Deadlock on PM’s resignation persists


ISLAMABAD: Deadlock between the government and opposition parties over the demand of resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan still persists ahead of the meeting between the two sides today (Friday).

The JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, on Thursday told the government’s negotiation committee to “bring the prime minister’s resignation letter” with them when they come for negotiations.

Fazlur Rehman said that his anti-government protest — dubbed by the party as Azadi March — is on schedule for October 31 and no change is on the cards. “A decision to take it back will only be made, if at all, by the Rehbar Committee,” he said, addressing a press conference in Sukkur after a meeting of the JUI-F members.

He, however, downplayed the possibility of such an outcome, expressing complete confidence that the march will take place with full participation and endorsement by the nation.
The JUI-F chief reiterated the opposition’s plans of showing solidarity with Kashmiris on October 27 — observed across the world by Kashmiris as Black Day. “Special programmes will be held throughout the country and a large gathering will be held in Karachi on the occasion,” he said.

The government has let down Kashmiris. Evil doers themselves are raising a hue and cry over evil,” said Fazlur Rehman.

He said that all sections of society wish to participate in the march and “all parties are in agreement with us over the fact that this government that has come to power through rigging cannot be allowed to continue”. The Maulana denied that there was any unwillingness by the Rehbar Committee to meet with their government counterparts. He said that after today’s meeting between the two sides, the opposition parties will hold consultations before responding to the government. “However, what can be expected from a team headed by Pervez Khattak? His attitude and mannerisms are not conducive to holding talks,” he said.

He further criticised the government for offering to hold talks on the one hand, while on the other creating hurdles in the way of the opposition. “Shops, petrol pumps, etc., are all being made to shut down. They can do what they like. We will enter Islamabad, come what may,” he said.

Fazlur Rehman urged the opposition not to lose their nerve and to present a strong front against the government. “The entire nation’s hopes lie with us and we must support them,” he said.

Regarding Nawaz Sharif’s health, the JUI-F chief said that “to give someone the hardship of imprisonment when their health is failing them is the sign of a tyrannical leadership”.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, two members of the government negotiation committee, had on Wednesday reached out to Akram Khan Durrani and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, respectively, regarding their protest march.

Following the telephonic contact by the government representatives, Akram Durrani called a meeting of the Rehbar Committee today (Friday), according to a JUI-F spokesperson. It will be held at 4:00pm at Durrani’s Islamabad residence. Following the meeting, the government negotiation committee headed by Pervaiz Khattak will meet the Rehbar Committee at 5:00pm to discuss the Azadi March.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari assured Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the party workers and leaders will attend the Azadi March. The Maulana Thursday contacted Bilawal and in telephonic conservations they discussed the schedule of Azadi March and political situation of the country. A meeting between Bilawal and Fazlur Rehman is also expected before the Azadi March.

Earlier, Fazlur Rehman also made a telephonic contact with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and inquired his health and prayed for his fast recovery. Nawaz Sharif thanked the Maulana for inquiring his health and reiterated his commitment of participation of the PML-N in Azadi March.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pervaiz Khattak discussed the upcoming Rehbar Committee negotiations and doctors protest during a telephonic conversation.

Khattak informed the prime minister about his recent contacts with the opposition regarding the upcoming Azadi March. The prime minister advised Khattak regarding the upcoming negotiations with the committee. Pervaiz Khattak said he has talked to some opposition leaders, but no one talked about PM’s resignation. The government negotiations committee also held a meeting with the MQM-Pakistan and GDA to take them into confidence with regard to negotiations with the Rehbar Committee.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani Pervaiz Khattak also held a meeting with the PML-Q President and former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Parvaiz Elahi at their residence in Islamabad. Both the leaders inquired about welfare of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and held consultations about opposition’s Azadi March.

Our correspondent adds from Sukkur: Fazlur Rehman has dispelled the impression of any differences in the opposition ranks, saying we all are on the same page and committed that the incumbent government must pack up and leave. Talking to the media after the meeting of JUI-F Central Shura on Thursday, he said the Rehbar Committee will also decide as to how long the participants of the Azadi March will stay in Islamabad.

Fazl said negotiations with the government are only possible if the government committee comes with the prime minister’s resignation in hand. He announced holding a large rally in Karachi on 27th for solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Oct 27 is observed as a ‘Black Day’ by the Kashmiris. The JUI-F chief said the PTI has disappointed the nation and the Kashmiris by failing to adequately address the Kashmir issue.

Regarding the Rehbar Committee’s unwillingness to hold talks with the government, he said there is nothing like that. We are willing to hold talks with them and will respond to the government after holding consultations. However, he objected to the government negotiating panel under the leadership of federal minister Pervaiz Khattak. He said the government is acting with duplicity. On one hand, it talks of holding talks while on the other it is creating hurdles in the way of the of Azadi March. The JUI-F chief said irrespective of any government action, we will reach Islamabad on October 31. He said ever since the announcement of the Azadi March, his party workers and leaders are being hauled up by police and some have been arrested by NAB on trumped up charges. He said none of these actions will dissuade the party from proceeding ahead with its Azadi March. Fazl clarified there is no question of postponing or putting off the proposed march.

The JUI-F Central Council Shura expressed concern over the health of former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and prayed for his early recovery. The JUI-F chief, Fazlur Rehman, alleged that delaying timely treatment and keeping Nawaz Sharif in the prison despite his illness was the worst form of state repression. He said it seems there is dictatorship in the garb of democratic government in the country.

Fazl said a similar unacceptable treatment is being meted out to the former president who has only now been shifted to the hospital despite being recommended by the medical board some time ago.

Fazl said there is no way this government could be tolerated any more. They have unleashed economic misery on the nation, he said and added inflation is keeping people from having two square meals. The industries are being shut and people are being rendered jobless. There are no government jobs either, he charged. He said opposition is backed by traders, shopkeepers and businessmen who have attached high hopes to the success of the opposition march.