National Democratic Movement: An Alliance Of The Oppressed

The launch of the National Democratic Movement (NDM) was announced in a press conference in Peshawar on September 1, 2021.

The party’s central organizing committee is led by Mohsin Dawar, a parliamentarian from North Waziristan and includes Muzammil Shah from Quetta has general secretary, Jamila Gilani as information secretary and Abdullah Nangyal, Anwar Sulemankhel, Tariq Wazir, Haroon Bazai, Ejaz Aslam and Ibrahim Khan as members. The party’s manifesto was also announced at the launch and is available on the party’s social media accounts.

September 1 was a historic day for many of us. Formal consultations for the formation of the party had been underway since December 2020. Several consultations were held in Peshawar, Islamabad, Quetta, Karachi and Lahore with political workers, human rights activists, journalists and lawyers. The purpose of these consultations was to reach out to likeminded individuals and groups and to discuss the need for a new progressive party and the way forward in the current political circumstances.

The names for the central organizing committee of the NDM were finalized in these consultations before the official announcement of the party.

The newly-formed NDM is the only youth-led political initiative which aspires to be a platform for young people across the country. The NDM is unique because of this characteristic; while there is a lot of talk of engaging the youth in politics, not much has been done to make it a reality.

Existing political parties usually limit their young cadres to student and youth wings. They are not given adequate representation in decision making forums. Their perspectives and political opinions are not considered important and they are left out in the formation of policies, many of which impact them directly.

The NDM hopes to change these attitudes by challenging the existing political frameworks that relegate the youth to certain predetermined roles that limit the potential which they have to offer. At the core of the NDM are young political activists and leaders from Waziristan and other parts of ex-FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who have seen and experienced the impact of some of the state’s problematic and flawed domestic security and foreign policies and they have faced the consequences of extremism and terrorism in the region.

Despite their circumstances, they have chosen to seek their rights and justice for the atrocities committed against our people through a peaceful and non-violent political struggle. The NDM provides these young people a platform to organize this struggle further.

The party is also working on engaging female activists and leaders. No political venture can be successful without involving women. The NDM will is reaching out to women across the country and it is hoped that more young women will step forward and play a central in planning the party’s core policies.

Contrary to the speculations doing the rounds about the NDM being a reincarnation of the Awami National Party (ANP), the party aspires to be like the National Awami Party (NAP) of the 1960s and 1970s by accepting, acknowledging and owning the cultural, historical and political diversity in the country. The party hopes to reach out to and include political activists and leaders from every ethnic group in the country. We hope to learn from the experiences of NAP and we hope to work on building an alliance of the oppressed. Many of us who have remained involved in the process of the formation of the party have felt that there is a need to follow the examples of the best of what the NAP had to offer in the current times. The political realities of Pakistan and the region have become harsher. The spaces for freedom of expression and association and other fundamental freedoms continue to shrink and the existing mainstream political setups have made several compromises with undemocratic forces in the country that have cost the people many of their social and political rights.

Extremism continues to spread rapidly and progressive voices remain under attack. With the takeover of Afghanistan in the recent weeks, it is expected that impunity that is exercised by undemocratic forces in Pakistan, who support the Taliban, to increase. It is within this context that the NDM hopes to provide a platform to progressive and liberal voices in the country, regardless of their ethnic, religious, social and economic backgrounds.

The NDM’s biggest advantage is that it does not have the political baggage of compromises that many of the other mainstream political parties are burdened with.

The party is not bound by the limitations that have forced others to remain silent when the people suffered through some of the worst possible situations, including the outsourcing of our areas and lands to conglomerates of terrorist networks, the destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods, the growing menace of extremism and the impact of terrorism, the displacement of thousands of people because of the War on Terror and the takeover of democratic processes by undemocratic forces, resulting in the weakening of civilian and democratic institutions.

The NDM is an invitation to young political workers across the country to mobilize and organize on issues that not only impact their day to day lives, but also those that determine their future. It is hoped that by harnessing the energy and the aspirations of a new generation of young political people, the party will make a dent in the course of history.

The writer is a member of the National Democratic Movement (NDM).