If the government is not willing to discuss the matter of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation, then there is no point in continuing negotiations to end the Azadi March sit-in in Islamabad, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Thursday.
“There is no need for negotiations then. Don’t come to us. When you come, you must come with the intention of leaving the corridors of power behind,” the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUIF) chief told his supporters during his daily speech. “You are at a dead end now,” he added, addressing Khan directly. “You must now decide whether you want to continue to remain there or come out and return people’s rights [to them].”
Rehman also slammed the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s amnesty scheme from earlier this year, repeating an opposition allegation of Khan’s sister Aleema Khan being one of the largest beneficiaries of it. He claimed Khan hid his sister’s money laundering yet dared to speak of a “National Reconciliation Ordinance” for the opposition. “The opposition does not want any NRO from Imran Khan. We will not give him one [either],” he added.
The JUIF chief continued his tirade against the PTI by slamming ongoing delays in the party’s foreign funding case, which has been pending with the Election Commission of Pakistan since 2014. “Why is your foreign funding case still pending in the ECP for the past 5 years? Your own senior leadership has gone to the commission and said funding came from India, Europe and many other places. You submitted 60 petitions to delay the case—all rejected. Why has the Election Commission not been able to decide the matter?”
During his daily speech, Rehman repeated allegations that the 2018 general election had been “rigged” to the PTI’s benefit. “When the whole nation is witness to this theft, you don’t need any investigation,” he said.
Earlier, the Rehbar Committee negotiating on behalf of the opposition with the government announced there were no plans to end the Azadi March dharna. “Our future plans will be announced after the 12th of Rabiul Awwal,” said lead negotiator Akram Durrani. “The workers are determined to stay here for months.” This was preceded by a press interaction with Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, who is leading the government’s team of negotiators to say talks are ongoing though a deadlock persists over rigging allegations. He said the opposition should provide evidence of rigging in the 2018 polls, adding “You cannot say anything without proof.”
Earlier, during a TV interview, Rehman said Army should avoid being dragged into political matters by the government. He told Meher Bokhari the problem stemmed from the government calling in the Army during elections to provide security “and then they enter every single polling booth.” The JUIF chief said people felt intimidated by this presence and then they lash out. “We all wish to see the Army hold a respectable position and for us to shout pro-Army slogans,” he said, adding that he also thought Nawaz Sharif had erred in calling in the Army for negotiations to end the 2014 PTI sit-in.
Tens of thousands of protesters are currently camped out in Islamabad as part of the ‘Azadi March’ seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The march started in Karachi on Oct. 27 and reached the federal capital on Oct. 31.