Turmoil in Pakistan as firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman selected anti-government alliance chief

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Islamabad: Firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been unanimously appointed as the chief of the newly-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). The PDM is an anti-government alliance launched by 11 opposition parties to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan. The opposition parties have been clamouring for the removal of Khan for the last few months.

The decision to appoint Rehman was taken Saturday during a virtual meeting of the opposition parties. It was attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Others who attended the meeting were Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Balochistan National Party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal plus other senior politicians.

According to PDM’s steering committee convener Ahsan Iqbal, it was Sharif who proposed 67-year-old Rehman’s name as the alliance president. It was endorsed by PPP chairman Bilawal and others, the ‘Dawn’ newspaper reported.

Sharif had initially proposed that Rehman should be appointed as the president on a permanent basis. However, the idea was opposed by Bilawal and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Amir Haider Hoti. They suggested that the office should be given on a rotational basis to leaders of the constituent parties, the paper reported, citing sources.

There was an agreement among the leaders that Rehman should lead the PDM in the first phase. He had already led a demonstration, dubbed as ‘Azadi March’, against the present Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government last year.

“The Maulana has already done a rehearsal and his party is more disciplined. It has the ability to effectively mobilise the masses. Therefore, in the first and decisive phase, he is the best choice,” said one of the participants in the meeting.

Science and Technology minister Fawad Chaudhry said it was a sad day for Pakistan that an ‘extremist Mullah’ with ties to terrorist groups is selected to lead the opposition movement.

“Sad Day for Pakistan. An extremist Mullah considered Close to terrorist groups of Afghanistan is selected to lead opposition movement against Government,” Chaudhry tweeted.

Rehman’s nomination to lead the movement came only a week before the formal launch of the anti-government campaign by the Opposition parties with PDM’s first public meeting scheduled for October 11 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.

Iqbal said it had been decided that the three major parties in the 11-party alliance would share the three top offices of the PDM on a rotational basis. The offices of senior vice-president and the general secretary of the PDM would be given to the PML-N and the PPP.

Sharif has alleged that the military had rigged the 2018 vote that brought Imran Khan to power. The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

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