Who stands where in JUI-F’s Azadi March

October 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the opposition parties supporting its Azadi March have deliberately kept vague, unannounced their next protest following their planned Oct 31 show in...

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ISLAMABAD: The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the opposition parties supporting its Azadi March have deliberately kept vague, unannounced their next protest following their planned Oct 31 show in the federal capital. This strategy has left everybody guessing about the future phases of campaign. “We will make public our next protest after the Azadi March on Oct 31,” was the common refrain of the opposition leaders The News talked to. Most of them did not want to be named. A Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart said that the party would fully support the Azadi March, and its top leaders would participate in it. It transpired from his remarks that the PML-N might stay away from the sit-in if the JUI-F independently decided to stage it in Islamabad after the Oct 31 public meeting.

A common perception emerging from the conversations was as if the opposition parties would disperse after the public meeting, announcing a series of their campaign throughout Pakistan. The PML-N leader backed a nationwide public rally as a follow-up of the Oct 31 event to keep the government under pressure.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Chaudhry Manzoor said that the Azadi March would be facilitated in Sindh and the provincial government would put no hurdles in its way and would not block it at any point. He said the PPP was backing the Azadi March, and would adopt its policy after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would announce its next phase of protest following the Oct 31 show. It has to be seen whether the JUI-F chief goes for sit-in or some other form of agitation, he said.

The PPP leader said that it has been decided that the opposition parties would take a joint stand on all issues and vis-à-vis the government and would devise a common strategy about the protest. “All the opposition parties would be kept on board about any major policy decision.”

Another PML-N leader said that the talks that a seven-member government committee wants to hold with the JUI-F would be held with a representative delegation of the opposition parties and no single party would individually engage in any such discussion.

Meanwhile, it may be instructive to know as to which party stands where in the planned Azadi March and which political force stays away from it at a distance?

The Jamaat-e-Islami neither backs the protest nor the government. However, it is somewhat sympathetic towards the Azadi March only verbally. Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s Balochistan National Party (BNP) is yet to articulate its policy regarding the scheduled agitation.

The protest is mainly Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s project. He started talking about it several months back and kept issuing warnings to the government to accept his demand or he will undertake the Azadi March. All the coalition partners of Prime Minister Imran Khan stand by him, opposing the instant protest. The Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) has voiced its rejection of the agitation. Its president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has stated that this is not the appropriate time for agitation.

The other ruling alliance allies, including PML-Functional, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Mutahidda Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) are silent and haven’t thus far spoken on the upcoming Azadi March.

After lots of deliberations spanning many weeks, the PML-N reached the conclusion of supporting the Azadi March. The final decision was arrived at a meeting between PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and Fazlur Rehman. The JUI-F chief was satisfied with the session and said he was constantly earning support of political parties.

The PPP has stated that its workers would welcome the JUI-F protesters on the routes they will be passing. The National Party of Hasil Bizenjo will take part in the protest and so will Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Achakzai do. Bizenjo has said that the Azadi March should not be confined to holding just one public meeting in Islamabad and then dispersing, and that it should continue till the acceptance of its demand.

In the meantime, an administration official told The News that the federal capital is likely to be sealed before October 31 if there was no progress or agreement in the upcoming talks between the government and opposition parties. He said more than 500 shipping container are on their way to Islamabad. The City Zone has demanded 250 containers while other three zones have sought 100 containers each. Each container will cost at least Rs5,000 as daily rent.

There are at least 10 locations, which will be blocked with containers. They include Red Zone, PTV Chowk, Ayub Chowk, Aga Khan Road, Secretariat Chowk, Constitution Avenue, Radio Pakistan Chowk, Serena chowk, Convention Centre Chowk etc.

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