The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) 'Azadi March', led by the faction's chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, set out on Sunday afternoon from Karachi's Sohrab Goth area towards Islamabad.
Thousands of people, including seminary students, are participating in the march. In addition, convoys of political parties, including the PPP, the PML-N, the Awami National Party (ANP) and others, joined the march.
Besides JUI-F leadership, PPP leaders Raza Rabbani, Saeed Ghani, PML-N leaders Mohammad Zubair, Nihal Hashmi, ANP's Shahi Syed and others, are onboard the leading container.
Addressing the participants of the march, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, "We had promised to our Kashmiri brethren that we will observe a day to express solidarity with them."
"The entire nation is on the same page on the issue of Kashmir," he said, adding that there has been a curfew in Kashmir for the past three months. He demanded the international community take notice of human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.
Talking about the domestic political scenario, the JUI-F chief said that the opposition had denied all demands of the negotiation team sent by the government and will hold their sit-in as per the decisions made by the judiciary.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan will have to resign. Hundreds of thousands have gathered in Karachi; what will the government do when people from across the country reach Islamabad?" he asked.
The JUI-F chief questioned the forces who had brought Moin Qureshi [a green card holder] from abroad in 1993 to appoint him as caretaker prime minister for three months. "Our citizenship [on the other hand] is questioned; they declare us Pashtun and Afghani," he said.
Rehman's remarks come in the backdrop of Pemra's directive, a day earlier, asking all TV channels to refrain from inviting JUI-F's Hafiz Hamdullah, saying that he is a "confirmed alien".
The JUI-F chief said that the opposition doesn't believe in such "flawed laws". He said what that the opposition does believe in is democracy and the Constitution and wants the sovereignty of the country.
"I will announce the future course of action in Islamabad," he said.
"We support positive politics. We have spent our entire life in loyalty to the country's Constitution and we have faced extremism (in return)," he said, adding that the government will have to answer for the tactics it has been employing against the opposition.
He thanked the political leaders participating in the march.
On Sunday evening, the caravan reached Hyderabad and after a brief layover, left for Sakrand — the home district of PPP Parliamentarians president Asif Ali Zardari. The aim was to reach Sukkur where the caravan will stay for the night before proceeding towards Punjab.
The JUI-F chief made a brief speech to his charged party workers at the bypass who were waiting for him since noon. JUI-F’s cadre from Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas divisions joined the march at the bypass.
Rehman said that the way JUI-F supporters had welcomed him has emboldened the entire nation. He said that with this show of spirit "this sea of people will reach Islamabad to sweep away rulers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf like a straw".
He thanked political parties for supporting his march.“I want to give a clear message to rulers through this march that we don’t accept your illegitimate power,” he said.
He vowed to expose conspiracies hatched by Pakistani rulers against people of Kashmir, saying that the nation will not accept the "rulers’ bargain" on Kashmir.
Rehman said that JUI-F would not let them sell Kashmir and would keep the Kashmiri movement alive. He also said that he would not allow "an attack on democracy" or allow anyone to "commit a robbery over the votes of Pakistanis".
The JUI-F leader said his party had fought for civil liberties and the democratic process and it was in the forefront of the struggle yet again.
Meanwhile thousands of supporters of opposition parties left Quetta to participate in the march. JUI-F Balochistan chief Maulana Abdul Wasey led the caravan. The march started from Kuchlak area of Quetta.
“We will continue our struggle until the removal of the current rulers,” Maulana Wasey told reporters before leaving for Islamabad.
“Our sit-in will continue in Islamabad till the resignation of the prime minister,” PPP leader Ali Madad Jattak said.
The participants of the march will pass through Loralai and Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab and then reach Islamabad to join the anti-government protest.
'Deal with administration still intact'
Later, a statement was issued by Rehman's spokesperson, refuting reports of the deal with the government having been broken off.
"Our deal with the administration still stands. Pay no heed to reports suggesting otherwise," said the statement, quoting Rehman.
The JUI-F leader said the party "was in no mood to break it off".
"Our deal was never with the government. We struck a deal with the administration which is still intact," he said.
"If the government has at the outset become so fearful and wishes to launch into revenge tactics, then that's on them alone. We are peaceful people and will exercise our right to protest under the ambit of the law."
Govt, opposition deal
Earlier on Saturday, the government and opposition inked a deal whereby the terms and conditions of the anti-government 'Azadi March' were chalked out.
In a press conference, the head of the government's negotiation committee, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak reiterated Prime Minister Imran Khan's promise that the participants will "see no obstacles" from the government as long as the protest is peaceful.
According to the agreement, the government will not stand in the protesters' way and "neither will the participants face any difficulty in getting food delivered".
The participants will not be allowed to venture far from the designated venue. Another condition is that the responsibility of the internal security will lie with the organisers.
JUI-F leader Akram Durrani had announced earlier that day that the participants of the march "will not enter the Red Zone" of Islamabad.
Durrani had said the protest march will "not be prolonged". "We will make further decisions as and when appropriate."
He had reiterated the party's demands, namely, the prime minister's resignation, fresh elections, no interference from the military, and the protection of clauses pertaining to Islam within the Constitution.
He had also called for NAB to release all political prisoners.