Imran and the Maulana have been on a war path. In the 2013 elections, Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had wiped out Maulana’s JuI from its stronghold, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since then the Maulana has not forgiven Imran. And Imran cannot control his fulminations against him. The Maulana calls him an Israeli agent in Pakistan because of his ex-Jew wife …. Writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
The ghost of the late 1970’s is haunting Pakistan. Here is a Prime Minister (Imran Khan), who the opposition alleges was imposed on Pakistan by the Army by rigging the July 2018 elections to prevent re-emergence of the Muslim League. As Zulfikar Ali Bhutto faced and initially ignored the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), Prime Minister Imran Khan is faced with the threat of an “Azadi March” to topple his government. The call of this march to Islamabad is given by Deobandi Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam (JuI) Chief Maulana Fazalur Rahman. His father Maulana Mufti Mehmud had played a leading role in the PNA to topple Bhutto.
Imran and the Maulana have been on a war path. In the 2013 elections, Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had wiped out Maulana’s JuI from its stronghold, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, since then the Maulana has not forgiven Imran. And Imran cannot control his fulminations against him. The Maulana calls him an Israeli agent in Pakistan because of his ex-Jew wife.
As the reports of Imran’s failure to manage the economy mounted like a scandal and the public unrest increased because of high prices and shortages of essential commodities, within 100 days of his rule, the Maulana, to take advantage of the situation, announced a million “Azadi March” to Islamabad. He said the march would continue till Imran’s government was dislodged. He has changed the march date a couple of times.
By calling Imran’s government a puppet government, he was airing the general view that the generals hold the strings of this government
The Maulana was confident that opposition parties including the Nawaz Muslim League, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP) which had initially rejected the results of the July 2018 elections as rigged, would join the march. But they are in a willing-to-wound but afraid-to-strike dilemma. The truth is they are afraid of entering into conflict with the Army believing Prime Minister Imran is its appointee. The Nawaz League is divided on the question of support to the march. Jailed Nawaz Sharif wants the party to participate in the march, but his younger brother Shehbaz, who is leading the party for now and was known for his contacts with the Army generals, wants the party to keep away from the march. But there is no party whip against participating in the march. Thousands of Nawaz Muslim Leaguers have been nursing their grouse against the humiliation meted out to their party and their leaders in the past two years by the establishment. They, including the women sympathizers of the party, may find an opportunity in the march to give vent to their anger. The Maulana has told the Nawaz Muslim League not to allow their women to join the march.
So far the PPP is non-committal about the march. But various statements of its Chairman Bilawal Bhutto indicate the party will give “outside” support to the march. In one statement to the media outside the Adiala jail where his father and former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari is incarcerated in Rawalpindi, he said the people are drowned in the tsunami of rising prices. They should come on the roads and send this “puppet government” back home. By calling Imran’s government a puppet government, he was airing the general view that the generals hold the strings of this government. “Pakistan Today” wrote on October 06, “Perhaps for the first time in the history of the country an elected Prime Minister is on the same page as the Establishment”. Secondly, Bilawal’s call to the people to come out on the roads against this government suggested that he was egging on them to join the Maulana’s march on October 27.
The main plank of the Azadi March, as the Maulana claims, is the PTI government’s failure on the economic front. But the PPP and the Nawaz League fear that the march could ultimately convert into an Islamic movement just as anti-Bhutto movement, the PNA, ultimately became Nizam-e-Mustaf (Islamic rule) under the sly support of then Army Chief Gen Ziaul Haq. To strengthen the fears of the PPP and the Nawaz League, the Maulana has approached the Islamic parties’ alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). This alliance was formed with the blessings of then Army Chief-cum-President Gen Pervez Musharraf just before the 2002 elections. He organized it to keep the PPP and the Nawaz League from Parliament.
It is unthinkable that the Azadi March under Maulana Fazlur Rahman will not be Islamic. Already, he has started preparing a Khaki Clad Force of more than 12,000 men from all the four provinces for security purposes.
Imran’s failure in economic and foreign relations might be embarrassing to the Army, which in the eyes of the common Pakistanis is the Godfather. Imran has an over simplified view of economy. He believed economy will bloom if you weed out corrupt people. Speaking in the Chinese Council of International Trade in Beijing on October 8, he praised President Xi Jinping for putting 400 corrupt people in jail. He said he will put 500 corrupt people in jail in Pakistan.