- Despite opposition parties sharing his objectives
The PPP and the PML-N had made it known before the Azadi March that they would stand by the JUI-F leadership during the March and at the Islamabad public meeting. They would however not join any sit-in. By deciding to go for a dharna ignoring other parties’ reservations, the JUI-F chief has taken a leap of faith.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman has given two days to Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign. Mr Khan has pooh-poohed the demand making it clear that he is no way going to oblige the opposition. What is more, he has made fun of the JUI-F chief and the leaders of the entire opposition, calling them a gang of political orphans, thus adding fuel to the fire. A Prime Minister is expected to reduce political tensions instead of exacerbating them. Those who have Mr Khan’s ear need to advise him to avoid provoking the protesters which he is constantly doing, even at the risk of worsening the law and order situation.
There are indications that the JUI-F’s marchers might move towards the D-Chowk, a venue that the PTI’s marchers led by Mr Khan had occupied for more than three months in 2014. Despite the rowdyism displayed then, the PTI and PAT protestors were not forcibly removed even at the expense of the Chinese President’s visit. Against this the JUI-F’s march remained peaceful during a trek of over 1000 km as well as during its three-day stay in Islamabad. Any attempt to stop a peaceful rally which has assiduously avoided blocking traffic or acting unlawfully would be considered discriminatory. Among the areas blocked by the administration is Faizabad Interchange where TLP workers had stopped all traffic by force for nearly three weeks. A different treatment meted out to peaceful marchers who want to hold a sit-in would create a perception of partiality on the part of those in power.
To remain uncontroversial, state institutions and government departments should avoid taking sides on divisive political issues. The DG ISPR’s judgmental statement on the Azadi March leading to Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s riposte is an example. Many would maintain that the claim that “we support a democratically elected government, not any one party “ may not be historically valid.