ISLAMABAD.: A day after setting a two-day ultimatum for the prime minister to resign, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that he would not relent until the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was sent packing as it had become a “security risk” for the country.
“This fake government has formed a committee today and says its doors are open for talks. How can this government say this while it has barricaded all the roads leading to the Presidency, the Prime Minister House and Bani Gala,” said the 66-year-old firebrand cleric while addressing his supporters from atop a purpose-built container.
“They [govt negotiators] say that negotiations would be held in accordance with the law and the Constitution. I ask them to prove the legal and constitutional status of their own government first,” said the politico-religious leader, flanked by Mehmood Khan Achakzai of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and Mian Iftikhar Hussain of the Awami National Party.
Referring to thousands of his supporters encamped on a sprawling ground in Sector H-9 of Islamabad, the Maulana said these people had converged on the capital for the rule of law and the Constitution.
“This sea of people has gathered here to challenge the government to prove its legal and constitutional status,” he said. “This government is fake. This government is illegal, unconstitutional and alien.”
The cleric reiterated his demand that the government resign and let the people elect a “legal and constitutional government”. “Today, the Rahbar Committee of the opposition parties unanimously endorsed our demand and said we would stay united for the achievement of our goal,” he claimed.
The JUI-F chief asked the participants of the march to pledge that they would follow every decision of the joint opposition. “Nobody could even imagine achieving in 100 years what we have in just three days,” he claimed.
“You [the government] must realise that you are no longer in power. Now we control the country and we’ll run it peacefully and stabilise its crippling economy and protect every segment of the society.”
The Maulana criticised the incumbent rulers over the “failure of their foreign policy”.
“Pakistan has become isolated because of your blunders… India is your enemy, Afghanistan and Iran are outraged and China is disappointed. Where do you stand today? What is your foreign policy?” he said, adding that even Pakistan’s permanent friends were not supporting it at the United Nations now.
“India is really happy with Imran Khan becoming the prime minister as it has succeeded in annexing Kashmir.”
The cleric sought to defend some ‘Azadi March’ participants carrying flags of Afghan Taliban, saying that delegations of the Afghan Taliban were officially welcomed in Islamabad by the PTI government.
“Someone waved an Afghan Taliban flag … the ones you call terrorists were welcomed by Pakistan with presidential protocol … America engaged with them in talks … they were also welcomed in Moscow,” he added. “Therefore, this criticism is baseless and an attempt to malign our ‘Azadi March’. This government doesn’t know a thing except abusing, hurling accusations and lying.”
He said the presence of the Afghan Taliban flags at the rally could be the government resorting to “mischief” to find something against the participants.
Referring to Premier Imran’s criticism over the JUI-F protest being covered by Indian TV channels, Maulana Fazl said the entire international media was covering the ‘Azadi March’, not just the one in the neighbouring country.
The JUI-F chief also rebuffed criticism over the absence of women at the march. “We respect women more than you can ever imagine,” he said, adding that the party’s female members were playing their part to make the march a success.
“Every society has its own norms and values, and no woman has been stopped from participating in our protest,” he said. “Our women are participating in this protest from their homes. They are fasting and praying [for our success]. We have women in the assemblies”.
He added that female journalists were covering the rally without any hindrance.