ISLAMABAD: The federal government has allowed the Jamiat Ulema-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) to hold its anti-government ‘Azadi march’ on condition that the protest will stay ‘within the ambit of law’.
“It was decided that the government, with its firm belief in upholding democratic ideals, would allow the proposed Azadi march, if it takes place within the ambit of law and the Constitution as interpreted in the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court (IHC),” said a statement on Wednesday.
The statement was issued by the PM Office after a governmental team – constituted to negotiate with the opposition parties taking part in the march – met Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Taking PM Imran into confidence, the team, led by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, expressed hope of holding successful negotiations with the opposition before October 27, the day when opposition plans to show its strength by holding rallies in support of people of the occupied Kashmir.
Khattak also briefed the premier about his contacts with opposition parties.
According to sources privy to the meeting, the premier while formally allowing the committee to hold talks with opposition noted that peaceful protest is everyone’s right but no one would be allowed to block roads of the federal capital.
Imran Khan said there are court judgments with regards staging protest in Islamabad, adding that the Ministry of Interior would device an strategy in case of a violation of these verdicts.
The IHC last week had decided a set of petitions regarding the Azadi march by directing the local administration to ensure protection of the rights of the citizens of the capital city. It had also directed the administration to decide JUI-F application for holding of the proposed march 'as per law'
After meeting with the premier, the governmental committee also held a meeting at the speaker’s house. During the meeting, Khattak contacted the JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani who is also head of the 9-member Rahbar Committee of opposition parties and told him about the government’s decision.
According to the sources, Durrani told Khattak that he would consult with other members of the Rahbar Committee and inform Khattak about the date and time of a possible meeting. Later, it was agreed that the government and opposition committees will meet on Friday at 5 pm to discuss the march.
Prior to holding talks with the government, Durrani has also convened a meeting of the Rahbar Committee today (Thursday) at his residence at 4pm.
The sources said Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi, who is also part of the government committee – comprising National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and PTI leader Asad Umar – also contacted JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman.
Elahi also invited Fazl to hold talks with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The JUI-F plans to march on Islamabad on October 31 as it demands resignation of the prime minister and a fresh election. The two main opposition parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have also shown their support to the JUI-F’s anti-government protest.
A day earlier, the government’s talks committee had decided to hold separate meetings with leaders of opposition parties, including JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
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