ISLAMABAD: A tense calm hangs over Islamabad as the 48-hour ultimatum given by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to the prime minister for his resignation ends on Sunday evening (today), with the law enforcement personnel gearing up to meet any eventuality in case the protesters camping at the designated H-9 venue violate the agreement.
While the Maulana on Saturday hinted that there was no immediate plan to enter the Red Zone, he also made it clear that the protesters did not intend to return either until PM Imran Khan stepped down.
“Our people want to go ahead but D-Chowk is not our destination. This is a movement and it will continue. There is no timeline,” the JUI-F chief said while speaking to the gathering on the third day of the anti-government protest in Islamabad.
PPP, PML-N advise against upping the ante amid tense calm in capital
He hinted at prolonging the sit-in, claiming that more caravans were on their way from different parts of the country as they were expected to join the protesters in Islamabad on Sunday.
“How can we call off the protest, when people are still pouring in?” the JUI-F chief said while taking a commitment from the participants that they would abide by the decision taken by their leadership that had “actually” brought them to the venue.
Describing Imran’s government as a “security risk”, the Maulana asked the rulers to step down without “testing our patience”.
“We will remain in the arena until we get rid of the government,” he said.
The JUI-F chief explained: “Our history is full of movements [...] We have to take a decision by tomorrow or day after tomorrow.” He said that he would be weighing options to shift from this place to another ground, from there to another ground and then to the next ground until they got rid of the “illegitimate government”.
The Maulana said: “They (the rulers) should have the belief that their writ on Pakistan has ended. You are no more the rulers of Pakistan. The writ is in our hand. We will now run the country. We will run the country peacefully. We will develop this country. We will restore the economy … this country does not belong to you anymore.”
He praised the participants for maintaining ‘complete discipline’ during the Azadi march that had begun from Karachi on October 27 and entered the federal capital on Oct 31.
“We don’t want to worsen the situation. We have organised 15 ‘million’ marches in nine months, which are enough evidence to prove how organised we have been and how we maintain law and order,” he added.
Meanwhile, PM Khan issued instructions to the interior ministry to get ready to deal with any kind of situation in case the protesters violated their agreement with the local administration by trying to advance towards the sensitive Red Zone of Islamabad.
Sources said the law enforcers had already devised a plan to keep the protesters confined to the designated H-9 venue and not to allow them to move to some other place.
Rehbar committee meeting
Earlier, members of the opposition’s Rehbar committee met at the residence of JUI-F leader Akram Durrani, and discussed possible scenarios and the government’s latest offer for talks.
Briefing reporters about the committee’s meeting, Mr Durrani said all options, including resignations from assemblies, lockdown and blocking of highways, were under consideration.
He said leaders of the opposition parties agreed that the Azadi march’s objective was to have “premier’s resignation” and “fresh elections without army’s supervision”.
The committee convener said being democratic, they were ready for talks with the government, but its representatives must not to use “harsh” language against their opponents.
Sources said the PML-N and the PPP had advised the JUI-F leadership not to prolong the sit-in as it could create a confrontational situation. They said the PPP and the PML-N leaders were also opposed to the idea of resigning from the assemblies.
Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2019