Long march call against govt receives cold response


ISLAMABAD: The long march call given by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) received a cold response from other parties when the proposal was taken up during a meeting of the opposition’s Rehbar Committee here on Monday.

Sources told Dawn that almost all the parties expressed their concern over the unilateral announcement by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that his party had decided to hold a “decisive” long march to Islamabad in October to oust the government. However, the matter was later left to be decided by their leadership in the next multi-party conference (MPC) the date of which would be announced later.

Briefing reporters about the decisions, Rehbar Committee’s convener Akram Khan Durrani said all the parties had submitted their charters of demand and these demands would also be finalised and prioritised in the next MPC.

Mr Durrani also disclosed that the MPC which was scheduled to be held on Aug 29 had been postponed due to poor health condition of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif and some other engagements of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Rehbar Committee voices concern over unilateral announcement by Fazl

Speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day Majlis-i-Shoora meeting on Sunday, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had announced that his party had planned a decisive long march towards Islamabad in October and a final date would be announced after consultation with other opposition parties.

Maulana Fazl had stated that the long march proposal would be discussed in the meeting of the Rehbar Committee on Monday and a proposal to organise a meeting of the heads of all opposition parties was also under consideration.

“The leaders of almost all the parties told the JUI-F members that it was their Majlis-i-Shoora which had decided to launch the long march, and that they were not in a position to make any commitment on the issue without discussing it within their respective parties,” said a senior opposition leader who was present in the meeting.

He said the opposition’s demands included establishment of rule of law in the country, fresh elections, across-the-board accountability after revamping of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), ensuring supremacy of parliament and eliminating the interference of other state institutions in the parliamentary matters.

He said the demands would be finalised and shortlisted in the MPC. In the same MPC, he said, the opposition leaders would discuss the plan for putting pressure on the government for fulfillment of their demands and also finalise the strategy regarding mode of agitation, in case the demands were not given serious consideration by the government.

The sources said the opposition members also discussed the option of moving an impeachment resolution under Article 47 of the Constitution against President Dr Arif Alvi for unilaterally appointing the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in violation of the Constitution.

Article 47 states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the President may, in accordance with the provisions of this Article, be removed from office on the ground of physical or mental incapacity or impeached on a charge of violating the Constitution or gross misconduct.”

During his news conference, Akram Durrani also said that the “unconstitutional appointment” of the ECP members provided a legal and constitutional justification to impeach the president. He said that even the chief election commissioner did not administer oath to the newly-appointed ECP members, terming their appointment illegal.

“Has the president not violated the Constitution?” he asked.

A senior PPP member told Dawn that the opposition parties were considering the option of lodging their protest on the issue during the address of President Alvi to the joint sitting of parliament on Aug 30.

Meanwhile, Mr Durrani, while commenting on the address to the nation by Prime Minister Imran Khan, said that it was a “disappointing speech” by a person who was getting no support on the Kashmir issue from the international community as well as from within the country.

He alleged that the government had sold out Kashmir and the issue had been settled during the prime minister’s visit to the US. He said the prime minister had himself admitted in his speech that he was not getting support from anywhere on the Kashmir issue.

Mr Durrani expressed the hope that Mr Khan’s speech showed that he might submit his resignation soon. He said that under the present circumstances, it would be harmful for the country to allow the “selected government” to continue.

At a grand opposition meeting hosted by the PPP chairman in Islamabad in May, Maulana Fazl was reportedly in favour of launching a full-fledged anti-government movement soon after Eidul Fitr, saying that “they are already too late”.

The sources said the JUI-F chief had suggested holding a sit-in at D-Chowk in Islamabad like the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) did in 2014, but other opposition parties did not support the idea. The PPP was of the view that since they had taken a principled stand that the indefinite sit-in was an undemocratic act of the PTI, it would be difficult for it to support any such plan. Moreover, sources told Dawn that the PPP and PML-N believed that it would be difficult for them to arrange workers and people for an indefinite sit-in and the whole movement could be taken over by the religious groups and parties which could use the seminary students through exploitation of religious sentiments.

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