MAULANA Fazlur Rehman has finally come up with his ‘Plan B’ that involves staging blockades of highways and even branch and intra-city roads across the country.

Frustrated by the lack of sufficient notice he received after besieging Islamabad about two weeks ago, the maulana had been hurling all kinds of veiled and not-so subtle warnings about the perils of his demands not being entertained. Since this was not the first time he was pressing for a bargain, the more favoured view predicted that he would finally have to make a reluctant return after being unable to find the right patrons and backers for his cause.

Maybe Wednesday’s announcement of the JUI-F’s new map will still be looked upon as a face-saving exercise by many. The problem is, what if the maulana really means it? He has already shown that he accepts and rejects advice at his own convenience and has sufficiently exhibited a mind free from any reasonable limits for anyone to take him and his Plan B lightly. His protest may be entering an extremely sensitive area and the JUI-F chief could find himself in a corner with no escape.

According to the declarations from the dharna stage, Plan B is to begin in the afternoon today. It entails moving the sit-in to a place on Peshawar Road close to the Motorway. However, rally leaders have indicated that a few of the vital arteries connecting cities, people, businesses and livelihoods are already in the process of being blocked.

A highway around Jacobabad was said to have been already closed and the Motorway has been marked for a forcible blockade near Rohri and Sukkur. Likewise, the highway between Rawalpindi and Peshawar was to be closed by protesters today. The JUI-F threatens to expand the measures to paralyse all manner of movement on the national road network, and the plan, if carried out, could have devastating effects on daily life.

Unless it is a bluff or a face-saving gimmick that some believe it will turn out to be, these events show an inclination for violent confrontation. Accolades, that are not always his due, have often been lavished on Maulana Fazlur Rehman for his politics. Right here on this route to a head-on clash with his power rivals, he must ponder and take all responsibility before he is moved by the fires burning inside him to attempt anything too adventurous.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019

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