Azadi March: Fazl likely to lead anti-govt protests from Sindh

Senior JUI-F leaders say the party believes it will encounter least resistance from the province's authorities

Hafeez Tunio October 15, 2019
JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) finalises arrangements for its 'Azadi March', the party's Sindh leaders have revealed that their chief is likely to lead the anti-government procession from their province.

"Leaders from all four provinces invited Maulana [Fazlur Rehman] sahib to lead the march from their respective areas, but there is an 80 per cent chance he will start the movement from Sindh," said JUI-F Sindh Secretary-General Rashid Khalid Mehmood Soomro.

Sources privy to the party's protest plans said the reason Fazl is considering leading the protest march from Sindh is that it is likely to encounter the least resistance there. "Unlike the other three provincial governments, we are sure that Sindh authorities will not create any hindrances for us," said a senior JUI-F leader. "This will allow us to gather maximum momentum before we enter Obaro on the border between Sindh and Punjab."

Detailing the party's plan, a spokesperson for the JUI-F said the march will most likely begin from Karachi on the morning of October 27. After passing through the Karachi toll plaza, the procession will stop momentarily at Hatri Bypass to allow participants from Hyderabad to join in. The procession is supposed to be at Sakrand by 4 pm, where more participants from Benazirabad and other adjoining areas will join in. By evening, it is planned that the process will reach Sukkur, where it will stay for the night. After allowing protesters from Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, and Khairpur to join in, the procession will start marching towards Islamabad at 10 am on October 28, the spokesperson added.

Sources gave conflicting information on whether Fazl will lead the march from Karachi or join the procession in Sukkur. The JUI-F Sindh secretary-general himself suggested the latter plan.

Party sources said they expect more than 400,000 people will take part in the protest march. "We have finished visits to 29 different Sindh districts and mobilised around 460,000 registered JUI-F members," said a senior party leader. "Different parties like Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Sindh nationalists, traders and members of other religious parties will also join us," he said.

The senior JUI-F leader insisted the march would be a peaceful affair and no participant would be allowed to carry any sort of weapon. "We have gathered 15 million marchers recently. Not a single leaf of any tree has been damaged nor have we smashed any window. But we will resist if anyone tries to stop us and create hindrance in our way to Islamabad," he said, adding that "It is not civil disobedience nor we are going to attack parliament or any state institution. We will stage sit-ins or shut various cities if the Punjab government creates problems."

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According to party leaders, the JUI-F's 10,000-strong security wing 'Tanzeem Ansarul Islam' will provide security to the participants of the protest. They said half of the security personnel will be in uniform to deal with any untoward incident. "No government will have the courage to stop our peaceful march unless it wants a situation that will spiral out of control," said Saud Afzal, one of the nazims of Sindh. He added that around 3 million people from all provinces including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit will converge on the march.

The JUI-F Sindh chapter, meanwhile, has drafted a 32-point code of conduct for the Azadi March. According to sources, participants have been asked to bring bedclothes, two pieces of clothes, dry fruit, an umbrella, a hand torch and a mobile charger with an extra battery with them. Each district-level body of the party will bring an ambulance and arrange for first-aid.  No one will arrange the air-conditioned bus and all organizers will have to make videos of their transports before leaving from the main venue.

"We have arranged internet and WiFi facilities in our seminaries located on highways from Sindh to Islamabad. We can stay over there and use the internet," the directives issued to workers said. According to letters issued to party members, the UC, tehsil and district level office bearers of the party will have to arrange the transport with noting down their number plates and contact number of the driver.  "Each and every member has to erect his own tent in Islamabad and gas cylinders are strictly prohibited," the senior leaders in the directives said. Children under age 18 and women will not be allowed to participate in the event, the leaders added.


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