PML-N’s Model Town huddle: Indecisive leaders leave it to Nawaz to have final word on joining Fazl’s march

Published October 10, 2019
The meeting held in Model Town lasted more than five hours with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in the chair. — AFP/File
The meeting held in Model Town lasted more than five hours with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in the chair. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The PML-N stalwarts could not evolve a consensus whether the party should join the Azadi March announced by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for Oct 27 in a huddle here on Wednesday.

However, the party leaders pledged to follow whatever decision former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would take in this regard.

The meeting held in Model Town lasted more than five hours with PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in the chair. Prominent among the participants were Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Asif, Rana Tanvir Hussain, Marriyum Auranzeb, Pervaiz Rashid, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, retired Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Muhammad Zubair, Hanif Abbasi and Pervaiz Malik.

A party insider told Dawn after the meeting that the opposition leader in the National Assembly did not speak his mind on the issue and preferred to have the input of other leaders.

“Some party leaders expressed reservations over joining the JUI-F’s Azadi March, saying that how would the Opposition manage to achieve its goal – sending Prime Minister Imran Khan home – through a long march, while Maulana Fazl was not sure about staging a sit-in (in Islamabad) for an indefinite period,” he said, adding they were of the view that failure to dislodge the government or press it into announcing mid-term poll would further push the opposition against the wall.

“We have to be sure of certain things and have commitments from the Maulana (especially regarding ‘siege’ of Islamabad) before becoming part of the march. At this stage, we cannot afford to be used by someone and in return getting nothing.”

Another senior leader noted that Maulana Fazl had not yet come up with a “clear agenda” of his protest plan. “Unless a complete plan of the protest is shared with us and our concerns regarding it are allayed, there is no point in joining it,” he said.

Those who spoke in favour of joining the Azadi March tried to convince Shahbaz Sharif that the PML-N could not afford to be out of this “huge political activity”. “We may concede some political ground to the other opposition parties if we do not join this protest,” warned one of the participants.

He said as the PML-N workers were charged and the public mood was also against the PTI government for its “anti-people” policies, there was no point in extending just “moral support” to the march, rather than joining it with full force. “We will have no issue in mobilising the people against the government,” he said.

Shahbaz Sharif told the participants that he would apprise Nawaz Sharif of their opinions on the issue in his next meeting (probably on Thursday) with him to be held at the Kot Lakhpat jail where the latter is serving seven-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia corruption case. “Mian Nawaz Sharif will take the final decision,” Shahbaz said.

Earlier, JUI-F leader Akram Durrani said the opposition parties had agreed that the prime minister must resign and fresh elections be held in which there should be “no role of the army” inside or outside of the polling stations. “All the opposition parties are with us and the JUI-F will hold Azadi March on Islamabad on Oct 27 against the PTI government as per the plan,” Durrani claimed.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said the party had made its recommendations regarding the Azadi March, which would be presented to Nawaz Sharif for final decision.

Chiding PM Khan and his cabinet members for issuing provocative statements against the march, Mr Iqbal advised the premier to better recall his statements about the sit-in (the one PTI had staged in Islamabad).

“PML-N is a victim of Imran Khan’s personal vendetta. Despite all his government’s action we are not getting weak,” he said.

Mr Iqbal reminded Mr Khan to go through a fresh survey that revealed that 80 per cent of the country’s people were not happy with the government’s performance “that made their lives miserable”. “It should be a matter of grave concern for every one that the selected PM Khan is defaming Pakistan during his foreign tours,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2019

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