The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUIF) can go much further than merely blocking highways and will not rest until Prime Minister Imran Khan has resigned, said party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday.
“2020 is a way’s off. I predict elections before this year is over,” the JUIF chief told journalists after a meeting with leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), which is part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led ruling coalition in the center and Punjab province. He said the ‘Azadi March’ movement represented the masses, and urged the government to resolve their issues or risk further backlash.
The protests have spread to every corner of Pakistan and it is clear the government is weakening, said Rehman. “We want the country to continue through democracy… but we fear the stubbornness of the government could provoke something else,” he added in an apparent reference to concerns about a non-democratic setup.
The JUIF chief urged provincial governments and district administrations to proceed with caution and not antagonize the protesters. He said his party was exercising its right to protest in a democratic way.
Separately, appearing on Geo News, the JUIF chief said Imran Khan’s resignation as Prime Minister of Pakistan remained the protesters’ primary demand. He said the second phase of the Azadi March anti-government movement, dubbed ‘Plan B,’ would continue until its aims had been achieved. However, he added, pains were being taken to avoid causing any problems for the common man.
“We wouldn’t have been forced to block highways across the country if the government had decided to go home during our dharna,” he said, adding that the opposition might have some differences over how to proceed but the united Rehbar Committee was still operational and all stakeholders were engaged in dialogue.
Rehman also slammed the government for preventing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from traveling abroad for medical treatment, describing the PTI-led federal cabinet as “people of lowly stature.”
Since launching Plan B of the Azadi March, JUIF workers have blocked the highway connecting Karachi with Quetta at Khuzdar; the Islamabad Motorway Chowk; Chakdara, which serves as the connection between Swat and Lower Dir; GT Road near Hakimabad in Nowshera; the Indus Highway in Bannu; Karakorum Highway in Mansehra; the main road in Balochistan’s Hub; the National Highway between Kashmore and Sukkur in Sindh; the Sukkur–Multan Motorway; and the Hub River Road connecting Karachi to Balochistan.
The party has vowed to expand these blockages further after weekly Friday prayers.