Bilawal steps aside

A rift has emerged within the PDM as PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has distanced himself from the aggressive stance taken by Nawaz Sharif against state institutions. The move was widely anticipated as the PPP cannot afford to worsen its relationship with the military to the detriment of its political future.

Bilawal said he was shocked to hear Nawaz Sharif directly accusing the military leadership of his ouster during the PDM’s first rally in Gujranwala. He said it was the personal decision of thePML-N and the former prime minister to blame the army as the PPP does not discuss such issues openly. He stated that the narrative was not even part of the APC’s agenda which had decided not to mention anyone specifically and rather blame the establishment. Instead, Nawaz Sharif went on rhetoric after which the PPP stepped aside rather than confront the military.

The statement was widely expected as the PDM’s allies cannot afford the anti-state narrative. It could also be an attempt to isolate the PML-N. Even the JUI-F is not supportive of the narrative and many senior party leaders have slowly started to distance them. In such a situation, it is more likely that the PDM will fall on its own weight and wither away.

Bilawal has played a smart maneuver by distancing himself. He personally attended the Gujranwala rally but the PDM’s second rally in Karachi, which the PPP hosted, did not have Nawaz Sharif’s speech. Bilawal then skipped the Quetta rally, excusing himself for election campaigning in Gilgit-Baltistan, and instead addressed via video link. This clearly hinted that the PPP would gradually back out from the PDM just before the situation escalates further.

The next rally of the PDM in Peshawar is in jeopardy not only due to the coronavirus pandemic but also since the PML-N may face defections from local leaders. The PDM was formed for the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government but changed tracks with an all-out onslaught on the armed forces. This was seen as crossing several red lines and eventually the PPP had to step aside.

Bilawal said he is committed to the PDM but wants the government’s ouster in a democratic and peaceful manner. He said that a weak democracy is better than a dictatorship. But instead the PDM has been weakened and Imran Khan’s government has been handed another lifeline.

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