Battleground Gujranwala-the first power show of PDM is underway

Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz on their way to Gujranwala leading huge rallies


Both the Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz are on their way to Gujranwala leading hue rallies. Bilawal Bhutto started his journey towards Gujranwala from Lalamusa through the GT Road. While Maryam started her journey from Lahore on GT Road from the other side. Both will converge at Gujranwala to address the large crowd already gather in the Jinnah stadium. 
There are between 50,000 to 60,000 workers of PDM already in the stadium. the numbers can swelled to more than 70,000. It is really an impressive show. Despite all the intimidation and harassment from police, PDM has been able to put up a good show. A good beginning of a long struggle. 
 
The local administration finally gives permission to the PDM to hold its public gathering at the local stadium. This permission comes after the opposition leaders announced to hold their Jalsa at the G T road.

The Gujranwala show is important for both PDM and the government. If PDM succeeded to mobilise its workers and supporters in huge numbers then it will provide much needed boost to PDM’s protest movement.

It will not just be the battle of power, popularity and strength but also a battle of narratives. Imran khan and PTI did well when they were in the opposition. But they are now on the receiving end.

The political battle has begun between the PTI government and opposition alliance PDM. The government will do whatever it may takes to retain the power while opposition will try to dislodge it through street power.

Political polarisation and temperatures will rise in coming months as the opposition protest movement will picks up the momentum and government will try to stop it becoming a threat for the government.

One like it or not, but the powers that be will take the centre stage in this battle. Their role will become increasingly crucial in the final outcome of this power struggle. The PTI government will not be able to survive long without the support of powers that be. The opposition cannot bring down this government without neutralising them.

It will be interesting to see how the movers and shakers of Pakistani power structure will act in the coming period.   

Whether the opposition will succeed to send the PTI government home or it will survive the opposition onslaught is too early to predict at this stage. The political uncertainty and polarisation is not good news for the already struggling economy.

From IMF to World Bank the international financial intuitions are predicting low GDP growth rate and high inflation during the current financial year and next one.

The PTI cannot provide promised jobs, houses and bring down the rising poverty and unemployment with 0.5% or 1% GDP growth rate. Even 2% growth is not going to make a huge difference.

To make matters worse for the government, the coronavirus cases have started to rise and many experts are talking about a second wave. The economic situation is the most worrying thing for the PTI government.

It is becoming more and more difficult for the PTI government to defend its economic performance so far. Blaming the opposition for poor economic performance is not working any more.

It will be difficult for the PTI to win the battle of narratives just to target the opposition. This narrative worked well for PTI when it was in the opposition or even when it comes into power. But after two years of rule, many people are not ready to buy the PTI arguments and narrative.

A massive public gathering in Gujranwala will put lot of pressure on the PTI government. Whatever the army of government spokesman and ministers are saying in their daily press conferences about the PDM and its leadership, the matter of fact is that government seems nervous.

The failure to tackle the price hike and rising inflation has already put lot of pressure on the government. An impressive opposition show will increase the pressure on the government. Pressure will mount on the government to improve its performance. The poor governance should be the main cause of concern for the Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team.

The government so far handles the situation cleverly. The Prime Minister announced to give free hand to opposition but local police and administration continue to harass and intimidate the opposition activists.

The police didn’t target the prominent leaders and known figures of the PDM instead it went for less known activists. It allows some corner meetings to take place but stop stopped others for violating the rules and laws. The main purpose of this strategy seems to be to create the confusion among the opposition ranks.

The tactics of intimidation and harassment aimed at the people who are not die hard political activists but provide support. It creates the impression that police might launch crackdown against opposition supporters.

Such tactics failed to intimidate and harass the committed political activists. In my view, opposition will be able to put up an impressive show. The police intimidation and harassment might not work under these circumstances.        

The local administration pulls down the flexes and hoardings of PDM not only in Gujranwala but also in Lahore and other districts. 

The opposition alliance has chosen Gujranwala to test the waters in Punjab. The selection of Gujranwala as the first venue of opposition show was a smart move. Gujranwala is the stronghold of PML-N.

PML-N won all the national and provincial assembly seats from Gujranwala district in 2018 general elections. PML-N won all the national assembly seats from neighbouring districts of Narowal and Sialkot. So PML-N can pull large crowd from these districts. Lahore is also not far away from Gujranwala.

Maryam Nawaz expected to lead a rally from Lahore to Gujranwala. The Maryam Nawaz led rally will help to mobilise the PML-N activists and supporters on the both sides of GT road from Lahore to Gujranwala.



PML-N is mobilising its forces from Lahore. PPP is also mobilising its forces in Central Punjab. Gujranwala was used to be the stronghold of PPP before it went over to PML-N. PPP wants to regain the lost ground in Punjab.

The formation of 11 parties’ opposition alliance PDM was the first success of opposition parties. The disunity and division among the opposition parties was a blessing for PTI government in last two years. The government has the smooth sailing so far due to the divided opposition. The opposition failed to pose serious challenge to the government both inside and outside the parliament.

If the opposition forces kept its unity intact in coming period then it will pose serious trouble and problems for the PTI government in coming months. The PTI government will face a united and highly aggressive opposition for the first time.

Will the opposition succeed to bring down the government in January 2021 is too early to predict. This mainly depends on two factors. First, the ability of opposition forces to mobilise its supporters and public in big numbers and second the performance of PTI government in coming months.

The opposition will challenge the claims and narrative of the government regarding its performance. The opposition will build a narrative that this PTI government is not capable to deal with the economic crisis.

It will be a long drawn battle between PTI and its allies on one hand and aggressive and charged opposition on the other hand. The main challenge for opposition would be to maintain its unity and alliance on a common agenda and political strategy.

                                      Khalid Bhatti 

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