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September 24, 2019

JUI-F’s long march on capital: PML-N presses for extension of protest timing

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September 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is hopeful that Jamiate Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman will agree to extending his scheduled long march on Islamabad by a few weeks.

“We have told him that you have mobilised your workers for several months and are fully geared up while the PML-N has not done so. Therefore, we need a few weeks to do the necessary mobilisation,” a senior PML-N leader, who is part of the high-level consultations between the two parties, told The News on condition of anonymity.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman has held at least two sessions with PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and senior party leaders in which the discussions focused on the impending long march. At the same time, incarcerated deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif has conveyed to the JUI-F chief through his son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar that the PML-N will certainly join the protest. The PML-N leader said the JUI-F head has been told that they want the protest to be held in November instead of October as announced by him. He said Fazlur Rehman was so far inflexible but expressed the hope that he would come around their proposal so that cooperative relationship between the two parties remain smooth and unhindered.

According to the PML-N stalwart, the meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee (CWC), on Sep 30, will take a decision on the long march. He said Fazlur Rehman led delegation has been requested to attend the CWC session for direct interaction with its members. He said the JUI-F supremo had reminded them that his party had unilaterally announced on its own the decision to protest, which was to be taken by the All Parties Conference (APC). The PML-N leader said the JUI-F chief argued that his party would hold the protest regardless of the participation of any opposition party in it. He said Fazlur Rehman is in no mood to tolerate the present government any further.

He said Fazl suggested that it would be advantageous for all the opposition parties if the issue of protest was put before the APC for a decision, and then every component should adhere to it. Or, it should be presented to the "Rehber committee" for a decision. Fazlur Rehman has told the PML-N and other opposition parties, who have reservations over his planned agitation, that he has enough street power to make the protest a success single-handed and all what he needs is their moral support.

However, the JUI-F head, another PML-N leader said, is disappointed with the knee jerk decision of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that it would not participate in any protest where the “religion card” would be used. He said that the PML-N sought Fazlur Rehman about the precise objectives of the agitation. “If Islamabad is choked, whole Pakistan will suffer,” he said adding the PML-N always avoids political tactics that damage economy and disturb the daily life of ordinary people. “We have to avoid the kind of agitation that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) introduced inflicting Pakistan with monumental losses.”

The PML-N leader said in Sunday’s meeting in Lahore, the two sides mostly took into consideration the overall political situation. The forthcoming protest was also discussed to some extent. Responding to a question, these leaders did not know what Shahbaz Sharif is discussing with Nawaz Sharif during his frequent meetings in Kot Lakhpat Jail Lahore, but they believed that something important was being talked about. They did not say it but it could be sensed that they want to take the approaching protest to November, expecting the political situation to crystallize further to their advantage as the prevailing logjam has to be broken because it can’t continue more, damaging the country further. They gave the impression that a lot of off-stage developments were taking place, which would materialize in the very near future, and the emerging scenario would break the present deadlock.

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