Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Prime Minister Imran Khan
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Prime Minister Imran Khan. Image Credit: APP/AFP

Dubai: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing immense pressure from opposition parties to step down or face agitation.

The call for Iman Khan to resign has been gaining momentum since firebrand religious leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Chief Jamiat Ulema Islam (Fazal) — JUI-F — has given the call for "Azadi March" to lock down Islamabad on October 31 with an aim to "dethrone" Imran Khan.

JUI-F is a religious political party with very strong following of religious hardliners across the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The Azadi March will beging from across the country on October 27 and will reach Islamabad on October 31.

Fazalur Rehman
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman is preparing to launch Azadi March against Imran Khan Image Credit: APP/File

While Pakistan is facing a mammoth economic challenge and growing tensions with India over the Kashmir issue, the Azadi (freedom) March may delay Imran’s plans to bring the country out of crisis if he survives the opposition onslaught and public anger over rising cost of living, increasing unemployment and worsing economic situation.

The biggest problem

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

“Imran Khan must resign to solve all issues facing Pakistan as he is the ‘biggest problem’,” demanded Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which rules Sindh province.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday, Bilawal, said that he would support the JUI-F’s Azadi March to remove Imran Khan from power.

“With his [prime minister’s] resignation, all issues in Pakistan would be resolved,” said Bilawal.

Bilawal’s criticism of Imran has intensified since his father and former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari was sent to jail on corruption charges.

Bilawal also reiterated his pledge to overthrow the government and send Imran Khan home.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is a hurdle when it comes to the restoration of democracy, economic revival and media freedom. He is the biggest problem in Pakistan. That is why, he should resign and spare the lives of the people. Every issue can be resolved after his resignation,” he demanded.

The puppet government

Speaking to media on Karachi on Monday, Bilawal came harshly on Imran and said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘has no capability' to complete his term as all political forces of the country and people belonging to all spheres of life had no other option but to go on agitation against 'this puppet government'."

However, while Bilawal made it clear that his party would certainly protest against the "selected" government, yet, "we'll not become part of any act to derail democracy; or allow anyone to do the same".

"Every political party and people belonging to every sphere of life, including traders, teachers, doctors and workers, are unhappy with the government's policies. All this is quite not up to scratch and gives me no assurance to say Mr Imran Khan will complete his term successfully," he said.

Bilawal also criticised the PTI government for its plans to block the Azadi March.

"In its tenure, the Pakistan Peoples Party never stopped anyone from protesting," he said. "We found a political solution to the long march and sit-in in our tenure."

Lawyers warn

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Tuesday also warned the government against any measures to block the protest.

It said the country's legal fraternity will "not hesitate to launch a nationwide campaign of protest" if the government denies the attendees of the upcoming "Azadi March" their constitutional right to protest.

PCB Vice-Chairman Syed Amjad Shah expressed grave concern over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government's attempt to deny people their legitimate constitutional right of protest and at attempts to bring amendments to relevant laws.

Azadi March: The plan

The JUI-F has been preparing to march towards Islamabad later this month.

The march will enter Islamabad on October 31, Fazlur Rehman announced earlier this month. It will begin on October 27, as announced earlier.

Rehman has been trying to take all the opposition parties on-board for the march.

Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has already announced participation in the anti-government protest in Islamabad. PPP leader Bilawal says that his party would support the Azadi March.

Imran Khan's government has also formed a committee to negotiate with the JUI-F. It is headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak.

However, the two sides have not yet held any formal negotiations.

Mobilisation of masses

The JUI-F, PPP and PML-N have finalised their public mobilisation plan to join the Azadi March in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The parties have decided on a combined campaign for the mobilisation of supporters in different parts of the Rawalpindi division to participate in the march, according to media reports in Pakistan.

Maulan Fazalur Rehman
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman with his guards of his private force known as Ansar-ul-Islam Image Credit: Social media

Rehman said that the Rawalpindi chapters of all three parties held a meeting to discuss strategies for the mobilisation.

Rallies from Lahore and Peshawar, among other parts of the country, will enter Rawalpindi and Islamabad for the showdown on October 31.

However, this is an initial plan and could be changed on October 29 or October 30.

The federal government has already started taking steps to stop the Azadi March.

Authorities have started placing containers at the bridge connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province with Punjab to make it difficult for marchers to cross it on their way to the federal capital — Islamabad.

Minister warns

Pakistan’s Minister for Railways Shaikh Rashed Ahmed has criticise JUF-F leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman and said that it was not the right time to protest as the country is passing through a difficult phase on Kashmir issue.

“If a better decision not made by him (Fazalur Rehman), the law will take its course”, Sheikh Rasheed said.