EVEN as the results for the 2018 general election were trickling in, Maulana Fazlur Rahman knew that he would be ‘soon’ running a campaign to dislodge the Imran Khan government that had not yet been formed. He alleged, amid a slight nod of approval by well-wishers and some independent observers, that the JUI-F had been hard done by in the polls. He must have also intuitively understood that if he decided to not protest against what he calls a ‘fake’ government, his party risked being eliminated in its old bastion of KP. One year later, at the end of a JUI-F executive council meeting in the capital, he is sticking to his guns. He has threatened a ‘decisive’ long march in October to remove the Khan government, and expects the opposition parties to join him at a politically inopportune moment when the country is locked in a tense stand-off with India. Maulana Fazlur Rehman has warned the government against any attempt at disrupting the opposition move, his words of caution coming in the wake of an interview with Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, who took a swipe at the opposition’s ‘long march’, predicting that the procession would not be able to cross Attock, and that people themselves would stop the protesters with force.
Having fulfilled the formality of delivering a crushing riposte to the minister, Maulana Fazlur Rehman will try to build momentum towards the October action after Ashura. This is the time of the year when, with the hottest of the summer months behind them, the politicians start fluttering about, readying themselves for combat. The JUI-F chief may have this in mind. He is also right in implicitly conveying that from among the various players out there, the JUI-F has the organisational skills to bring out the numbers on the roads. The crucial aspect he must give some thought to, however, is whether a big enough section of the people are ready to take part in or endorse yet another oust-the-government move? He may look to Mr Khan’s long dharna for inspiration but must also keep in mind the sit-in of Dr Tahirul Qadri, who gathered the crowds around him, but lacked the support of crucial political ‘elements’.
Above all, is the opposition ready to launch such a big movement? It could try and test the waters by picking up issues to protest, before it gets down to discussing Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s October revolution in earnest. There are so many issues, such as the one-sidedness of the accountability drive or the controversial appointments to the ECP, that need the opposition’s attention. The ‘joint’ opposition should be sufficiently chastened by the stunning defeat of its move to topple the Senate chairman recently, and bear in mind that it could be courting a disaster if it is unprepared and irresolute.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2019