The ‘Azadi March’ of JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman appears to be in full steam. Various convoys from Baluchistan, Sindh, KPK and Punjab are on their way to congregate in Islamabad. The government attempts to prevent this rally from taking place is ironic considering that Imran Khan and his supporters held Islamabad hostage for 126 days during August and December 2014 for his own ‘Azadi March’ (Tsunami March).
Strong government pressure and censorship has ensured that the mainstream media has not covered the march but the JUI-F and its affiliates as well as opposition parties have been using social media to broadcast videos and photographs of the progress of the march.
Over 100,000 JUI-F workers and madrassa students are expected to participate in the march, in addition to any opposition workers and volunteers.
According to news stories, “JUI-F Baluchistan’s central convoy from Quetta left for Islamabad to participate in the Azadi march as party workers traveled on buses, vans and private vehicles, while the provincial leaders, including Balochistan’s Amir Maulana Abdul Wassay left in a caravan equipped with modern facilities.”
Similarly, “The Azadi March caravans have entered Punjab. A JUI-F member told SAMAA TV that the agenda was to stay at Multan, but the plan has now changed. It has still not been decided where we will stay, he said, adding that there will be no more speeches for the day. The marchers reached Daharki after Sukkur Monday evening. The were preparing to gather at the Fatima Jinnah Town Housing Scheme.”
At a speech addressing the marchers, Rahman said, “The war has been announced and now [the party] cannot retreat. We are moving forward with full confidence. We have to protect the Constitution, democracy and Pakistan because the incumbent government has put the survival of the country at risk. The Constitution has been made a joke in this country. He [Prime Minister Imran] has ruined the economy, and a country with a devastated economy can’t survive. We approached the masses against him and took out 15 million marches and now we are able to help the people get rid of the government.”
While many Pakistanis disagree with Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s anti liberal, misogynist and retrograde social views it is important to recognize that the issue on which he is doing this — the people’s stolen mandate— has got him wider support than just his politico-religious base.