September 9th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
On September 1st, 2021, Member of the National Assembly (MNA) and vocal rights activist Mohsin Dawar sat down with an amalgam of young political workers and veteran political leaders and announced the formation of a new secular, federalist and democratic political party called the National Democratic Movement (NDM).
Dawar was flanked by popular political figures including former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, member of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Abdullah Nangiyal, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) Latif Afridi, and former member of Parliament Bushra Gohar. All senior participants occupying the stage were adamant on one point: “the purpose behind the creation of NDM is to provide a political platform to the progressive youth of Pakistan.”
Voicepk.net sat down with one such youth member, the Central General Secretary of the NDM, Muzamil Shah to talk about the party’s core ideology, plans for the future, and – most importantly – the string of controversies that have surrounded the nascent organization.
“The NDM is a political party formed on the principles of economic justice and social equality, in addition to that our major focus is going to be on fighting for the rights of Pakistan’s oppressed ethnic minorities. We want to fight for the cultural, linguistic, and economic rights of the smaller provinces to ensure that Pakistan is not merely a federation in name,” begins Muzamil Shah.
He acknowledges the achievement of previous political actors in having passed important laws such as the 18th amendment which have played a vital role in addressing the deprivations of the citizens of smaller provinces but he believes that there is still a long way to go and NDM as a platform will carry on this struggle for greater provincial autonomy.
Addressing the rumors that Mohsin Dawar’s move to formulate a new political party is indicative of major splits between the core leadership of the PTM, Muzamil says that “The PTM is a not a political party per se. It is a social movement. It does not plan to contest elections. So I think there is no clash. The newly formed constitution of the PTM states that any individual who is a member of a political party cannot hold a decision-making position in the movement’s internal structure and we respect that. Even before the formation of NDM, almost all our members including Mohsin Dawar were members of other political parties such as the Awami National Party (ANP) so I think nothing new has happened. We completely stand with the 5-point charter of the PTM even now and will support them in any campaign directed towards the achievement of these 5 points.”
The formation of the NDM did not happen in a few days or even weeks. Talks about the formation of such a party have been around for over a year now. Smaller progressive groups not just in the KP but other major areas of Pakistan including Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi were also in talks with the (now) NDM leadership and were expected to join the party but this did not materialize. Instead, the NDM primarily consists of Pashtun citizens who were previously affiliated with the ANP. Muzamil agrees that such negotiations were and still are taking place so that NDM can become a truly national political platform.
“I think the biggest and most fundamental difference was our position on Afghanistan. Several leftist groups including those from Punjab felt like they could not take such a firm stance on the current situation in Afghanistan. But we are still trying to get them on board. Even if they do not join our party we can still work together and make on the ground alliances,” explains Muzamil.
All in all, Muzamil believes that the NDM will be able to fill the political gap formed due to the decline of traditional Nationalist and Progressive political forces. But he does insist that this is going to be a long process “Right now we have only announced our federal structure. Afterward, we will announce the provincial and district structures and so on. For the time being, we have an ideology that has appeal in the masses but not a political network as such. That I think will take time. But I invite the progressives of all provinces of Pakistan to come to use the platform of our party to raise voices for their concerns. We will stand with you,” he concludes.