Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is getting a taste of his own medicine, courtesy Jamiat Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman. In 2014, Imran Khan, as Opposition leader in Pakistan, had led an Azadi March seeking ouster of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The march had built public opinion in Imran Khan’s favour. Now, Fazal-ur-Rehman has led another Azadi March in Pakistan drawing thousands of people on to the streets.
The Azadi March continues as sit-in protest in Islamabad seeking resignation of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister and convening of early parliamentary election.
Fazal-ur-Rehman gave a deadline of 48 hours for Imran Khan to resign saying if his demand was not met, his outfit would roll out its Plan-B. That deadline ended Sunday night.
The Jamiat has support of some other outfits, which are likely to hold a meeting to discuss future roadmap to put pressure on the Imran Khan government. The JUI-F leadership has made clear that it will not withdraw its demand nor will it end its sit-in protest in Islamabad.
“We are standing up for what’s right. Retreat would be a cardinal sin and there’s no going back. This is our Plan A, we also have a Plan B and Plan C”, said Fazal-ur-Rehman.
“We will not leave until our demands are met. This flood of people will not stop here. We will shut down the entire country next,” said Fazal.
As per plan B of the protest, the protest will be staged across the country. Major cities and highways will be blocked, which could bring the country to a halt.
The plan B also includes a possible forward movement towards D-chowk in Islamabad, located right outside the National Assembly of Pakistan, President House and Prime Minister House, which constitutes the barred ‘Red Zone’.
“We are sitting here in H-9 sector because there is not enough space at D-Chowk. Even here in this open wide space, we have a problem in accommodating all the people. However, if we decide to march towards the Prime Minister’s house, there is no force that would be able to stop us”, said Fazal-ur-Rehman.
The Azadi March called by the JUI-F has support of opposition parties including Pakistan People Party (PPP, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N and Awami National Party (ANP,
However, the participation of PPP and PML-N has been meagre, raising doubts over their alliance. Both PPP and the PML-N are older democratic parties in Pakistan while the JUI-F is a religious hardline party. The two parties are said to be uncomfortable with the religious overtones of Fazal-ur-Rehman.
The joint opposition are expected to explore further oons for sustaining the momentum of their protests against the Imran Khan government. The oons include staging a blockade across the country with roads being blocked to all major cities. It also includes staging countrywide sit-in protests and moving ahead with a joint resignation by all political parties and forcing the parliament to be dissolved.
The ministers of the government has criticised the JUI-F protest for demanding the prime minister’s resignation. The government committee, assigned to negotiate with the joint opposition team called, “Rahbar committee”, has maintained that there can be no talks on Imran Khan’s resignation.
“There is no possibility of the prime minister’s resignation. That is not even an oon to discuss with the Rahbar committee. We can negotiate on other demands but no talks will be done on PM resignation,” said Defense Minister Pervez Khattak.
A mammoth crowd has been sitting in Islamabad’s H-9 sector for the past four days and vows to not leave the capital until Imran Khan resigns.