Supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam block a highway near Karachi on Thursday.—AP
Supporters of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam block a highway near Karachi on Thursday.—AP

ISLAMABAD: As Plan B of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Azadi march came into effect on Thursday, the Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat swung into action again, lauding Maulana Fazlur Rehman for having emerged as the “genuine leader of the opposition”.

As JUI-F activists blocked some key roads in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi of the PML-Q met Maulana Fazl at the residence of the JUI-F’s Senator Talha Mehmood, but neither side divulged the agenda of the meeting.

However, the Maulana reiterated his demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and said that he was seeing snap elections in the current year.

“2020 is far away. I see elections in 2019,” the JUI-F chief said while talking to media after the meeting. He also raised the demand that Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif be allowed to leave the country on medical grounds, without any pre-conditions.

Chaudhry brothers hail Maulana Fazl as ‘genuine leader of the opposition’

Claiming that his movement was the voice of the masses, the Maulana cautioned the government that public outcry against the rulers could lead to “different paths”.

“We want the country to move forward democratically and efforts are being made to bring a healthy and independent democracy to the country, but we fear that the stubbornness of the government could result in something else,” the Maulana said.

He was apparently referring to the PNA movement of 1977 in which the JUI had played a central role.

Asked whether his Azadi march was a success, he said the sit-in had spread to every nook and corner of the country.

About his meeting with the Chaudhrys, Maulana Fazl said there was no scheduled agenda of the meeting and both sides had gathered at the residence of Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood as he had invited them.

“During the Azadi march, the Chaudhry brothers were trying to find out a solution. We have been meeting in the past too and our demand for resignation of the government remains undeterred, while their stance too has not changed,” the JUI-F chief said.

The Maulana reiterated his claim that the government was weakening and shaking. “We are still in protest; we represent the sentiment of the people.”

However, he praised the PML-Q leaders for their efforts to save democracy in Pakistan.

Maulana Fazl described the rulers as people of lowly stature for not allowing Nawaz Sharif to go abroad.

Incidentally, Chaudhry Shujaat, a partner of PTI in the federal government, also supported the demand for allowing Nawaz Sharif to leave the country.

Meanwhile, the JUI-F leadership has started to implement their Plan B in different parts of the country. The interchange between Rawalpindi and Islamabad was blocked at 26 No. Chungi, which stopped traffic coming from Peshawar to Rawalpindi / Islamabad and even on Islamabad-Peshawar motorway.

In KP, JUI-F workers have closed several main roads across the province as part of its plan-B to force countrywide road closures.

The party activists have blocked main roads in Malakand, Nowshera, Bannu and Manshera to disconnect large areas from the rest of province. In Nowshera, about 400 JUIF activists have closed down the GT Road near Hakimabad. Party workers have also closed down Indus Highway in Bannu, Karakorum Highway in Mansehra and the major road that connects Malakand division with the rest of the province at Chakdara.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for KP government in a new conference asked the JUI-F to sit down with the provincial government to set parameters for the protest. He said the provincial government was striving to not go hard on the protesters.

In Balochistan, JUI-F protestors along with workers of the National Party and other allied parties, blocked Quetta-Karachi National Highway in Khuzdar from afternoon till late night, causing a massive traffic jam.

JUI-F activists also blocked the main road in the province’s industrial town Hub.

In Sindh, the JUI-F blocked key National Highway between Kashmore and Sukkur, a road in Karachi as well as those in other parts of the province where its partner in Azadi march, Pakistan People’s Party, which has so far supported its protest, warned that it would not allow the right- wing party to make such moves that affected the life of common man.

Later, JUI-F workers also blocked Sukkur–Multan Motorway M-5. The workers in Karachi gathered to block Hub River Road, which is one of the key links between the city and Balochistan.

Reacting to this development, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani said that the provincial government would not allow road blockades.

Imran Ayub from Karachi, Muhammad Akbar Notezai from Quetta, Shamim Shamsi from Sukkur & our Peshawar Bureau also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019