LAHORE: It is premature to call it a march, a dharna (sit-in) or a rally: what the JUI-F is doing is taking a sea of people to Islamabad to “force the illegal government out, ensure new elections and ensure supremacy of the Constitution,” says JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Speaking to journalists at the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma) here on Friday, he claimed that it was the media that was giving the effort a name of its choice.

“For the JUI-F, it is an attempt to secure respect for popular vote and warn those who are trying to steal it every time.”

The Constitution clearly demarcates the area of jurisdiction for all organs of the state, and all must respect it.

“The trouble arises when one institution tries to hog the domain of others and creeping influence destabilises other state organs by breeding frustration among them. Once that frustration hits a boiling point, the entire process implodes. This cycle is being repeated with regularity for the last seven decades. The current JUI-F effort is aimed at breaking the cycle: demolishing illegal result of last manipulation, ensuring fresh and legal mandate and securing commitment on part of the stakeholders to respect the constitution,” he explained.

He dispelled the impression that all opposition parties were not on the “same page” as far as aims and objectives of the effort were concerned. “All are united as far as aims are concerned i.e. send the current set-up packing. What gives impression of varying commitments is, in fact, level of preparation. The JUI-F has been on roads for the last one year, and is prepared to undertake the effort. Others are not. The JUI-F understands it and is not asking others to contribute as much as our party would. We have told them to contribute according to their level of preparation and the JUI-F would neither quantify nor judge their efforts. In fact, our consensus was built as early as within a week of results of elections. The same consensus still holds and other parties are now repenting not acting on our advice then. So, the consensus is not only holding but refreshed.”

As for the government efforts to negotiate him out of protest, he said the media could judge for itself: “On the one hand, negotiations are being offered and on the other, taunts and insults continue. Can’t media see the disconnect, as we do? How can there be talks in these circumstances or even the offer be taken seriously? “Yes, this government is now an existential threat for the country and sending it home is necessary for saving the country. Otherwise, its incompetence can cost the country very dearly. All segments of society are on the roads, be it traders, labourers, doctors or farmers,” said the JUI-F chief.

Earlier, Safma secretary-general Imtiaz Alam presented a draft of “new social contract” to the Maulana and asked him to present it at the next meeting of “Rehbar Committee” of all parties and get it signed so that people, the media and other segments of society feel assured that their right would be protected by these parties.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019