Only Rehbar Committee will hold talks with govt: opposition

Updated October 22, 2019

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JUI-F's Akram Durrani talks to media after a meeting of hte Rehbar Committee. — DawnNewsTV/File
JUI-F's Akram Durrani talks to media after a meeting of hte Rehbar Committee. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition has decided that the prerogative of holding talks with the government on the issue of ‘Azadi March’ rests only with the Rehbar Committee and asked the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) not to contact any single political party.

Briefing reporters after a meeting of the opposition’s Rehbar Committee here on Monday, its convener Akram Khan Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) stated in categorical terms that their plan to hold ‘Azadi March’ on Oct 31 was still intact.

The JUI-F leader said that if the government wanted to hold talks, it could contact the Rehbar Committee, but first it would have to give an assurance that it would allow them to hold a peaceful long march.

“There will be no compromise on Azadi March,” Mr Durrani said, warning the government against making any effort to create hurdles in the way of the marchers.

He asked the government to accept their democratic right of holding the protest. “I warn the administration not to take any action (against marchers).”

Faraz says JUI-F chief will not be arrested to prevent march

He said the opposition’s demand for resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan was also still intact, but the joint opposition was open for a meeting with the government’s committee.

Mr Durrani said it seemed that the government was not serious in holding talks with the opposition which was evident from the language being used by Prime Minister Khan for the opposition leaders.

As the opposition leaders were in session to decide the agenda for the talks with the government, Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz dispelled the impression that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would be arrested to prevent ‘Azadi March’.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Faraz said it seemed that the Maulana wanted to be arrested, “but the government will not do so despite his desire to become a hero”. He said the government did not give so much importance to the JUI-F chief who, according to him, was desperate for being out of power and wanted to show that he was still relevant to the national politics. Mr Faraz, however, said the local administration would definitely take steps in accordance with law to maintain law and order and protect the life and property of the citizens.

He claimed that cracks had begun to appear in the ranks of opposition parties which were evident from the decision of the JUI-F chief to cancel the talks with the government team at the last moment following reservations expressed by other opposition parties.

Mr Faraz was of the view that Oct 31 ‘Azadi March’ of the opposition parties was bound to fail. He said that he didn’t know why Maulana Fazl was raising his stakes so high; he must know that the failure of the long march or sit-in would end his politics.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a seven-member team under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to engage the JUI-F and other opposition parties.

The JUI-F chief had on Saturday given a go-ahead to his party’s secretary general and Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to meet Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, a member of the government’s negotiating team, after the latter had contacted him over telephone and sought a meeting. On Sunday, however, the Maulana had to stop his party’s delegation from meeting Mr Sanjrani, saying a decision on talks with the government would now be made by the Rehbar Committee.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019