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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says that Azadi March is a conspiracy against him Image Credit: AFP/file

Dubai: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically said that he will not resign under pressure. He made the statement in response to an anti-government protest - Azadi March [literally translated to Freedom March] - starting on October 27.

“I will not resign,” Imran Khan said while talking to senior journalists and political analysts in Islamabad on Wednesday.

He made it clear that he would not cave under pressure from his political nemesis Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Fazalur Rehman, the chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), has threatened to block Islamabad with his anti-government protest that he calls “Azadi March” or Freedom Rally, The rally is expected to start on October 27, Geo news has reported.

The march, which is expected to have hundreds of thousands of participants — mainly religious hardliners from JUI-F - will — enter Islamabad on October 31 at the end of the march.

Imran will have to resign

Despite Imran's stance, JUI-F Rahbar Committee Convener Akram Durrani said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister will have to resign.

In a statement, Durrani said the committee had demanded the resignation of the prime minister and they would not accept anything less.

“We asked for the prime minister’s resignation. Won’t go back without it,” he said.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Imran, according to a journalist who attended the meeting, sees a conspiracy behind Maulana Fazal’s protest which he said is driven towards a “certain agenda”.

Azadi March makes India happy

The prime minister was of the view that the JUI-F’s plan to protest has sent a wave of joy in India. Imran Khan acknowledged that inflation and unemployment remain big problems which his government is trying to resolve.

When Imran's attention was drawn towards the opposition’s stance that the PTI had also staged a sit-in under his leadership against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Imran said his ‘dharna’ (sit-in) was not staged for nothing. He said he had proof of election-rigging when he had launched the protest campaign against Sharif.

Approval for Azadi March

Earlier today, Pakistan government announced to let the opposition’s ‘Azadi March’ protest in Islamabad proceed as long as parameters laid out by courts for lawful protests are not breached.

The decision was made after a team delegated to negotiate with the opposition presented its recommendations to the prime minister, Dawn news reported.

A brief statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said, “the Government, with its firm belief in upholding democratic ideals, would allow the proposed Azadi March, if it takes place within the ambit of law and the Constitution as interpreted in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court,”

The protesters will be allowed to carry out the march as long as the daily life of citizens is not adversely affected, in accordance with the past judgements of the Supreme Court and the High Court.

The news broke amidst reports that the Islamabad police was issuing riot gear and mobilising containers to cordon off sensitive areas of the capital city to prevent protesters from marching on to the Red Zone.

What is the ‘Azadi March’

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman had announced in June that his party had decided to hold an anti-government long march to Islamabad in the month of October in a bid to topple the government, which he said had come to power through “fake” elections.

The Maulana had first set October 27 as the date for the long march, but later deferred it till October 31, saying they would instead organise rallies on October 27 to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir, who would be observing a black day all over the world against alleged Indian atrocities in India-occupied Kashmir on that day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday had constituted a seven-member team under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to engage the JUI-F and other opposition parties ahead of their planned march.

The JUI-F chief on Saturday had given a go-ahead to his party’s secretary general and Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to meet the Senate chairman, who, as a member of the government negotiating team, had contacted him over telephone and sought a meeting.

On Monday, after a meeting of the Rehbar Committee, JUI-F leader Akram Durrani told the media that the option of negotiations with the government is subject to the party being permitted to take out a peaceful ‘Azadi March’ on October 27.

Fazalur Rehman has blamed Prime Minister Khan for the economic problems of the country and has asked him to go home. Prime Minister Khan and his cabinet members, on the other hand, have warned the marchers that strict action will be taken against those who take the law into their own hands.

Prime Minister Khan has claimed that Fazalur Rehman was concerned with the madressah reforms that the government was about to undertake. Government representatives have also cautioned the JUI-F against using madressah students for their long march.