Fazl postpones Azadi March

Staff Report
ISLAMABAD: The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has changed the date of its Azadi March from Oct 27 to 31st in order to join Kashmiri people in observing 27th as a black day across the country in protest against the Indian occupation of Kashmir.
Speaking to reporters, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said his party would now join Kashmiris to protest the Indian atrocities in the region.
The change of heart came after the party came under criticism from government quarters for choosing 27th to start his anti-government movement.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had asked Fazl to change protest date to a suitable one as the Oct 27 marked the day of solidarity with Kashmiri people.
Besides the government, the opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, had also tried to convince Fazl to postpone the protest till November so that they would be able to mobilise their supporters.
However, Fazl went ahead to announce the date of the protest, hinting at a solo flight. The opposition parties have yet to make a final decision on whether to join the JUI-F sit-in or not.
Earlier in the day, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) on Wednesday formally requested the Islamabad administration for permission to hold the anti-government Azadi March at D-Chowk, located in the Red Zone.
JUI-F leader Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, through his counsel Kamran Murtaza, submitted an application to Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmad seeking permission to hold the march as well as security arrangements for the participants.
According to the application, the JUI-F will be holding the “Azadi March on October 27, 2019, at D-Chowk, Islamabad, exercising its democratic and Constitutional right under Articles 16 and17 of the Constitution against the incumbent government”.
Last week, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had announced to begin the Azadi March on Oct 27 [now Oct 31] to oust the “incompetent” government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, blaming him for the economic woes of the country.
After the announcement, the government hinted at the use of force to scuttle the long march. Interior Minister Ijaz Shah had told reporters that the government would not let anti-government protesters run amok and it would resort to calling in the Pakistan Army if needed. He had said to call in the military would be the last option, “but I hope the situation won’t deteriorate to that level”.
“The government is fully prepared to control any kind of situation and no one will be allowed to take the law into his hand,” the interior minister said, adding that Section 144 will be imposed in Islamabad’s Red Zone and police would be deployed to block its entry points.
However, the primary duty to stop these protesters lies with the provincial governments, the minister said, adding that the provinces must make sure that people do not join the protest rallies. Such statements were also made by the chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last week.
Reacting to the government, Fazl had said his protest would end only with the fall of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The entire country would turn into a battlefield once protests were launched against the incumbent government, he had warned PTI government.
“The party has “plan B and C” if the authorities attempted to stop marchers from reaching the federal capital,” he had said, adding the party would keep changing its strategy to cope with all types of situation.