Azadi marchers agree to stay away from Islamabad’s Red Zone

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–Defence Minister Khattak says agreement reached with Opp’s Rahbar Committee, hopes rallies will be peaceful

–Says Rahbar Committee did not ask for PM’s resignation neither had it put forth demand for fresh elections

 

 

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said on Saturday that an agreement has been reached between the government and Rahbar Committee of the joint opposition according to which participants of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)-led Azadi March will not enter Islamabad’s D-Chowk in the high security Red Zone.

Addressing a press conference, the head of the government’s committee Khattak said that both sides had reached an understanding.

“(JUI-F leader) Akram Durrani has assured me that participants of the march will not enter the Red Zone,” he said, adding that the government would remove the containers placed in Islamabad to thwart the protest rally and would also provide food to the protesters.

“Whether it be a sit-in or a political gathering, it should be peaceful,” he added.

Khattak said that the Rahbar Committee had not asked for the prime minister’s resignation neither had it put forth the demand for elections.

“We hope the JUI-F will conduct its protest within the limitations of the constitution,” he said. “If that happens, then the government will not block any roads or create any hurdles for the march. The containers will start going away,” he added.

Khattak said that according to the agreement, the JUI-F will hold its rally at the Peshawar Mor ground. He refuted allegations that a deal has been reached between the government and the Rahbar Committee.

“No deal has taken place. We are democratic people. This is not like NRO. That happens when someone does something bad,” he said.

In a separate statement to the press, Akram Durrani confirmed that the participants of the Azadi March “will not enter the Red Zone” of Islamabad.

“All 11 of the committee’s members are in agreement over the fact that the protesters will not enter the Red Zone,” he said.

Durrani said the protest march will be held “on a road” and “won’t be prolonged”. “We will make further decisions as and when appropriate.”

He reiterated the party’s demands, namely, the prime minister’s resignation, fresh elections, no interference from the military, and the protection of clauses pertaining to Islam within the constitution.

Durrani also called for NAB to release all political prisoners.

He rejected the ban on ‘Ansar-ul-Islam’, the “militant” wing of the JUI-F. “All parties have such wings and it is beyond my understanding why this one was banned.”

The JUI-F leader insisted that the march will be “peaceful” and called on the government “to open all pathways and roads in the face of an existing threat to the law and order in the country”.

He said that the caravans of protesters from the southern districts as well as North and South Waziristan will be personally led by him.

Durrani expressed confidence that the marchers will be given a warm welcome by all districts that they pass through and said that people from Peshawar, Nowshera and other southern areas will join the caravan. He said that caravans from Chitral and the adjoining areas will take the Karakoram Highway.

According to the agreement, the government will not stand in the protesters’ way and “neither will the participants face any difficulty in getting food delivered”.

The participants will not be allowed to venture far from the designated venue. Another condition is that the responsibility of the internal security will lie with the organisers.

The organisers will be required to submit to the Islamabad administration a written affidavit guaranteeing that all conditions will be met.

It was further outlined that in the event of a violation of the terms and conditions and of damage to lives or property, the relevant action as per the law will be taken.

AZADI MARCH TO KICK OFF ON SUNDAY:

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman himself will “lead the Azadi March caravan in Karachi at 10am on October 27”, a statement issued by the party on Thursday had said.

The caravan will proceed to the Superhighway (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 Fazl at Sohrab Goth” to show solidarity with the people of India-occupied Kashmir, the party had said in the statement.

Senior JUI-F leaders have been 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 right-wing opposition party.

According to a no objection certificate (NOC) issued by the office of the deputy commissioner of Karachi’s East zone, permission has been 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.