Ball’s in PDM’s court


It seems that the 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has some repair work to do to regain some of the momentum that it built with its first few rallies. The press is clearly not going to stop speculating about the deeper meaning behind PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto’s remarks just last week, when he tried to distance himself from former prime minister Nawaz Sharirf’s accusations that have since drawn allegations of treason from the government. Things would have been a lot clearer if the Gilgit-Baltistan elections hadn’t forced everybody to go there and a gap hadn’t appeared in what clearly a very successful string of protest rallies.
PML-N has tried to paper over the cracks, which is natural, but the grapevine is still overflowing with all sorts of likely scenarios, the most dominant theme being that Bilawal has somehow been talked out of the whole thing by those who have the ability to move some of the more important pieces over the chessboard that is the Pakistani political scene at the moment. One would have thought that the Bilawal Bhutto-Maryam Nawaz meeting a couple of days ago would have put the matter to rest, but a lot more clearly needs to be done. Most likely the alliance is waiting for its next outing to make another show of unity and force. But that plan might run into some unexpected headwinds as well.
No manner of political slugfests should let us forget that the coronavirus is still spreading at a very rapid pace and, if not checked very forcefully, it will overwhelm the state sooner rather than later. Almost all hospitals in all major cities are all but back to full capacity already, and the administration seems lost about accommodating many more patients that are sure to come. This will make the economy tank as well. So to check the spread the government is well within its rights to use it as a card and stop any more rallies till the situation improves. The government would appear politically correct no matter how much the opposition disputes such a decision. So, if that route is really taken, the opposition alliance will be forced to be a little more proactive and come up with other ways of showing unity. Otherwise it would risk losing the initiative at a very important stage and then it would become very difficult to rally disgruntled party workers again when needed.