Anti-state speeches, slogans and a massive crowd; opposition leaders called out administration, government officials and some ex-official(s) for incompetence and corruption.
Background: Pakistan Democratic Movement, is an opposition-led coalition of 11 political parties. They have planned to organize six major rallies across the country until December and eventually a long march in January 2021. Their first public power show/rally was held in Gujranwala on Friday. Opposition believes that this movement is a crucial referendum against the ineffectual government.
In Jinnah Stadium, Gujranwala, three major parties leaders i.e. PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and JUI-F Chief Fazlur Rehman as president of PDM has one major demand;
“PTI-government should held fresh election until December”
What they said: Fiery speeches were the highlights of the event. Opposition hit back at the government on failed promises and flawed policies. While Bilawal Bhutto heavily criticized government officials for increased prices of commodities and questioned the credibility of “selected” prime minister; Maryam Nawaz took an intense stance against the military and ex-generals for making a private fortune out of public taxes. Ex-Prime Minister, Nawaz Shareef also addressed the rally via a video link from London. Nawaz directly addressed the military for “installing” Imran Khan as prime minister during the election of 2018. Fazlur Rehman took a religious route and called the government a “threat” to Islamic essence of Pakistani Democracy. He further addressed the Gilgit-Baltistan Status and government proposal of making it a province when it is a part of AJK. He equated this proposal as a justification of Indian Occupied Jammu Kashmir.
What was censored: Despite many speeches being given (almost) equal airtime but still some parts of speeches were blatantly censored. For instance, during Maryam Nawaz speech she called out the ex-general magically produced fortune in the United States but when she mentioned the name of the army general PTA immediately muted the speech. This continued until she started another topic: censorship is becoming a common state strategy for handling certain problems. Back in the 1960s, a French philosopher Michel Foucault identified this state approach as a form of indirect and invisible violence to curb conflict Contrary to direct violence such as use of force, this method is more subtle and has long lasting effects. In the context of Pakistan this indirect method is clearly working to filter the content and restricting dissent.
What’s next: Opposition power show in Gujranwala was first of many upcoming rallies (according to opposition) under the flag of Pakistan Democratic Movement. It will be little early to say that this movement might turn over the fate of the sitting government. But we infer few things from this
· Political parties can mobilize people but only if their mandate is not a coward leader
· Change in Pakistan’s political culture is a necessity now
· Corrupt and manipulative hegemonies has to go
· Political dynasties or Fundamentalists cannot be an ideal savior of democracy
· Censorship will bear intolerance and biasness.