Pakistani cleric-politician Fazlur Rehman says anti-govt protests will continue if Imran Khan doesn’t resign

  • Rehman, who addressing the protestors, warned that chaos will follow if their demands were not met

  • The Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People Party have also thrown their weight behind the rally

  • Rehman said if the government wanted to find a middle ground, it should present its suggestions, and then the Opposition will see

Islamabad: Firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Wednesday that the massive sit-in, aimed at toppling Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, was being held to fulfil a "national responsibility" and not to do with 'mujras' (dance performances), warning that chaos will ensue if their demands were not met.

The Pakistan government should present its suggestions to the Opposition parties if it wants to find a middle ground and break the deadlock, said Rehman, who has been leading the 'Azadi March' demanding the ouster of Imran.

The right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) leader is leading the massive protest, which entered the sixth day on Wednesday. Dubbed as 'Azadi March', the protestors demand Imran’s resignation, accusing him of "rigging" the 2018 general elections.

 Pakistani cleric-politician Fazlur Rehman says anti-govt protests will continue if Imran Khan doesn’t resign

File image of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. AP

Rehman said that the anti-government sit-in was staged with a view to fulfil a "national responsibility" and for which "much effort and resilience" has been exercised.

"It is not as if we are holding mujras (dance performances) each night. There are respectable people sitting here. They have not come here to indulge in debauchery. My decency does not permit me to repeat the scenes we all witnessed in Islamabad in the past," he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.

Rehman, who addressing the protestors, warned that chaos will follow if their demands were not met.

The Opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People Party (PPP), have also thrown their weight behind the massive anti-government rally comprising thousands of protesters in Islamabad.

Earlier, speaking to the media following his meeting with Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Rehman said: "the stage for a positive reply has not yet arrived".

"It is everyone's country, when the ship sinks, we all sink. There is restlessness in the country and it is everyone's responsibility to end this [restlessness]," Dawn quoted him as saying.

Rehman said if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government wanted to find a middle ground, it should present its suggestions, and then the Opposition will see.

He claimed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had itself admitted that 95 percent of the forms did not even have signatures and asked why the parliamentary commission had not been activated for a year.

"Imran Khan is not a bigger man than Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, if he had re-elections why can't [Imran]? We don't want to drag in the establishment," the JUI-F leader said.

The protest in the capital is the first concerted Opposition challenge that Imran has faced since he won the general election last year.

Imran on Wednesday expressed concerns over the well-being of the protestors and asked the authorities to visit the protest venue.

"I have directed the CDA Chairman to immediately visit the dharna site to assess what relief and assistance can be provided to the dharna participants with the onset of rain and changing weather conditions," Imran said in a tweet.

His remarks came a day after the second round of talks between the Pakistan government and Opposition leaders failed to break the ongoing deadlock between the two sides even as Imran said that he was ready to accept all "valid" demands of the 'Azadi March' protesters.

A delegation led by former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain met the 66-year-old cleric on Monday night, hours after the government's negotiating team led by Defence Minister Khattak held talks with the Opposition's Rehbar Committee headed by JUI-F leader Akram Khan Durrani and discussed their demands.

In its list of demands, the Rehbar Committee sought the premier's resignation and fresh elections in the country without the supervision of the armed forces.

The government, on the other hand, has demanded that the committee end the sit-in.

Rehman on Monday asked his supporters to continue their anti-government protest with "perseverance" and "courage", as the 48-hour deadline set by him for Prime Minister Khan's resignation expired.

He said the movement to oust the prime minister "will continue to move ahead and will never be on the back foot".

Rehman on Friday gave Khan a two-day ultimatum to resign, saying the "Gorbachev of Pakistan" must step down without testing the patience of peaceful protestors.

The cleric said the protest would continue until Imran steps down.

Updated Date: Nov 06, 2019 22:58:45 IST