ISLAMABAD: As opposition parties at a Rahbar committee meeting on Tuesday discussed strategies for their participation in the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s (JUI-F) anti-government march on Islamabad, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party decided to convene meetings of their senior leaders to finalise modalities.
Hours after the opposition’s Rahbar committee meeting, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called a meeting of the party’s core committee in Karachi, whereas PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif directed senior party leaders to gather at his Lahore residence to discuss the options for participation in the long march.
Ignoring the calls of other opposition parties to delay the proposed long march, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had last week announced his party’s decision to hold “Azadi March” to Islamabad on Oct 27 that he said was aimed at ousting the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.
The JUI-F chief had said a sit-in would be staged at Islamabad’s D-Chowk, the place where the PTI had staged a sit-in for 126 days five years ago. He said they had chosen Oct 27 for the march to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people who would observe a black day on the same day to condemn the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
JUI-F briefs other opposition parties on protest plans
Meanwhile, Mr Bhutto-Zardari directed Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to ensure cooperation with the JUI-F for their peaceful democratic protest “against the injustice of the federal government”.
The directives were issued by the PPP chairman during his meeting with the chief minister in Karachi, according to an official announcement by the party’s media office.
The Sindh government would make all-out efforts to ensure safety and security of the protesters and citizens alike, the chairman said. The Sindh government would coordinate with the protesters and arrange alternative routes for traffic to ensure minimum disruption of daily life, he said.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said protest was a fundamental right of every citizen in a democratic society, and the benchmark of a thriving democracy.
Earlier at the Rahbar committee meeting, the JUI-F leaders briefed other opposition parties about their plan for the long march.
A participant in the meeting later told Dawn that the JUI-F had apprised them of its strategy, but he believed that there might be a few things that had been kept secret to ensure the government did not prepare a counter-strategy.
The representatives of the opposition parties told reporters after the meeting that their demand was resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and elections in the country.
Rahbar committee convener and JUI-F leader Akram Durrani said the opposition parties had agreed that the prime minister must resign and new elections should be conducted in which there should be no role of the army inside or outside of the polling stations.
Those who attended the meeting included PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal, PPP leaders Farhatullah Babar and Nayyar Bukhari and ANP’s Mian Iftikhar Hussain.
While claiming that “all the opposition parties are with us”, Mr Durrani said the JUI-F as per its plan would hold Azadi March to Islamabad on Oct 27 against the government.
He said that holding the protest march was their constitutional right and his party had already held 15 ‘million marches’ in various parts of the country in the past and all of them had remained peaceful.
“During our marches, we did not even disrupt traffic,” he said, adding that his party was striving for the protection of the Constitution.
The senior JUI-F leader made it clear that they would not use any religious card. He also recalled that it was the PTI that had held the 126-day-long sit-in in Islamabad during which the party workers attacked the state buildings including Pakistan Television and Parliament House and also thrashed police officers. He said the PTI activists had not allowed the parliamentarians to move into the building from outer gates. “But we are going to hold a peaceful march,” he said.
He also condemned the statement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan that JUI-F activists would not be allowed to proceed to Islamabad to participate in the march.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019