PPP, PML-N's position uncertain as Fazl announces 'Azadi March' against govt on October 27

Updated October 03, 2019

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JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam - Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced on Thursday that the party will begin its anti-government 'Azadi March' on October 27.

"The current government is the result of a fake election and fake results," said Rehman during a press conference.

The PPP and PML-N, who along with the JUI-F had been holding near-daily meetings with each other to debate the anti-government action to be taken, have yet to indicate whether they will join the march on Oct 27.

The JUI-F chief said that all opposition parties had rejected the July 25, 2018 elections and had called for fresh elections. "In this regard, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal have carried out 15 'million marches' in the country to raise awareness among the people," he said.

"As a result of this illegal government and its incompetencies, the country's economy has sunk [...] traders have shut down businesses as a result of heavy taxation. The Muslims of Pakistan are in anguish over the state of religion in the country," he continued.

He said a meeting of JUI-F members was held today in which it was decided that on October 27 — the day celebrated by Kashmiris across the world as Black Day — the party will express complete solidarity with Kashmiris and with those demonstrations, a march on Islamabad will begin.

"This will be an Azadi march. Groups of people from all over the country will embark on this journey which will culminate in Islamabad, where we will send the government packing," he said.

"We will gather at D-Chowk," he said, adding, "We are not ones to disperse easily."

The JUI-F chief rejected the impression that he was "going solo" and said that the party is "in touch with all the other parties and making decisions in consultation with them".

"We met Bilawal Bhutto sahib today and some very positive developments took place during our meeting. You must have see the PML-N delegation speak about our meeting yesterday. Some positive developments took place then, as well."

When asked by reporters whether the PPP and PML-N will also participate in the sit-in alongside JUI-F or only the march that day, Rehman responded by saying: "The entire country is showing up. The trader community will be there. Doctors, lawyers are coming. We are in direct contact with people from all walks of life. I can speak for the readiness all these people have shown."

A reporter then pressed the JUI-F chief on whether the above-mentioned people will include representatives from the PPP and PML-N, to which he said, "InshaAllah" (God willing).

To a question regarding the one demand from which the party will not budge during the sit-in, Rehman stressed that the protest will continue "until the government steps down".

Rehman smilingly brushed aside a mention of Shaikh Rasheed's attempts to dissuade him from coming to Islamabad owing to a breakout of dengue in the city, saying, "We have no business with dengue." He then twisted the word to mockingly refer to the prime minister with whom "our only concern lies".

"We have no intention of making any changes and no one is asking us to change anything either," he declared.

The JUI-F chief said the party will also work towards bringing in election reforms so a more transparent process is carried out for the "new elections".

PPP to 'work out' extent of participation

A statement issued by the PPP said that party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has "welcomed the announcement of [a] march by Maulana Fazlur Rehman towards Islamabad on the 27th".

"It was agreed upon in principle between both leaders that the PTI government’s failure in addressing core issues confronting the nation has left the opposition with no choice but to take to streets," said Bilawal's spokesperson Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar in the statement.

According to the statement, Bilawal has convened a meeting of the PPP core committee next week in Islamabad, during which "the extent to which and modalities of how PPP can support the march" will be worked out.

The PML-N has not issued a statement on the matter.

Bulletproof containers ready

According to a source within the JUI-F, who wished to remain anonymous, four containers have been prepared for the sit-in against the government.

"Work involving the decoration and furnishing of the containers is complete," said the source, adding: "All four containers have been made bulletproof and are airconditioned."

The containers have been equipped with kitchens, bathrooms and beds, and each container can accommodate 12 people.

They are currently hidden in undisclosed locations across the country.