its views and assessments about figures of the participants and speeches of the leaders of the opposition but the fact remains the opposition was able to demonstrate its muscles and there would be greater pressure for the Government if the opposition gets a similar response in its remaining planned rallies. No doubt, the choice of venue matters as Gujranwala was considered to be a stronghold of PML(N), which has a formidable presence in all of the Punjab despite sufferings of its leadership and odds in the way of its functioning and operation. Other venues have also been selected keeping in view numerical advantages and popularity of leading parties of the alliance and, therefore, there is likelihood that those rallies would also draw a greater number of people. Opposition also has an obvious advantage that the alliance is a conglomerate of about a dozen political parties and they are in a position to organize impressive gatherings through collective efforts. It is, however, time for the Government to have soul searching as to why the opposition is able to appeal to the masses despite the fact that the ruling party leadership never gets tired of dubbing the opposition as bunch of looters and plunderers who are out to get NRO, which it says would never be given. The Government seems to be detached with the ground realities as some of its policies and actions are providing fuel to the fire that the opposition plans to ignite to realize its ultimate objective of bringing about a political change. Almost all leaders including Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto, Maryam Nawaz and Fazlur Rehman understandably focused on price-hike and unemployment, issues that have become number one concern of the people. No doubt, the Government is seized with the issue of inflation and holds frequent meetings to devise strategies to check the menace but so far it has not been able to manage things as per expectations of the people. The opposition could exploit these problems of the people further if the ruling party did not act on an urgent basis to provide meaningful relief to the masses. The Opposition has launched its movement against the Government at a time when other segments of the society too are out on the road to agitate their grievances. Clerks and teachers are already staging protests against plans of the Government regarding increments, pension and retirement age besides some of the aspects of the civil service reforms. Government servants are also irked due to inability of the Government to increase pay and pension despite a record increase in inflation, putting extra-burden on household budgets. Provision of some genuine relief to the people and progress towards good governance can deprive the opposition of propaganda tools that it uses at the moment against the Government.  

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