Maulana Fazlur Rehman threatens to shut down the entire country, as he calls APC to decide on future course of action
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday opted against proceeding to Islamabad’s D-Chowk as he had earlier warned, and summoned an all-parties conference to formulate the next course of action for his ‘Azadi March.’
Addressing tens of thousands of his supporters camped out at a park near H-9 sector of the federal capital, Rehman once again reiterated that it was time for the incumbent government to step down. “These rulers have to go,” he said, adding, “You [PTI government] have to give these people the right to vote.”
On Friday, Rehman had given Prime Minister Imran Khan a two-day deadline to step down, threatening to march on the high security D-Chowk if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader did not comply. That deadline ended on Sunday night. Rehman announced he had decided to extend it by a day to allow the opposition to build a united front through an all-parties conference, and it is now due to expire on Monday night.
Earlier on Sunday, government representatives urged the Maulana and his supporters to call off their protest, while the opposition conducted both intra- and inter-party meetings to decide on their next course of action. The Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) have thus far avoided participating in the JUIF’s sit-in, though their leaders have addressed the protesters on several occasions. “Whatever decision we make, we will do so with consensus of all opposition parties,” Rehman told his supporters.
Responding to comments from the government that the Maulana had failed to follow due process before initiating his protest against the PTI’s rule, Rehman said it would be a waste of time. “They keep asking us to file complaints about [alleged] polls rigging with the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said. “They are even more helpless.” He said the ECP had been hearing a case about the PTI’s alleged foreign funding for 5 years with no resolution, so why should the opposition anything different on other matters?
Rehman said such a large crowd could never have been assembled in Islamabad if the Election Commission were capable of delivering justice. “We have decided not to go to any court or Election Commission,” he said. “Only a parliamentary committee will decide about the rigging.”
The JUIF chief said every institution of Pakistan had to remain within its constitutional ambit, as decided by the Supreme Court. “We respect our Army and its soldiers,” he said, “It must decide, once and for all, that it has nothing to do with elections.”
Rehman said that while the protesters would prefer peace, the gathered masses would not stop until they had achieved their end. “We’ll shut down the whole country… this caravan won’t stop until achieving its target.” He also warned Khan against underestimating his supporters. “If this sea of people decides to move toward the Prime Minister’s House, no one can dare to stop it,” he said.