Nudged by Nawaz, party decides to join JUI-F protest

Updated October 15, 2019

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On Sunday, a PML-N delegation had handed over the “confidential letter” of the former premier and the party supreme leader to the JUI-F chief. — Reuters/File
On Sunday, a PML-N delegation had handed over the “confidential letter” of the former premier and the party supreme leader to the JUI-F chief. — Reuters/File

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday cleared the air of uncertainty about its participation in the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) protest, deciding that the opposition party will join the ‘Azadi March’ whether it remains a rally or turns into a sit-in against the government.

The decision was taken at yet another marathon meeting of senior leaders of the PML-N, which was presided over by party president Shahbaz Sharif, a couple of days before his expected meeting with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to finalise and jointly announce the strategy. Mr Shahbaz asked the party leaders at the meeting to mobilise workers in the light of party supremo Nawaz Sharif’s instructions to fully participate in the ‘Azadi March’ of the Maulana on Oct 31.

A PML-N source told Dawn after the meeting in Model Town that the party had already finalised its protest strategy and delegated duties to members at the provincial and district levels in the light of the former premier’s directions.

“The participants were told that the Azadi March is not a sit-in as told by the Maulana, but a public meeting will be held on Oct 31 in Islamabad. However, in either case [rally or sit-in] the PML-N will have to participate in it with full strength,” he said, adding that the party president had directed the participants to gear themselves up and moblise party workers across the country for a ‘big show’.

Shujaat suggests to Imran to open door for dialogue

“Nawaz Sharif has clearly mentioned in the letter to Shahbaz Sharif to ensure large gathering in the march and no excuse will be tolerated in this respect,” the party insider said.

He said although the JUI-F had declared that the Azadi march was a long march reaching Islamabad on Oct 31 and not a sit-in for an indefinite period, both the JUI-F and PML-N in a consultative meeting (on Sunday) decided to leave this option (sit-in) open to be decided according to circumstances.

“Nawaz Sharif has also in his letter [written from jail] to Shahbaz Sharif called for a joint strategy in consultation with the Maualana on the protest plan leaving the option of the sit-in open as per situation,” he added.

According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, the huddle finalised the strategy in the light of party supremo’s instructions. “Shahbaz Sharif and Maulana Fazl will jointly announce the protest strategy after a meeting on Oct 16 (Wednesday) in Lahore,” she said.

Javed Latif, who also attended the Model Town meeting, said: “Shahbaz Sharif will participate in the march”, removing doubts about his reluctance to participate in the protest over his purported concerns.

The PML-N meeting also condemned the government over the arrest of its supreme leader in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills.

It also censured Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government for involving state institutions in controversies, making the parliament ineffective by issuing ordinances, weakening the federation, suppressing freedom of expression, media censorship, historic economic meltdown and rendering hundreds and thousands of people jobless.

The opposition party also condemned the Indian atrocities in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir, asking the world community to pressure India to pressure India to immediately lift curfew.

Other participants in the meeting included Rana Tanvir Hussain, Pervaiz Rashid, Ahsen Iqbal, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Abdul Qayyum, Amir Muqam, Mohammad Zubair, Rana Mashhood, Azma Bokhari and Pervaiz Malik.

Earlier on Sunday, a PML-N delegation had handed over the “confidential letter” of the former premier and the party supreme leader to the JUI-F chief.

On the occasion, Maulana Fazl said: “The PTI government still has a few days to resign and go back home, otherwise we will force it to quit.”

About the letter, the JUI-F chief said: “We will disclose the contents of the letter after evolving consensus among the opposition parties. We have also convened our central executive council’s meeting on Oct 24 to accommodate suggestions.

“The country will observe Oct 27 as a black day and the JUI-F will observe it as Kashmir solidarity day after which the Azadi march will start moving towards Islamabad.”

Punjab govt gets into action Amid rising political temperatures, the coalition government in Punjab, too, kicked off its consultative process in an attempt to deal with the JUI-F’s anti-government march on Islamabad.

In this regard, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar called on Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi at their residence and discussed the Oct 31 Azadi march of the Maulana.

“Since the Chaudhry brothers have good relations with Maulana Fazl the coalition partners discussed whether the latter could play a role in persuading him to review his decision,” a source in the PML-Q said, adding the Chaudhrys of Gujrat said they might go for it “if PM Khan wished” for it.

Mr Shujaat, however, suggested to the government to “open the door for dialogue” to resolve the issues, the source said.

When contacted, PML-Q secretary general Kamil Ali Agha said the Chaudhry brothers enjoyed good relations with Maulana Fazl and in the past they had resolved the issue of Legal Framework Order (LFO) by taking the Maulana and the late Qazi Hussain Ahmed into confidence.

To a question whether the Chaudhry brothers would contact the Maulana, the former senator said: “I have no idea. Chaudhry Shujaat’s health does not permit him to be involved in such an activity. However, if PM Khan asks for it then there is a possibility,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019