ISLAMABAD – An All Parties Conference (APC) of the opposition parties on Monday decided to continue sit-in for two more days.
The decision was taken during an all parties conference summoned by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman for planning a joint course of action for the Azadi marchers to proceed for increasing pressure on the government. All opposition parties had been invited to attend the APC.
Sources said that the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supported to continue sit-in for two more days.
The PPP and PML-N are not against staging sit-in at Peshawar Mor but against staging sit-in at D-Chowk.
Both the opposition parties opposed marching towards D-Chowk and staging sit-in.
Sources further said that the sit-in would continue until the government’s negotiating team and opposition’s Rehbar Committee reach any conclusion.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in National Assembly and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have not attended an all-party conference headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal had announced that party president Shehbaz Sharif would not attend the conference, and the party delegation will instead be lead by former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq.
Iqbal made the announcement after the PML-N decided to throw its full support behind the JUI-F led Azadi March. Ahsan was speaking to the media after a party meeting held under PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s chairmanship ended in Lahore.
Iqbal added that the PML-N’s point of view will be presented before the Rehbar committee, adding that opposition should stand on a united platform in their struggle against the government.
Yesterday, following a meeting of JUI-F leadership, veteran politician Fazlur Rehman decided to continue the sit-in protest campaign. The meeting discussed the Rehbar Committee’s recommendations including resignations, shutter down strike across the country and countywide wheel-jam strike.
The JUI-F chief decided to summon an APC on the issue of sit-in, while head of the Rehbar Committee Akram Durrani has been tasked to contact the opposition parties for the APC.
Earlier, the opposition’s Rehbar Committee recommended a plan to shift the protest venue to D-Chowk, resignation of opposition members of the National Assembly, blocking highways and indefinite shutter-down strike to cripple functioning of the federal government. However, the plans appear to be keep on changing citing new developments in the capital city.
On Saturday, the JUI-F chief vowed to topple the ruling regime and run the country. Addressing the participants of the Islamabad sit-in, he said that writ of the incumbent government has ended and now “we will run the country”.
He said: “We will provide satisfaction and protection to the country.” Fazl asked the government to “step down and don’t test our patience”. He vowed to continue protest until the toppling of the government.
On Friday, the JUI-F chief had given a two-day deadline to Prime Minister Imran Khan for resignation or else he said: “We will be forced to think of another strategy”. Fazl, while welcoming the leaders of political parties in Azadi March, said they [the protesters] would not be able to exercise patience after two days.
As the JUI-F has raised its stakes in a protest campaign that the government has denounced as a threat to democracy, the government has refused to accept the Rehbar Committee’s demands which have led to persistent deadlock.
The JUI-F chief had said this was not a gathering of any single political party but a gathering of whole nation, adding that the nation has stood against the government on one platform. He further said: “We do not accept results of 2018 general elections.”
On the other hand, the government while tightening the security arrangements, blocked the roads leading to the Red Zone. Around 9,000 police personnel had been deployed from Zero Point to Red Zone and tear gas canisters, Shields and other items have been provided.
The district administration and police have blocked the Serena Chowk, Nadra Chowk, Express Chowk, Marriot and Bari Imam by parking containers filled with dust. Pakistan Army and Rangers have been deployed at the sensitive buildings.
Sources say the law enforcers have already devised a plan to keep the protesters confined to the designated H-9 venue and not to allow them to move to some other place.
The federal government appears determined to block the Azadi March from leaving its designated protest site after Fazl threatened to march on D-Chowk today if the prime minister does not resign.
Interior Minister Ejaz Shah chaired a meeting attended by representatives of the army and Rangers, and the Islamabad chief commissioner and the police chief.
Meanwhile, thousands of additional policemen have been provided and deployed to the administration of Islamabad Capital Territory. Moreover, police’s complete command structure and anti-riot gear have also been provided to the administration.
DIG Operations Waqarud Din Syed said that they were ready to deal with any situation.
Army says it supports democratically elected government
Pakistan’s powerful military said it supported the country’s elected government and the constitution. “We believe in the law and the constitution and our support is with the democratically elected government, not with any party,” military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said in comments to a television news channel late on Friday.
The military has denied meddling in politics and Khan has dismissed the calls to step down. The leader of the protest, religious party chief Fazlur Rehman, told a rally of tens of thousands of supporters that he did not want a “collision with institutions”, a thinly veiled reference to the military, and called on them to be impartial.
The ISPR said Rehman should know the military was impartial and it should not be dragged into politics. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday urged the government to handle the protest peacefully.
The government, struggling to get the economy on track, has denounced the protests as a threat to the constitution and to democracy and has said it will not be allowed to paralyse the capital.
Rehman, leader of the conservative JUI-F party, is a veteran politician who can mobilise significant support in religious schools across the country. Protesters are camped out at the rally site, cooking food and resting.