Negotiations between the Rahbar Committee of the opposition parties and the government were successful on Saturday as the JUI-F has agreed to hold protest demonstration at the end of Azadi March at Peshawar Morr in Islamabad.
“The Rahbar Committee of the opposition has agreed that the Azadi March will not enter the Red Zone and will hold its public meeting at the venue decided by the government,” Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, who heads the government’s negotiating team, said at a news conference after talks with Rahbar Committee. The JUI-F has announced to start its Azadi March from different parts of the country today (Sunday), with main rally to be taken out from Karachi. The Azadi March will reach Islamabad on October 31.
The government’s negotiating team met at the Speaker’s House for three hours, staring at 3:00pm on Saturday. Later, the defence minister made a telephonic contact with Akram Durrani, convenor of Rahbar Committee, to finalise details of the agreement. The defence minister said the government has allowed the opposition to stage sit-in or public meeting at ground meant for metro bus parking, adjacent to H-9 weekly bazaar off Kashmir Highway. “The government will not create any hurdle in way of the protest programme if they hold their protest within the constitutional limits,” Pervaiz Khattak said. The minister said a verbal agreement was reached between the government and Rahbar Committee, whereas the written agreement was signed between the Islamabad administration and the JUI-F. The seven-point agreement between Mufti Abdullah, JUI-F Islamabad general secretary, and Hamza Shafqat, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, was signed on a stamp paper. It says the agreement would be considered as null and void if any of its clauses were violated and in that case, the district administration would take legal action. “In case of any damage to human lives, public or private property, the second party (JUI-F) will be held responsible and action as per law will be taken against them,” the agreement said.
The Defence Minister, Pervaiz Khattak, flanked by Minister for
Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Asad Umar and other members of the government team said they have accepted constitutional and democratic right of the opposition parties. “The opposition parties have promised to stage their protest within the ambit of the Constitution,” he said, adding the roads will be cleared and containers will be removed following agreement with the opposition. To a question, the minister said no demand of early elections or resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan came up from the opposition parties. “Negotiations with the opposition were held on one-point agenda which was to decide the venue of the public meeting,” he said.
To a question as to whether the public meeting would end on November 1, he said it was democratic right of the opposition to continue their protest programme. “Whether it is ‘Dharna’ or public meeting, it should be peaceful,” he said. “No deal has taken place. We are democratic people. This is not like the NRO. That happens when someone does something bad,” he said. Asked as to why none of the opposition leaders were present at the press conference, he said Akram Durrani had to leave for a funeral.
Meanwhile, Akram Khan Durrani announced that the opposition parties would stage the Azadi March on roads instead of staging a sit-in at Red Zone in the federal capital. Speaking at a hurriedly called press conference in Bannu, Akram Durrani said that 11 members of the Rahbar Committee had unanimously decided that the marchers would not enter into the Red Zone and would hold the Azadi March on roads in Islamabad according to the programme already scheduled. Giving details about the Azadi March, he said JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would lead caravans from Sindh towards Islamabad.
He added that the caravans of marchers from North and South Waziristan districts would converge on the Link Road in Bannu and he himself would spearhead the protesters to Islamabad. He said the caravans from Peshawar, Nowshera and Northern Areas would join them at the designated places on way to the federal capital. “We would not stage 126-day sit-in like that of the PTI. We would look into the situation and decide our future line of action. Our demands are the same including, tendering resignation by prime minister, holding fair and free general elections and protection to the Islamic clauses in the Constitution,” he said.
Rejecting government’s ban on Ansarul Islam force, a wing of trained personnel of JUI-F for maintaining order in the public meetings of the party, Akram Durrani said all political parties have such organisations. He said slapping ban on the Ansarul Islam force is perplexing. He also came down hard on the government for blocking the National Identity Card of JUI-F Senator Hafiz Hamdullah and stripping him of the citizenship. “He is a senator and had also served as a provincial minister in Balochistan,” Akram Durrani said, adding the PTI-led government has panicked and is taking irrational actions. He urged the government to unblock his identity card and restore his citizenship forthwith. The Rahbar Committee chairman also said their march would be peaceful, therefore, the government must open all the routes to facilitate the marchers and general public as well. Durrani claimed that the traders, industrialists, doctors, media persons, farmers and common people’s demands were their demands and they would stand by them through thick and thin.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman will lead the Azadi March caravan in Karachi at 10:00am today (Sunday), a statement issued by the party said. The caravan will proceed to the Super Highway (M9) after smaller demonstrations will depart from the city’s six districts and gather at Sohrab Goth, according to the statement. The Azadi March will officially begin “after an address by Maulana Fazlur Rehman at Sohrab Goth” to show solidarity with the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir.
Senior JUI-F leaders were busy finalising arrangements, which largely include hiring of buses and other vehicles. A senior party member said that the number of buses had already crossed 400. At present, Sindh emerges as the only province where the JUI-F finds a favourable atmosphere to launch its journey towards Islamabad after the remaining three “pro-Centre” provincial governments announced measures that do not sound promising for the JUI-F.
According to the No Objection Certificate issued by the office of the deputy commissioner of Karachi’s East zone, permission was granted to JUI-F leader Maulana Fatehullah, for the party to hold a rally adjacent to Super Highway, near Total petrol pump in Sohrab Goth.