ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Sunday welcomed Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s decision to avoid marching towards D-Chowk in the sensitive Red Zone or surrounding Prime Minister House and expressed the desire to meet all demands of opposition parties, except PM’s resignation, through dialogue for the country’s betterment.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated that he would never give National Reconciliation Ordinance-like concession to leaders of the opposition parties facing corruption cases.
“We are ready to give face-saving to Maulana sahib,” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan at a late-night press conference along with Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri when asked if the government would facilitate the return of protesters from Islamabad.
The government apparently adopted the policy of carrot and stick; Dr Awan on one hand hailed the JUI-F chief’s decision, but on the other she criticised him for “challenging the writ of the state” and “tarnishing moderate and progressive face of the country by using a religious card and instigating students of seminaries against the government”.
“The prime minister is determined to meet democratic demands of the opposition through dialogue process,” she said, adding that PM Khan would chair a meeting of the parliamentary committee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday (today) to decide what concessions could be offered to the opposition.
PM’s aide hails Fazl’s decision to avoid marching towards D-Chowk
“We welcome that Maulana sahib has withdrawn his ultimatum to march towards D-Chowk. Come and sit with us if you want electoral and parliamentary reforms but we will never let the state become hostage,” she said.
Earlier, the prime minister had tweeted: “The opposition only wants to hear three letters from me, NRO.” But he added that granting any relief to the opposition parties would amount to treachery with Pakistan. He vowed that he would never utter those three letters as it would amount to “treachery with the country”. He said the country could not be put on road to progress unless the “corrupt” opposition leaders were held accountable.
Dr Awan, however, hailed the leadership of the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — for staying away from participating in the JUI-F’s sit-in and said: “Despite political differences, both parties set a benchmark by rejecting the narrative of Maulana.”
She said the JUI-F’s Azadi march had damaged the Kashmir cause and the emerging moderate image of Pakistan at the international level. She also criticised the JUI-F chief over personal attack on PM Khan. She regretted that the Maulana called the PM “an agent of Israel” and used religious card to meet his [Maulana] designs.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri also condemned the accusation against the prime minister of patronising the Ahmadi community and said he always supported PM Khan because of his love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
“We are ready to meet genuine demands of Maulana sahib but not the illogical ones,” he said.
The minister said he was arranging an international conference on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and would also invite the JUI-F chief to it.
Dr Awan urged the Maulana to convert the JUI-F sit-in against the government into Mehfil-i-Milad. “You [Maulana] will get people’s applause by doing so,” she remarked.
Earlier, the authorities sealed Islamabad’s Red Zone that houses important state buildings and the Supreme Court besides placing barricades and large containers on some other roads.
Over 2,000 police, Rangers and FC personnel had been deployed in the Red Zone and Banigala area, where PM Khan lives in his private hilltop residence.
Also, some 3,000 additional policemen were called in from Lahore and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with water cannons and armoured personnel carriers to strengthen security arrangements.
With the latest addition, the number of policemen deployed in the federal capital has surged to 10,000. They are equipped with 10 armoured personnel carriers and over a dozen police prison vans and three water cannons.
The Islamabad Police and Pakistan Rangers also conducted a flag march in the capital.
Sources said a four-layer security plan had been chalked out by police to stop the marchers if they attempt to move towards the sealed Red Zone.
Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani reportedly met JUI-F leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and discussed how the issues between the opposition and the government could be settled. National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak also reportedly contacted some opposition leaders in this regard.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2019