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October 13, 2019

Maulana’s march


October 13, 2019

Despite conjecture that he would come under pressure from the government and other quarters and call off the march to Islamabad to protest incompetent governance and poll rigging, Maulana Fazlur Rahman has made it clear he is fully committed to the protest. The maulana has said that he and his party activists would begin their march towards Islamabad on October 27. He has said this would coincide with a Black Day observed by all Kashmiris and also demonstrate his party’s support for their cause.

The maulana has surprised some by opting to go ahead with the march even if it is a solo effort. While he has been meeting with PML-N and PPP leaders, and they have said they support the march, there has been no absolute commitment from either of the two mainstream parties that they will join the march. As per some rumours in the media, a division may exist within the PML-N on the matter, with the jailed Nawaz Sharif supporting the march, but other leaders showing some hesitation. The PML-N has openly denied any such division exists. At a meeting on Saturday, the PML-N decided it would share with Maulana Fazlur Rahman a letter written by Nawaz; the letter is said to have given out complete guidelines for the party to follow. The PPP and Bilawal Bhutto have also said they support the cause put forward by the JUI-F, but are still undecided about joining the march.

The long march led by Maulana Fazl parallels the one conducted by Imran Khan and the PTI in 2014, when the party was in the opposition. The long sit-in at ‘D’ ground in Islamabad paralysed life for days – indeed, weeks. Maulana Fazl says he does not plan any early end to the planned sit in. After days of tough talking by members of the government and threats by KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan that they would not allow the marchers to cross the Attock Bridge or reach Islamabad, the move now seems to be changing to a degree. Imran Khan has hinted at a ‘channel of dialogue’ with the JUI-F. We will need to see how things develop over the coming few days. The government appears to have stepped onto the back foot and taken a suddenly defensive stance. We hope of course that there is no violence. Peaceful protest is a democratic right. But we also hope there will be no replication of the chaos Islamabad saw in 2014 during the PTI and PAT sit-in.

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