–Fazl says Azadi March is a national movement, reiterates demand for PM Imran’s resignation
–Cellular services partially disrupted amid speculations of govt intentionally denying live coverage to protesters
–Shehbaz assures Fazl of ‘complete cooperation’ in Azadi March as protesters depart for Islamabad
LAHORE: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Azadi March on Wednesday reached Lahore where party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman held a massive political gathering at Azadi Chowk.
Addressed a charged crowd of his supporters he had brought along at Yateem Khana Chowk, Fazl said, “Pakistanis, from Karachi to Islamabad, are in agreement that Prime Minister Imran Khan should resign.”
“The premier still has time to ‘respectfully’ submit his resignation,” he said, adding that Pakistanis now would not give him further time to do so.
He said that Azadi March reflects the voice of every oppressed soul in the country. “People from every section of the society have tied their hopes to the march and it has now transformed into a national movement,” he added.
He praised the party workers for being peaceful. “All of you have proved this to be a tranquil march,” he said.
Fazl also prayed for the recovery of former premier Nawaz Sharif and former president Shehbaz Sharif, while calling on the government to “stop the drama”.
“This country has no room for any more dramas. We wish to see them released from behind bars and be among the people,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the Azadi March was welcomed in Lahore by supporters at Thokar Niaz Baig. Fazl thanked the people of the city for “welcoming them with open hearts”. He also thanked all parties and party workers for coming out for the Azadi March.
“The current rulers have no right to govern,” he said, adding that they should submit their resignation before the march reaches Islamabad.
As the marchers entered Lahore, cellular internet service was partially shut down across the provincial capital after the Punjab government directed the cellular service providers to do so in an apparent bid to stop Azadi March attendants from streaming the rally on social media.
Reportedly, Mobilink completely suspended its internet service while Zong partially shut down the coverage of its mobile internet service.
SHEHBAZ ASSURES ‘COMPLETE COOPERATION’:
Fazl also telephoned National Assembly (NA) Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and inquired after his brother, former premier Nawaz, who secured an 8-week medical bail in Al-Azizia Steel Mills case on Tuesday.
Reportedly, Shehbaz assured the JUI-F chief of his “complete cooperation” as the two exchanged views on the Azadi March.
JUI-F’S FEMALE MEMBERS BARRED FROM PARTICIPATION:
Meanwhile, JUI-F Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, while speaking to reporters, said female party members have been banned from participating in the ‘Azadi March’.
“Other parties may call in their female members if they wish. There is no restriction on them,” he added.
He further said that female journalists wishing to cover the march are allowed to do so and denied knowledge of a female reporter in Karachi being prevented from reporting on it.
The rally, which kicked-off on Sunday from Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area, has largely remained peaceful as the law enforcement agencies have avoided any conflict with the protesters following the government’s decision to let the protest proceed “as long as parameters laid out by courts for lawful protest are not breached”.
Pictures by Zubair Mehfooz