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The PDM has not been very impactful in the last few months and therefore the maulana’s emphasis that the scheduled march on the capital means that the opposition wants to keep the threat of street pressure alive on the government while it focuses on launching an attack via the parliamentary route. Maulana Fazl was the most vociferous proponent of resigning from the assemblies but he has now also said that PDM is no more interested in that option, and instead, wants to leverage the strength of parliament to oust the PTI government. This is also a major development as it signals that the PDM member parties have finally come around to accepting the viewpoint propagated by the PPP early last year.

All these developments come in the wake of reports that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif may be planning a return from London. His senior party colleagues have started dropping broad hints in this regard, as a result of which the government has also become vocal in saying that it will approach the court to force Mr Sharif to return to Pakistan and serve the rest of his prison sentence.

The government is facing added pressure from the finance bill that it must pass through parliament in order to re-enter the IMF programme. Its thin parliamentary majority in the National Assembly could undergo significant stress when the bill is voted upon. In this respect, it makes political sense for the PDM to keep the threat of a march on the capital alive even though the extended date given for it suggests that the PDM may be more interested in using this threat as a bargaining chip as opposed to actually going through with it.

If the opposition plans to follow the parliamentary route to bring down the PTI government, as the maulana has suggested, then the success or failure of this endeavour will become apparent in the coming few weeks. However, if for some reason this does not work out, the PDM may use the long march as an added pressure point against the government at a time when inflation would be peaking due to the withdrawal of subsidies in the finance bill. The government finds itself with very few good options while the opposition appears to be gaining confidence. The period between now and the scheduled march will determine where national politics is heading.

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