Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced on Monday that opposition would hold an “anti-inflation march” in Islamabad on Pakistan Day, March 23, 2022 to stage protest against price hike.
Rehman stated that the ruling PTI was brought into power as a result of rigging in the 2018 general elections, because of which it was facing failure on several fronts.
He further said that PDM meetings will be held at a provincial level to prepare a strategy for the march. Giving a breakdown, the PDM president said that he will chair a meeting in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan’s (JUP) Awais Noorani will chair separate ones in Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh, respectively.
He added that the march will be a “huge demonstration” and the “whole nation will participate”. “People will come to Islamabad from all corners of the country to participate in a demonstration against inflation, unemployment and poverty.”
Rehman went on to state that a date for the seminar would be finalised after consultations with lawyers, civil society, business and other communities so that all kinds of people could be taken into confidence over the alliance’s policies.
He further added that a seminar would also be held for which he would meet with the lawyers’ community as well as the representatives of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council.
The PDM chief said that a meeting of the alliance’s steering committee had been called for tomorrow at 2pm to devise a strategy for the decisions that had been taken.
“All the participants of the meeting also condemned the incident in Sialkot,” he said, referring to last week’s brutal lynching of a Sri Lankan national. “No citizen has the right to take the law into their own hands,” he said, adding that such incidents should be stopped.
Rehman added that the issue of submitting resignations from parliament was also discussed during the meeting, adding that there was consensus on the topic. “[But] we will decide when and where to use this”
When asked about the duration of the protest, the Maulana replied: “You heard about March 23 right now. Wait and see what happens next.”
While responding to a question over the date of the march, Rehman said that the PDM was also a “part of the nation”. “It is a national level issue […] no one owns the country, the state owns the country.”
It is pertinent to note that in their last meeting which was held on November 23, the Maulana was so furious with the PML-N leadership that at one stage, he reportedly even offered to quit the opposition alliance’s presidentship. However, at that time, Nawaz persuaded the JUI-F chief not to do so and sought time till Dec 6 for in-house consultations.
It is to note that the PDM had failed to come up with a plan to launch its anti-government protest campaign, with the PDM chief declaring that they would meet on Dec 6 and devise “a final policy” and “announce very important decisions”.
Ministers troll PDM for scheduling protest on National Day
Soon after PDM’s announcement, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry predicted that the alliance’s head Maulana Fazlur Rehman had changed the date of long march many times in the past and the decision may again be changed.
Responding to Fazl’s media talk, the minister in a video message said the JUI-F chief only wanted to remain relevant and therefore, he was making such moves. “Have some courage Maulana Sahib and look around you… there is no one [to support you],” he added.
Fawad said that March 23 was a significant day for all Pakistanis and the message from the political leadership on such a day should be of uniting the nation instead of dividing it.
“You are here and we are also here and March 23 is not far away… we will see what happens,” he added.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed criticized PDM’s decision to call a march on Pakistan Day an “extremely irresponsible and immoral” move.
“Pakistan’s armed forces stage a national parade on March 23 which is attended by citizens, ambassadors and various delegates,” he said.
He said that announcing a march at such a time is not a sign of goodwill towards the country. He also advised the PDM to move the demonstration to April.
The minister said that Islamabad is on high alert for the parade, adding that some roads are closed two or three days in advance in order to prepare.