LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government has started feeling the heat of the proposed Islamabad sit-in announced by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) for Oct 27 as Railways Sheikh Rashid has warned the PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif against playing a ‘double game’, saying it could have consequences.
In the same breath, the minister, who is considered close to Prime Minister Imran Khan, also asked JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to cancel his ‘Azadi march’, warning him that India might go for any misadventure taking benefit of the agitation.
Meanwhile, the PPP announced the party would take a final decision whether to take part in the JU-F’s march on Islamabad or not in its central executive committee (CEC) meeting to be held next week.
Similarly, the PML-N says its president Shahbaz Sharif will soon announce the party’s decision in this respect.
Rashid also called on the PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Pervaiz Elahi and federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema here and discussed JUI-F’s planned march with them.
PPP, PML-N to announce their plans later
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rashid said: “Maulana Fazl should better cancel the Azadi march, as it would damage the Kashmir cause and he (Maulana) will have to face the music for it.”
Addressing Shahbaz Sharif, he said: “Do not play double game (with regard to to JUI-F’s march). Do not become Double Shah. You will have to pay the price.” Asking Mr Sharif to clarify his position regarding the march, he said: “I am giving you (Shahbaz) advice to choose your side in this regard. The situation is very serious. And whosoever will make any disturbance, will have to pay the price,” he cautioned.
Rashid further said if “six people” (apparently referring to Sharifs and Zardari) were given NRO, this whole movement would wither away. “I will tell the people what the JUI’s actual demands are on Oct 22 or 23,” he said.
The minister parried questions about the businessmen’s meeting with COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa redressal of their grievances.
Asked why he as well as the government were so aggressively opposing Maulana’s march, when the PTI itself had staged 126-day sit-in at Islamabad, paralysing the life in the capital in 2014, Rashid said: “It is a provincial matter and I don’t want to intervene into it.”
Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago Rashid had claimed that Shahbaz Sharif was trying to “settle things with the powers that be” even though former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared to be “as stubborn as before”. However, the minister on Saturday appeared to have an altogether different view about Shahbaz.
Meanwhile, former prime minister and PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said his party would decide whether to take part in the ‘Azadi march’ or not in the next week at its CEC meeting.
“The PPP is with other opposition parties to rid [the country] of this inept government,” the former premier said in a media talk after condoling the death of PPP senior leader Aslam Gill’s brother here on Saturday.
Asharf said the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had already declared that the party’s moral support was with the JUI-F’s march.
Responding to Rashid’s ‘warning,’ a senior PML-N leader said: “Political minions who have no existence other than being court jesters, are trying to make themselves relevant by targeting Shahbaz Sharif.”
Sources say both PML-N and PPP leaderships have been in contact with Maulana Fazl and the three parties may reach a consensus to operate at different levels in the agitation.
The opposition parties are unanimous to send Mr Khan home, but the main fear of the PML-N and the PPP is that in case of failure the sit-in may give Imran Khan a boost to further tighten the noose around them.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019