New Delhi: The National Democratic Movement (NDM), a new political party under the leadership of Pashtun leader Mohsin Dawar, was formally launched in Peshawar Wednesday. The outfit seeks to promote a federal democratic parliamentary system and resist “growing militarisation” in the country.
Mohammad Taqi, writer and former columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times, and many others congratulated the party. “Good, decent people coming together to form a progressive political party should be welcome,” said Taqi.
The NDM’s central organising committee consists of Dawar as central organiser, Muzamil Shah as general secretary, Jamila Gilani as information secretary or spokesperson, and others such as Abdullah Nangyal and Ibrahim Khan.
Dawar, Gilani and Nangyal have been prominent players in the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) — a civil rights group in Pakistan representing the persecuted minority group of Pashtuns which is not a registered political party. With the NDM’s launch, local reports say there are concerns about the future of PTM.
“Disgruntled” leaders from the Awami National Party (ANP), such as Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Abdul Latif Afridi, along with rights activists and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party workers have joined the NDM too. Afridi, Gohar and Gillani were earlier expelled from ANP for ‘violating discipline’.
The party’s launch comes in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan and growing concerns about the stability of the region following the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops.
Party manifesto & immediate challenges
The party announced its central organising committee members, its manifesto and even established its red-and-black coloured flag Wednesday.
According to the party’s manifesto, as reported by Lahore-based weekly Friday Times, 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”.
It also envisions a “genuine” federal parliamentary democracy, said Dawar. At the press conference, leaders vowed to focus on provincial autonomy, inclusion of youth in national affairs, allocating funds to education, health and human development.
Speaking to reporters in Peshawar, Dawar said the NDM is currently working towards constituting its provincial units and establishing its presence at the district level.
The party also called for an impartial and tolerant society in which all citizens can enjoy equal rights. It further hopes to “eliminate unproductive expenditure by reviewing spending priorities and will spend maximum resources on education, health and human development,” states the manifesto, according to local reports.
Faced with its first challenge, NDM Thursday called for the release of party member Abbas Orakzay, who was allegedly arrested in Kohat after the press conference in Peshawar.
The #NationalDemocraticMovement demands the immediate release of our member @AbbasOrakzay who has been arrested in Kohat after attending the party's press conference in Peshawar. Harassment and arrests will not deter our party's members from their struggle for our people. https://t.co/kJ4qxJs5IQ
— National Democratic Movement (@NationalDemMovt) September 1, 2021
Protest to political movement
PTM began in 2014 as a large protest organised by students in response to the death of a young Pashtun, Naqeebullah Mehsud, during an extrajudicial police encounter in Karachi. It has since morphed into a larger rights movement in Pakistan.
PTM’s demands included recovery of missing persons, ending harassment of Pashtuns at checkpoints, and setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also criticised the country’s military establishment.
A Pakistan government report in August accused the group of amplifying “anti-state” ideas along with the help of dissidents.
However, with Dawar, a vocal PTM leader and his colleagues forming NDM, local reports say there are concerns about the future of the Pashtun movement.
In June this year, Samaa reported about disagreements between Dawar and PTM founder Manzoor Pashteen. When Dawar announced his plans of launching PTM at that time, Dawar said he created NDM knowing that PTM, from its inception, vowed to be a non-parliamentary movement. Dawar also said he will remain a member of PTM.
“I formed PTM, I cannot quit it,” he said, according to Samaa. “PTM is a separate movement while the new party has its own goals.”
A Pakistan Today report, quoting an unnamed source, said Pashteen would not be a part of the NDM.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)