ISLAMABAD: Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi meets JUl-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi meets JUl-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: As the opposition vows to increase pressure on the government while keeping its future plans under wraps, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells his party’s lawmakers not to worry about Azadi march led by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

“The matter will be solved through reconciliation,” the prime minister told the PTI legislators during a meeting on Thursday.

On the other hand, the opposition’s Rehbar Committee met with JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani in the chair and decided to mount pressure on the government for acceptance of their demands.

Mr Durrani told reporters after the meeting that the opposition’s Azadi march would “assume a new dimension” in the next two days. Without taking the lid off the plans, he said new moves would be made in the next few days in the light of recommendations given during Thursday’s meeting.

He also announced that fresh caravans of protesters from parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be joining the sit-in, leaving a hint there was no immediate plan to wrap up the Azadi march. He said the protesters were in high spirit and even ready to stay up to three months despite the harsh weather condition.

Mr Durrani said all political parties had decided to increase pressure on the government, adding that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had told PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in clear terms that any decision would be taken by the Rehbar Committee.

PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said the opposition was putting the government under pressure through Azadi march. He said it was the first phase of the protest campaign and various proposals came under discussion for the next phase which the parties would discuss with their leaders.

However, he said, the details of proposals being mulled for the next phase could not be divulged as it would allow the government an opportunity to take counter-measures. Answering a question about the chances of a settlement, he said the issue could be resolved in minutes if the prime minister stepped down.

Mr Babar and Nayyar Hussain Bukhari of the PPP, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Ameer Muqam of the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan’s Owais Noorani, Qaumi Watan Party’s Hashim Babar, Jamiat Ahle Hadith’s Shafeeq Pasuri, National Party’s Tahir Bizenjo and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Usman Kakar were among those who attended the Rehbar Committee meeting.

Maulana Fazl’s son MNA Asad Mehmood, while talking to Dawn, said the success of negotiations currently in progress hinged upon the acceptance of demand for prime minister’s resignation. “The talks will collapse if the demand is not met and we can indefinitely prolong the Azadi march in such a case,” he remarked.

In a related development, Pervaiz Elahi held yet another meeting with Maulana Fazl. Talking to reporters after the meeting, he said he would shortly give good news to the nation about the outcome of negotiations currently under way between the government and the opposition.

Asked on what points an understanding had been reached, he said there was no use of narrating good news bit by bit. “We are hopeful and things seem to be going towards betterment. The good news will soon be announced in one go,” he said, adding that many recommendations were under consideration to break the deadlock.

Defence Minister and head of the government’s negotiating committee Pervez Khatak was more specific, saying the talks were going on and the deadlock was there on prime minister’s resignation and snap polls. Answering a question, he said the opposition was free to bring a no-trust motion against the prime minister whenever it so desired.

Maulana’s speech

Addressing the Azadi march participants on Thursday night, Maulana Fazl said he had accepted the ISPR chief’s statement that the army was not involved in politics. “We are only complaining because we consider the army as our institution and we only want that the army should stay away from politics,” the JUI-F chief said. “Now that you have clarified your position we acknowledge your stance — that you are not involved in politics.”

At the same time, the Maulana criticised ‘certain lobbies’ and said: “We have the right to know which lobby deceived innocent women and the general public in believing that the incompetent [Imran Khan] would prove to be a better ruler of this country.”

He asked the government committee not to come to the negotiating table again without prime minister’s resignation. “No need for this ‘coming and going’ as there is no use of repeated visits without the [PM’s] resignation.”

Addressing the participants, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif said that despite the request of the sit-in administration, the government was not running the Metro bus service.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019