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Maulana’s end game

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It was bright sunny afternoon of 24 October 2019 when suddenly the weather changed there were heavy dark clouds in Bradford Yorkshire City of UK where I was invited for a dinner by few friends belonging to different political affiliations settled in UK since 1958.Since I am in the field of journalism for over 30 years they were all keen to know more about the latest political situation in Pakistan. Although they were all current with the latest situation but they wanted to hear from me. Majority of the questions related to Maulana Fazal ur Rahman Chief JUI who had announced Azadi March to start from 27 October and reach Islamabad on 31 October 2019 and later on decide about the plans (A,B,and C) prepared for country wide protests to force Imran Khan to resign as he was selected Prime Minister and establishment had brought him. They were very vocal in expressing their views .I tried to convince them that in Pakistan we have workable democracy and PTI government is all set to bring end to corruption and raise living standard of poor class but it will take time. In Pakistan everyone is free to express his opinion and stage protests that are in accordance with the Article 19 of the constitution of Pakistan in which freedom of speech has been guaranteed. The chief host Raja Nisar who by profession is Chartered Accountant uttered a beautiful four word sentence that Maulana had been hired and then he will be fired. This was a big surprise for me. This sentence was perhaps to convey that it is scripted sit in and shall be called off in few days after the mission is accomplished. But who was the mastermind appeared to be difficult to determine. Some expressed as if it was establishment behind this planned sit in just to put caution on Imran Khan, but I disagreed and promised them that that real picture will be intimated to them after reaching back to Pakistan. Interesting feature of this discussion was that Azadi March had not yet started but the way events got folded it happened exactly the same way as it was predicted.
Before the launch of Azadi March Maulana had detailed deliberations with the opposition leaders mainly PPP and PML N including Asfandyar Wali and Mahmood Khan Achakzai PKMP. There were certain reservations by the major opposition political parties as they wanted to defer the sit in till March 2020 but Maulana did not agree with this change and told them that there will be no deviation from these dates but at the same time they assured him of full cooperation. We did witness leaders from opposition parties standing side by side with Maulana on the stage but it used to be a short appearance mainly for photo session
Undoubtedly never in the political history of Pakistan such a big crowd staged sit in with such a perfect discipline adhering strictly to the agreement signed with the Islamabad administration. Irrespective of the outcome of this Azadi March Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman has proved that protests of higher magnitude could be held peacefully. It is a good beginning in the dirty politics of the country for that Maulana deserves great appreciation. It is honest fact initially PTI did not take it seriously but soon it was realised that God forbid if Maulana decides to march forward and the opposition parties join JUI it may be difficult to control it. Sooner consensus developed and it was decided that Maulana should be contacted to call off sit in. The task was assigned to Ch Parvez Illahi speaker of provincial assembly to tone down Maulana Sahib. A question was raised that who is behind this sit in, fingers were pointed towards establishment but it did not strike proper to people and it was believed to be the work of combined opposition allowing Maulana to go ahead with Plan A to create panic amongst government ranks and pave way for Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for treatment. It was great success and he fulfilled the task very intelligently. Now Maulana was looking for respectable strategy to call off sit in and the government came to its rescue. As reported in the media the government messenger made certain offers that were turned down by Maulana that are now being denied by PML Q leader Ch Parvez Illahi but he acknowledged that he was talking on behalf of government. There should be no doubt that Chaudhry’s have soft corner for Nawaz Sharif. In any case it was good to see protesters packing up from Islamabad while doing so plan B was put in to operation for face saving that was to block traffic at designated places but that has also been gradually fizzled out. Main task was to arrange safe exit for Nawaz Sharif
Maulana’s Azadi March ended with great success as the government removed the name of Nawaz form ECL. There is no indication that opposition would unite and pose some problem to government, but this small well organised exercise has proved that Maulana Fazal -ur-Rahman emerged as leader and can pose problem for the government.
Unfortunately Prime Minister continues to ignore opposition that would help them to unite and indications are there that March may see some serious activities by combined opposition. It is time to engage opposition because they need to amend the constitution to regularise extension of Gen Bajwa as it is not that simple as being preached by legal team of government. But Pakistan cannot afford any adventure under present circumstances, the ball is in the court of Imran Khan it all depends how he handles it, it is hoped it is not handled like cricket.