ISLAMABAD: The central executive committee of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) meets here on Thursday (today) to consider Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s proposal of deferring until November the planned ‘long march’.

This was announced by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal while speaking at a joint press conference after a PML-N delegation called on the former to formally convey its request.

Mr Iqbal said the PML-N delegation has sought time to enable it to mobilise workers so that the party could actively participate in the march. He said PML-N also expressed its desire to take along the entire opposition to make the march a powerful event and yield better results. He said the Maulana has said that the request will be shared with the central executive committee of the party, due to meet today.

The meeting took place a day after PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on opposition leader in the National Assembly and PML-N president Mian Shahbaz Sharif, where the leaders of two major opposition parties decided that Bilawal and the senior PML-N leadership would meet Maulana Fazlur Rehman to convince him to delay the Azadi March till November and convene an ‘all-parties conference’ of the opposition to formulate a consensus charter of demands. Mr Bhutto-Zardari is likely to meet the JUI-F chief in a couple of days.

Mr Iqbal said that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif will be informed about the proceedings of party’s central executive committee and declared that the latter’s decision would be the final word.

Answering a question he made it clear that the PML-N was not seeking to delay the Azadi March to strike a behind-the-scenes deal with the government in the intervening period, saying that such talk was tantamount to contempt in view of the “invaluable sacrifices” the party had been rendering. “We have a deal with the Constitution and the people of Pakistan”, he remarked.

Criticising the government for what he called a witch-hunt of political rivals, and failure on all fronts, including the economy, he said the situation has been taken to a stage where the army chief has to hold dialogue with businessmen and traders. “The government has become a threat for the country”, he commented.

Mr Iqbal said that when questions are asked over the government’s failure on different fronts, the prime minister responds by saying that he will not give an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]. “Nobody is asking for an NRO, nor is the prime minister in a position to give it”, he remarked, adding that real change was imperative for steering the country out of this challenging situation. He said that the entire opposition was in consensus that getting rid of the PTI led government had become inevitable.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman also talked about the “drowning economy” and “sky-rocketing price hike”, saying that the common man finds it difficult to make both ends meet. He said the young were disappointed as they feel their future dark, and that traders were being compelled to shut down their businesses.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2019