There were no winners or losers in last Sunday’s meeting in Lahore, convened by the Opposition parties in Pakistan under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Movement. Ostensibly, the objective was to debunk the governance of Imran Khan.
He has binned the meeting as “pathetic”, an epithet that arguably applies as much to his prime ministership since July 2018. And yet, quite the most robust assertion was his rejection of the National Reconciliation Ordinance to save what he calls their “looted wealth”. “All this,” he said, “was just to blackmail me into giving them an NRO to protect themselves. Let me once again reiterate: I will never give an NRO,” the Prime Minister said in his immediate response to the agitprop.
The demand and rejection of the ordinance, as demanded by his detractors, is perhaps a pointer to the extent of the canker of corruption that has permeated the system. “Whatever future plans of further blackmail the PDM may have, my message is categorical. There will never be an NRO from my government no matter what tactics the looters devise,” the premier said.
The PDM had organined its sixth power-show at the historical Minar-i-Pakistan where the leadership of the alliance had lampooned the Prime Minister and his government. Well might the organisers call the meeting decisive and historic but it was neither.
The Opposition threat to offer resignations en masse from the national assembly, and thus force fresh elections, appeared to have been abandoned. After occupying political centre stage for days, the issue was expected to come to a boil on Sunday, In the event, the Opposition appeared to have had second thoughts.
The ruling class in Pakistan has been no stranger to such movements ever since Mohammed Ali Jinnah played the country’s midwife in 1947.
Sunday’s performance by the Opposition was a feeble rerun to expose an ugly truth, indeed the core issue that Imran Khan hasn’t categorically denied. On closer reflection, he has merely turned down the Opposition demand for a self-defence mechanism.
No more and no less. The gathering incurred disdain from ministers as well. Planning Minister Asad Umar said: “In [a] speech in the opposition’s Karachi gathering, [they] rejected Urdu as the national language, today in a speech Punjabis were declared as the partners of the English. Insulting Pakistan’s institutions, repeating Indian narrative in speeches, violating the sanctity of Quaid’s mausoleum; what path have they taken to save their stolen wealth?”