Government may arrest JUI-F chief ahead of ‘Azadi March’ - GulfToday

Government may arrest JUI-F chief ahead of ‘Azadi March’


Maulana Fazlur Rehman. File

Tariq Butt / Agencies

The government is likely to arrest Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to prevent his “Azadi March,” supported by all opposition parties, in the federal capital on Oct.31.

It has decided in principle to prevent the sit-in. Officials said that in case of breakdown in negotiations between the government and JUI-F, the law enforcement agencies will detain Fazlur Rehman along with the key leadership of the party. The JUI-F chief could be detained well before the planned sit-in.

The government has decided to detain Fazlur Rehman, apprehending that the JUI-F would create unrest under a hidden agenda, officials said adding that he will be arrested in less than a week, preferably, on Oct.26.

Officials said nearly 8 top leaders of JUI-F will also be detained for 30 to 90 days while its activists will be arrested according to lists being prepared by the provincial and federal law enforcement agencies on the direction of the Ministry of Interior.

They said the ban on supposedly militant wing of the JUI-F, “Ansar-ul-Islam” will be put in place, probably, on Oct.26 if the Ministry of Interior approves the decision of taking legal action against the outfit.

“Though, it will be multi-dimensional crackdown on the JUI-F at a time when the party’s hierarchy has decided to go ahead with their planned march and sit-in, the government has no alternative except to keep peace by using all resources, powers and options,” the officials said.

As part of the strategy, the mobile phone service would be suspended in specific areas, especially, in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) and partially in the Punjab during the crackdown on the JUI-F activists and leadership, while the phone service would be suspended in federal capital territory after Oct.30 midnight.

Meanwhile, Lahore High Court (LHC) has fixed petition JUI-F’s anti-government “Azadi March” for hearing.

The plaintiff has adopted the stance that constitutional government cannot be dissolved before completing its five year tenure. JUI-F chief has formed “private army” for protecting his Azadi March, the plea claimed.

The petitioner further demanded the court to take up the case and stop JUI-F activists’ private army from holding illegal sit-in in the federal capital.

Earlier, JUI-F had cancelled meeting with government committee that was for discussion on the anti-government march. Fazlur Rehman said that Rahbar Committee of the opposition will take final decision regarding negotiations with the incumbent government during its session on Tuesday.

“We have decided to enter Islamabad on Oct.31,” JUI-F chief said, adding that marchers will express solidarity with Kashmiris on Oct.27 and then leave for the federal capital. “People from all over the country will enter Islamabad at the same time, he said.

The government is also weighing the option of calling in armed forces in the federal capital in connection with “Azadi March.” All major opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party have already announced their support for the protests.

Police circles said if the talks between a government committee and Rehman remain unsuccessful the government may call the army under Article 245 of the Constitution.

They said a meeting held at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s personal residence in Bani Gala on law and order situation discussed different options to counter the march.

The participants agreed that peaceful protest is everyone’s right but no one can be allowed to besiege Islamabad. The state will perform its duty to protect the public life and property. The meeting also discussed security of sensitive government buildings and foreign embassies.

It decided that the government will hold talks with all opposition parties including Rehman. If the talks fail, army troops will be deployed to protect the government buildings and important installations.

However, the Ministry of Interior will make the final decision if the armed forces are to be called.

Army troops were also called during the 2014 sit-ins of PTI/Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) and Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).  

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