Nothing short of Imran’s resignation, ‘Azadi March’ on time; declares Fazal

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KARACHI: JUI-F head Maulana Fazlur Rehman has categorically stated that ‘Azadi March’ would start on October 28 and there would be no change in date and programme. Addressing a press conference in Sukkur on Thursday, he said that the government’s team must bring the prime minister’s resignation letter with them when they come for negotiation.

Fazlur Rehman said that his anti-government protest — dubbed by the party as ‘Azadi March’ — is on schedule for October 31 in Islamabad and no change is on the cards. “A decision to take it back will only be made, if at all, by the Rehbar Committee,” he said, addressing a press conference in Sukkur after a meeting between JUI-F members.

He, however, downplayed the possibility of such an outcome, expressing complete confidence that the march will take place with full participation and endorsement by the nation.

The JUI-F chief reiterated the opposition’s plans of showing solidarity with Kashmiris on October 27 — observed across the world by Kashmiris as Black Day. “Special programmes will be held throughout the country and a large gathering will be held in Karachi on the occasion,” he said.

“The government has let down Kashmiris. Evil doers themselves are raising a hue and cry over evil.”

He said that all sections of society wish to participate in the march and “all parties are in agreement with us over the fact that this government that has come to power through rigging cannot be allowed to continue”.

Rehman denied that there was any unwillingness by the Rehbar Committee to meet with their government counterparts. He said that after tomorrow’s meeting between the two sides, the opposition parties will hold consultations before responding to the government.

“However, what can be expected from a team headed by Pervez Khattak? His attitude and mannerisms are not conducive to holding talks.”

He further criticised the government for offering to hold talks on one hand, while on the other creating hurdles in the way of the opposition. “Shops, petrol pumps, etc., are all being made to shut down. They can do what they like. We will enter Islamabad, come what may.”

Rehman urged the opposition to not lose their nerve and to present a strong front against the government. “The entire nation’s hopes lie with us and we must support them,” he said.

Regarding Nawaz Sharif’s health, the JUI-F chief said that “to give someone the hardship of imprisonment when their health is failing them is the sign of a tyrannical leadership”.

Govt, opposition talks

Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, two members of the government negotiation committee, had on Wednesday reached out to Akram Khan Durrani and Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F, respectively, regarding their protest march.

Following the telephonic contact by the government representatives, Durrani called a meeting of the opposition’s Rehbar Committee on Friday, according to a JUI-F spokesperson. It will be held at 4pm at Durrani’s Islamabad residence.

Following the meeting, the government negotiation committee headed by Khattak will meet the Rehbar Committee at 5pm to discuss the Azadi March.

Ban on Ansar

The federal government has decided to formally ban Ansarul Islam, a sub-organisation of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Fazl (JUI-F) called the Ansar-ul-Islam. A three page summary of the reasons justifying the ban has been sent to members of the Cabinet, sources say.

On Sunday, the government decided to prevent the Azadi March planned by the JUI-F from materializing, at most in principle.

“In case of breakdown in negotiation between the government and JUI-F, the law enforcement agencies will detain Maulana Fazlur Rehman with the key leadership of the party,” sources told media outlets. If the ban is approved by the Ministry of the Interior, it will be illegal to associate with the Ansar-ul-Islam starting from October 26.