ISLAMABAD: The mainstream opposition parties on Monday announced their schedule for countrywide protests starting from a demonstration in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday (today) and rallies extending to the end of February after which the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would take a final decision about long march on Islamabad.

Accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of illegally collecting funds from across the world in the name of his party and using them for political disruption and election rigging, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief and PDM convener Maulana Fazlur Rehman said holding protest was their right and it was not an attack on the institutions.

The Election Commission of Pakistan must not be biased and should announce a just decision in foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Maulana said while talking to the media after a four-hour-long meeting of the PDM steering committee held at his residence.

Although the steering committee is headed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal, the Maulana chaired its meeting, while Maryam Nawaz, who is not its member, attended it on a special invitation.

Unveils details of nationwide rallies before long march

However, neither Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari nor Farhatullah Babar, the other member of the party in the steering committee, attended the meeting. The PPP was represented by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the meeting.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Maulana Fazl assured that the protest in front of the ECP office would be peaceful and within the limits of the law. He termed the foreign funding case “the biggest scandal in Pakistan’s political history” whose central character, he said, was none other than Prime Minister Imran Khan himself.

However, the Maulana declined to answer questions about the repeated absence of the PPP leadership from PDM’s programmes. “I do not want the analysts to infer any conclusion from my answer,” he remarked.

The PDM convener said the foreign funding case against the ruling PTI had been pending for six years as Mr Khan took “the mother of NROs” to create political instability in Pakistan and “used funds collected in the name of charity for personal business and spreading chaos, illegally and through secret accounts”.

He alleged that the money was brought into the country through illegal means such as hundi, etc.

Criticising the ECP for its failure to decide the foreign funding case for the past several years, the Maulana said the decision against former premier Nawaz Sharif came within six months, while a case against the “selected” prime minister had been pending for six years. “What kind of justice is this?” he wondered.

Maulana Fazl said their protest was for democracy and for the sake of national security and against obtaining funds from the anti-Pakistan lobbies. “I would request all the citizens to come and join the protest for freedom, democracy and the rule of law and Constitution in the country,” he said.

Responding to a question about the result of anti-government drive by the PDM, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said the foreign funding case had been lying unattended for several years. “Now it has surfaced and we expect that the decision too would be announced soon — this is the result of PDM’s struggle,” she added.

Informing the media about the countrywide protests that would be a warm-up for the long march towards Islamabad in March, Maulana Fazl said the PDM leadership would participate in a million march “Israel Na Manzoor” on Jan 21 in Karachi, which would be followed by a rally to express solidarity with Kashmir on Feb 5 in Rawalpindi.

Kashmir’s political parties were also invited to the rally, the Maulana said, adding that the gathering would give a strong signal to the government that had “sold Kashmir” and comprised on the Kashmir cause.

Sharing details about other programmes, he said rallies would be held in Hyderabad on Feb 9, in Sialkot on Feb 13, in Pishin on Feb 16, in Sargodha on Feb 23 and the last in this series of protest rallies would be staged in Khuzdar on Feb 27.

“After that we will take a decision regarding long march to Islamabad,” the PDM chief said.

Responding to a question about thin attendance in the recent PDM show, the Maulana said the authorities were issuing “false and incorrect” reports and claimed that the PDM rallies in various parts of the country had witnessed a record attendance.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2021

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