Bilawal’s participation in Azadi march still unconfirmed

Published October 28, 2019
Sources in the PPP said the party had previously decided that a final decision about party chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s participation in the public meeting would be made at the last moment after closely monitoring the situation. — DawnNewsTV/File
Sources in the PPP said the party had previously decided that a final decision about party chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s participation in the public meeting would be made at the last moment after closely monitoring the situation. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: As the JUI-F’s Azadi march has already kicked off from Karachi, the participation of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in the opposition’s public meeting in Islamabad is still unconfirmed.

On the other hand, the heads of other major opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif, have already announced that they will address the participants of the Azadi march at the public meeting.

Sources in the PPP said the party had previously decided that a final decision about Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s participation in the public meeting would be made at the last moment after closely monitoring the situation and analysing the events that would take place after start of the Azadi march on Sunday.

Govt-opposition agreement in limbo after action against JUI-F leaders

Meanwhile, the recent actions of the government against two senior leaders of the JUI-F have already put the agreement signed between the local administration and the JUI-F over the new venue the public meeting venue in a limbo as the opposition parties allege that the government has started violating the agreement by arresting Mufti Kifayatullah and revoking the citizenship of former senator Hafiz Hamdullah.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the official spokesman for the PPP chairman, told Dawn that so far the party had made no decision about the participation of Mr Bhutto-Zardari in the public meeting.

Moreover, he said the PPP had already announced a schedule of its own public meetings and Mr Bhutto-Zardari would be visiting various cities of South Punjab from Nov 1 to Nov 9. The PPP, he said, was still unaware of the actual plan of the JUI-F whether the public meeting would be held on Oct 31 or Nov 1.

“If the public meeting takes place on Nov 1, then it will clash with PPP’s own gathering in Rahim Yar Khan,” Mr Khokhar said.

He said the PPP chairman was also scheduled to address the public meetings in Uch Sharif in Bahawalpur on Nov 4 and Muzaffargarh on Nov 8.

He said Mr Bhutto-Zardari would address the members of the Multan Bar on Nov 6.

The PPP senator said as far as he knew so far JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had not formally asked the PPP chairman to address the Azadi march participants.

When contacted, PPP leader and a member of the opposition’s Rehbar Committee Farhatullah Babar said the party leadership had previously decided that if the heads of the other parties would participate in the JUI-F’s public meeting, then Mr Bhutto-Zardari would also attend it.

Mr Babar said they had come to know that Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali and National Party president Hasil Bizenjo had already announced that they would participate in the Azadi march. However, he said, the PML-N had not so far told them in categorical terms whether Shahbaz Sharif would attend the Jalsa or not.

He said if Mr Sharif would decide to attend the public meeting then there was a likelihood that Mr Bhutto-Zardari would also participate in it.

Earlier, he said, it was decided that the members of the Rehbar Committee would represent their respective parties in the public meeting.

When contacted, PML-N’s information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Mr Sharif had already announced that he would attend the public meeting.

ANP leader Zahid Khan said that Asfandyar Wali would himself lead the party rally starting from Mardan.

Meanwhile, the opposition reacted sharply over the recent actions against the JUI-F leaders and a number of opposition leaders alleged that the arrest of Mufti Kifayatullah amounted to the violation of the agreement.

Mr Babar expressed concern over the government actions against the JUI-F leaders and feared more such actions in future which, according to him, could spoil the political environment.

When contacted, a member of the government negotiating team, confirmed that the opposition had formally contacted them. He said they had told the opposition that the government team was unaware of the causes of the arrest of Mufti Kifayatullah.

Hamdullah’s citizenship

Interestingly, some discussants on social media claimed that the citizenship of Mr Hamdullah, which had been cancelled by Nadra declaring him an alien, had been restored by the government. However, when contacted, Mr Hamdullah and Nadra officials denied all these reports.

Mr Hamdullah told Dawn that he had come to know about the decision of the ministry of interior on Oct 11 regarding cancellation of his citizenship. He said that couple of days later, he had filed an appeal before the ministry seeking restoration of his citizenship.

He claimed that the ministry had even fixed a date for the hearing, but it was cancelled at the eleventh hour due to non-availability of the additional secretary, who was to hear him. Since then, he said, he had been waiting for the new date of hearing.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2019

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