There’s no going back, says Fazl

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Shafaqna Pakistan: As the JUI-F’s two-day deadline to the government to step down expired on Sunday night, party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman ruled out the possibility of pulling back and pledged to pursue the objectives of his ‘Azadi March’ with more aggression.

“We are standing up for what’s right. Retreat would be a cardinal sin and there’s no going back. This is only our Plan A, we also have a Plan B and Plan C,” the 66-year-old firebrand cleric told the mammoth gathering of his supporters encamped on a sprawling ground in Sector H-9 of Islamabad.

“We won’t leave until our demands are met. This flood [of people] will not stop here. We will shut down the entire country next,” he warned.

However, the Maulana insisted that the protest would remain peaceful and hinted that there were no plans to march towards the federal capital’s D-Chowk.

There’s not enough space at D-Chowk. Even out here in the open [the venue of the protest], we are finding it difficult to accommodate all of us,” he said. “However, if we decide to march towards the Prime Minister’s House there will be no stopping us. We are here to do or die.”

On the expiry of the ultimatum to the government, the JUI-F has convened an all parties conference on Monday (today) to discuss the future course of action in consultation with the leaders of other opposition parties.

The Maulana reiterated that he would settle for nothing less than the government stepping down.

“The PTI government will have to go. There’s no other option for us [the opposition parties]. We have to give the people their right to elect their representatives,” he added, reviving former PM Nawaz Sharif’s slogan of upholding the sanctity of the vote.

“We’ll have to give respect to the vote,” he said. “Democratic institutions have been made redundant and the people are looking somewhere else for having their issues addressed instead of relying on their votes.”

Referring to the 2018 general elections, the JUI-F leader said the opposition parties’ votes were collectively more than those of the people on the treasury benches despite “massive rigging”.

“We have been told to go to the Election Commission of Pakistan, which is more helpless than us. It can’t even decide the case of the PTI’s foreign funding. How can it take up the rigging case”” he added.

He further said the parliamentary committee formed to investigate into the rigging had failed to hold a single meeting.

The Maulana maintained that institutions have strayed far from the constitutional boundaries set for them.

“Every institution is interfering in affairs that it shouldn’t,” he said.

“All institutions must concede that the constitution is supreme and adhere to that principle. If all institutions work within their constitutional domain, there will be no chaos in the country. Even he chief justice of Pakistan said that.”

The JUI-F chief also claimed that a conspiracy was being hatched against seminaries. “Madrassahs are places where poor children receive free education.”

Fazl said the PTI had turned D-Chowk into a place of vulgarity. “The whole nation was embarrassed because of your [PTI] actions,” he added.

Becoming emotional during his speech, the cleric, with tears in his eyes, said he saluted the passion of activists and supporters. “I know that you are ready to stay for years if you have to. I promise you that your leadership won’t disappoint you.”

Earlier in the day, JUI-F leaders held a six-hour meeting presided over by the Maulana to decide their next move after the expiry of the party’s deadline to the government.

Sources said the party leaders decided to continue the party’s protest on Kashmir Highway and hold an all parties conference on Monday to consult with the leaders of the PPP and the PML-N. The conference will be held at the Maulana’s residence at 1pm. Different options including staging countrywide protests would be considered.

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