ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties’ Azad march spearheaded by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl finally entered Islamabad on Thursday, but not before exposing lack of coordination among them.
The decision of JUI-F to keep its actual plan secret till the last moment not only kept the government and local administration of the capital perplexed, but also came under criticism from key political allies.
The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) added to the confusion by unilaterally announcing “postponement” of the public meeting at the planned venue in Islamabad till Friday due to the train tragedy.
PML-N’s announcement about ‘postponement’ of rally till Friday adds to confusion; PPP says ‘extremely’ difficult for Bilawal to address gathering
The announcement made by PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal at a time when marchers were about to begin their journey from Gujar Khan was criticised by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who immediately issued a statement, saying that they would reach the Azadi March venue on Thursday night at all cost to address the public meeting.
Interestingly, later the JUI-F officially announced that the public meeting would now be held on Friday after Friday prayers.
A spokesman for the JUI-F claimed that the decision to hold the public meeting had been made after “consultation” with the opposition’s Rehbar Committee.
He said the march was going ahead as planned and cautioned the people against falling victim to rumour mills.
On the other hand, Awami National Party (ANP) president Asfandyar Wali Khan, who arrived in Islamabad from Charsadda leading a party’s rally on Thursday, complained about the lack of coordination and even questioned where had the Rehbar Committee gone.
Pointing towards senior party leader and a member of the Rehbar Committee, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the ANP chief said that his nominee in the committee was sitting beside him and he had not been contacted by the committee’s convener Akram Durrani or other members.
Mr Khan said he had reached Islamabad as per plan as they had been told that the public meeting would be held on Oct 31.
Similarly, a spokesman for Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said there was total confusion as they did not know about the actual plan of JUI-F leaders.
Mr Khokhar said the PPP chairman had cancelled all his activities for the day as he was scheduled to address the public meeting after the arrival of the participants of the Azadi march.
Talking to Dawn, he said that the PPP chairman was scheduled to address a public meeting at Rahim Yar Khan on Friday and now it had become extremely difficult for him to address the Azadi march since the JUI-F had now announced that it would be held after Friday prayers.
He said the announcement was “ambiguous” as no exact time had been announced. However, he said, the PPP chairman would make every effort to address the Azadi march participants before his departure to south Punjab, where he would be staying till Nov 9.
Earlier, the PML-N’s thin participation in the JUI-F Azadi march in Lahore on Wednesday night was noticed by everyone. Even the PPP workers outnumbered the PML-N’s in the JUI-F’s show and its (PPP) Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira shared the stage with Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Many JUI-F supporters at Minar-i-Pakistan complained that the PML-N workers did not join the march despite tall claims of their leaders.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif was present in Lahore but his meeting with Maulana Fazl could not be arranged.
Maulana Fazl also couldn’t meet former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the Services Hospital after doctors told him that Mr Sharif could not see visitors.
Earlier, the PML-N had claimed that the party would “fully” participate in the march on the direction of Nawaz Sharif. The consensus emerged after initial dilly-dallying amid reports that Mr Shahbaz was not in favour of joining the march.
At its last meeting a few days ago in Model Town regarding preparations for the march, the PML-N said it had mobilised its workers who would join the JUI-F march and give Maulana Fazl a rousing welcome here.
The PML-N, however, has already announced that Mr Shahbaz Sharif would address the public meeting in Islamabad.
Political experts and some opposition leaders believe that JUI-F leadership’s decision to have a stopover at Gujar Khan, which is merely 50 kilometres away from the capital, was not a good move. They believe that the decision had badly affected the momentum of the rally which started from Karachi on October 27.
However, sources in the JUI-F claimed that the opposition parties had already been informed about the actual plan since the party had reached an understanding with the lawyers community that they would enter Islamabad only in the evening after the polling time for elections of the Supreme Court Bar Association was over.
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2019