The Freedom (Azadi) March led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman is keeping entire Pakistan on tenterhooks. Islamabad has refused to succumb to pressure tactics adopted by Fazlur Rehman who gave PM Imran Khan a two-day ultimatum to step down or gace consequences.
Pakistans’ Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, who leads the government’s negotiating committee, said that the PM Khan’s “resignation is out of the question” and warned of suing the JUI-F chief for pushing his followers to arrest the prime minister.
Addressing the ‘Azadi March’ on Friday, Maulana Fazl demanded that Imran Khan must resign in two days or else “we will announce our next strategy”.
Khattak told reporters that the resignation demand was off the table. “The government will not succumb to the opposition’s threats and pressure tactics. No one should even think about it [Khan’s resignation].”
The ‘Azadi March’, led by Maulana Fazl, is the first collective opposition attack against Imran Khan since he won elections in July last year. The march started from Karachi on October 27 and entered the federal capital on Friday.
Khattak emphasised that there was a signed agreement between the opposition’s Rahbar Committee and the government’s negotiation team, expressing hope that the ‘Azadi March’ leaders would abide by it. He warned of stern action if the opposition reneged.
“Our doors are open for talks with the opposition but we will not allow any attempt to create chaos,” Khattak, flanked by Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood and former finance minister Asad Umar, told the news conference.
“If they violate the agreement, the administration will take action. Make no mistake. If the opposition resorts to violence or causes any damage to public or private property, they will be held responsible,” the minister added.
“If the participants of ‘Azadi March’ move forward from the designated venue, it will be tantamount to breach of the agreement, which would compel the government to take action as per the law,” warned Khattak.
The minister said the opposition leaders wanted to create unrest and spread chaos in the country. “They just want to create unrest, [but] they will not succeed,” he said, adding that the opposition was using threatening language, which meant that they would not abide by their commitments.
On the other hand, he continued, the government did not want any clash with the opposition and desired settlement of issues amicably. He added the government negotiators were in contact with the Rahbar Committee.
Khattak said the government would approach the courts against Maulana Fazl for inciting his followers to arrest the PM Khan. “It amounts to treason and we will be submitting our plea in court on Monday,” said the minister.
The negotiating team meanwhile categorically rejected that the opposition had demanded a reversal of the extension given to Pakistan army chief – Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. He clarified that the army was playing a “completely neutral” role.