Govt, opposition strike deal; ‘Azadi March’ to be held away from Islamabad’s Red Zone

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Shafaqna Pakistan: The government and opposition, after an earlier deadlock, on Saturday night inked a deal whereby the terms and conditions of the anti-government ‘Azadi March’ were chalked out.

The foremost development, which had remained a sticking point in the meeting held a day earlier between the two sides, was the agreement of a venue. The protest, it was decided, will be held in Islamabad’s H-9 area, in the Sunday bazaar grounds.

In a press conference, the head of the government’s negotiation committee, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak reiterated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise that the participants will “see no obstacles” from the government as long as the protest is peaceful.

According to the agreement, the government will not stand in the protesters’ way and “neither will the participants face any difficulty in getting food delivered”.

The participants will not be allowed to venture far from the designated venue. Another condition is that the responsibility of the internal security will lie with the organisers.

The organisers will be required to submit to the Islamabad administration a written affidavit guaranteeing that all conditions will be met.

It was further outlined that in the event of a violation of the terms and conditions and of damage to lives or property, the relevant action as per the law will be taken.

Earlier on Saturday evening, JUI-F leader and head of the opposition Rehbar Committee Akram Khan Durrani had announced that the participants of the anti-government ‘Azadi March’ “will not enter the Red Zone” of Islamabad.

“All 11 of the committee’s members are in agreement over the fact that the protesters will not enter the Red Zone,” he had said.

Durrani had said the protest march will “not be prolonged”. “We will make further decisions as and when appropriate.”

He had reiterated the party’s demands, namely, the prime minister’s resignation, fresh elections, no interference from the military, and the protection of clauses pertaining to Islam within the Constitution.

He had also called for NAB to release all political prisoners.

He had rejected the ban on ‘Ansar-ul-Islam’, the “militant” wing of the JUI-F. “All parties have such wings and it is beyond my understanding why this one was banned.”

The JUI-F leader had insisted that the march will be “peaceful” and called on the government “to open all pathways and roads in the face of an existing threat to the law and order in the country”.

He had said that the caravans of protesters from the southern districts as well as North and South Waziristan will be personally led by him.

Durrani had expressed confidence that the marchers will be given a warm welcome by all districts that they pass through and said that people from Peshawar, Nowshera and other southern areas will join the caravan.

He had said that caravans from Chitral and the adjoining areas will take the Karakoram Highway.

‘Azadi March’ to kick off in Karachi tomorrow

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman himself will “lead the Azadi March caravan in Karachi at 10am on October 27”, a statement issued by the party on Thursday had said.

The caravan will proceed to the Superhighway (M9) after smaller demonstrations will depart from the city’s six districts and gather at Sohrab Goth, according to the statement.

The Azadi March will officially begin “after an address by Maulana Fazlur Rehman at Sohrab Goth” to show solidarity with the people of India-occupied Kashmir, the party had said in the statement.

Senior JUI-F leaders have been busy finalising arrangements, which largely include hiring of buses and other vehicles. A senior party member said that the number of buses had already crossed 400.

At present, Sindh emerges as the only province where the JUI-F finds a favourable atmosphere to launch its journey towards Islamabad after the remaining three “pro-Centre” provincial governments announced measures that do not sound promising for the right-wing opposition party.

According to a no objection certificate (NOC) issued by the office of the deputy commissioner of Karachi’s East zone, permission has been granted to JUI-F leader Maulana Fatehullah, for the party to hold a rally adjacent to Super Highway, near Total petrol pump in Sohrab Goth.

The permission has been granted subject to the following conditions:

  1. No secetarian speeches/objectionable activity which can create hatred among various sects.
  2. No display of arms, sticks, or batons, or any article of such nature.
  3. Use of sound amplifying devices will be subject to the West Pakistan Amplifier Ordinance 1965.
  4. No road obstruction or disturbance to the general public and traffic.
  5. The organiser will be responsible for any harm or damage caused to any person or property during the event.
  6. The organiser is solely responsible for any mishap and will have to face the consequences.
  7. The internal security of the programme is the responsibility of the organisers.
  8. The applicant will abide by the orders of the administration and other law enforcing agencies.
  9. The organiser shall be responsible for ensuring timings are strictly adhered to and that the situation remains normal.
  10. The violation of this permit shall be seriously viewed and action taken within the relevant laws.
  11. The organiser will be held responsible for the violation of the terms and conditions of the NOC.
  12. Vehicles will have to be parked approximately 1km away from the venue.
  13. The organiser will arrange walk through gates.