Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday announced that his party's anti-government 'Azadi March' to the capital will now take place on October 31 instead of October 27.
Speaking to reporters, he said the party would now join Kashmiris in observing October 27 as a black day across the country in protest against the Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ignoring the calls of other opposition parties to delay the proposed long march, Rehman had announced last Thursday that his party had decided to hold the anti-government march to Islamabad on Oct 27.
His party had formally sought permission from the Islamabad administration to hold the so-called Azadi March on October 27 at D-Chowk located in the federal capital's red zone.
"The JUI-F will be holding the Azadi March on October 27, 2019, at D-Chowk, Islamabad, exercising its democratic and Constitutional right under Articles 16 and 17 of the Constitution against the incumbent government," read an application submitted to the Islamabad chief commissioner on Tuesday by JUI-F leader Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, through his counsel Kamran Murtaza.
But Rehman said today that the march will "begin" on Oct 27. He said caravans will express solidarity with Kashmiris on Oct 27 and then leave for the capital.
"We have decided to enter Islamabad on October 31," the JUI-F chief said, explaining that the days following October 27 will allow caravans from faraway districts of the country to reach the capital. "People from all over the country will enter [Islamabad] at the same time."
He said the JUI-F's provincial chapters have been asked to hold their individual demonstrations to express solidarity with occupied Kashmir on Oct 27, indicating the party has dedicated that day solely for the Kashmir cause.
Asked whether he would address any event on Oct 27, Rehman said he could not disclose his schedule at this point.
The JUI-F chief's announcement came hours after Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Shah repeated that he strongly believes that Rehman will not come to Islamabad for the Azadi March on Oct 27.
"Fazlur Rehman is a big [politician], he remained in politics throughout his life, his father too was a politician. In my opinion, as I say, [...] Maulana Sahib will not come, I do believe this because this is [politically] suicidal," he said earlier in the day.
The minister added that the Indian forces had annexed occupied Kashmir on October 27, 1947, and now "the JUI-F wants to hold a sit-in on the same date, reflecting that they are coming to annex Islamabad? At that time  it was Nehru, they [the JUI-F leadership] would not like to join those ranks".
"I am hopeful that, God willing, they will not hold the sit-in," he said.