Pakistan Reader# 195, 6 September 2021
The National Democratic Movement aims to forge greater unity among the oppressed ethnic groups of society by promoting a secular federal democratic parliamentary systemAbigail Miriam Fernandez
On 1 September 2021, MNA Mohsin Dawar of North Waziristan tribal district along with several other nationalist leaders announced the launch of a new political party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM). The launch of NDM came after months of deliberations and consultations intending to promote a secular federal democratic parliamentary system in the country.
According to the manifesto, the NDM seeks “to establish a just, peaceful, tolerant and humane society in which citizens enjoy fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and protection of the law.” Additionally, the manifesto reads, “Pakistan is a multinational, multilingual, multicultural and multi-religious country with various units of historical identity and consciousness that must be acknowledged and recognized. Our party will strive to establish a new development agreement between all provinces…the aim of which will be to establish a just system based on equality… and to devise a power-sharing system based on political consensus and a decentralized federal system.”
Dawar said, “There is a great need of a national party which is democratic in nature because all other parties in the past have taken dictations. Our party is a democratic one and we will give all organizations in the country their due rights.” He added, “our political leaders will be a key part of our movement. The youth have not been given real representation in politics and political parties. We will elect a council to determine future leadership.” Further, while announcing the basic principles of the party he said that the NDM would forge greater alliance and unity among the oppressed ethnic groups of society, arguing that political workers in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa felt a ‘political vacuum’ which is why a new democratic force was needed.
The party’s central organizing committee includes Mohsin Dawar as central organizer, Jamila Gilani as information secretary, Muzamil Shah as general secretary, Abdullah Nangyal, Ibrahim Khan, Haroon Bazai, Anwar Sulemankhel, Aijaz Aslam and Tariq Wazir Khan.
What will happen to the PTM?
Dawar dismissed the notion that the NDM would be a setback for the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). He said, “The PTM is a joint movement and we remained part of it. I don’t think that the NDM will weaken the PTM,” adding that the NDM would support the movement. According to Pakistan Today, during several meetings, the NDM leaders, including Dawar, tried to persuade PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen to join the new political party, however, he vehemently refused. This is a possibility given that the PTM since its inception took on a non-parliamentary route, which has been the bone of contention between Dawar and Pashteen.
Both share opposite views on the matter, Dawar is certain that the PTM’s demands are right, however, he believes that he and his allies needed a platform for parliamentary politics, which was not possible with PTM. Conversely, Pashteen believes that changing the movement to a political party will affect the PTM’s influence and popularity, arguing that the main objective of the movement is to solve the issues of people affected by security operations and to restore peace in the Pakhtun belt, especially tribal areas.
Although the formation of NDM formalises a split of the PTM’s leadership and support base, it is unlikely that the Pakhtun movement at large would see any setback for two reasons. First, the movement in itself is an amalgamation of political and non-political persons, thus support for the movement will continue.
Second, Dawar in principle has made clear his support for the movement, given that he has been one of the most vocal leaders of the PTM, seeing a decline in support is unlikely.
What will be the impact of NDM?
With the formation of the NDM, other political parties such as the ANP and other parties in the province will now have a new rival. Thus, these parties are now posed with the challenge and will have to adjust their political positioning in order to counter the NDM.
For the NDM itself, which has promised a ‘secular federal democratic parliamentary system’ and representation for ‘oppressed ethnic groupings’ will be able to garner support from the public. However, the challenges lie in the fact that many of the party’s leaders are those who have been targets of the establishment and marginalised from the mainstream political discourse. Thus, with the party coming into mainstream politics, it is likely that the targeting will continue. Additionally, the timing of the party’s formation is also significant both domestically and regionally with the local elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa scheduled for this year and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Thus, the NDM will have to find its space amid the current developments and already established political thinking that dominates the province.
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