Government hopeful to avert opposition protest through dialogue

Women supporters of Pakistani political and Islamic party Jammat-e-Islami (JI), march during a protest in solidarity with Indian Kashmiri Muslims in Islamabad on Oct. 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2019

Government hopeful to avert opposition protest through dialogue

  • Says it’s opposition’s right to protest, but the government won’t allow anyone to create chaos
  • Analysts maintain the JUI-F chief has acquired political relevance by mounting pressure on the government

ISLAMABAD: The government has started contacting opposition parties to dissuade them from launching a mass protest in the federal capital, said defense minister Pervez Khattak on Thursday.
“We have started negotiating with all opposition parties and hopefully [the effort] will yield positive results in the next couple of days,” he said in an informal chat with journalists in Islamabad.
The prime minister on Wednesday announced to form a committee led by Khattak to hold talks with the opposition factions, especially the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) that has announced to start its “Azadi March” on October 27 and enter the federal capital on October 31 to dislodge the government.
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been struggling to start an agitation against the government since the general elections in July last year wherein his party only managed to clinch a dozen seats in the National Assembly.
He has now received political support from other major opposition groups – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – who accuse the government of deteriorating the country’s economy and victimizing opposition politicians by slamming them in jails on corruption charges.
“Pakistan is a democratic country and we want to resolve all issues of the opposition through dialogue,” the defense minister said, though he also warned the opposition parties against creating an environment of chaos and turmoil in the country.
“It is their [opposition’s] democratic right to protest, but if the opposition only wants to spread anarchy in the garb of agitation we won’t allow it,” Khattak added.
Meanwhile, the JUI-F has ruled out the possibility of talks with the government until the prime minister resigns from his position. “This is an illegitimate government, a product of rigged elections and we may talk to them only after the prime minister resigns,” Hafiz Hamdullah, senior JUI-F leader, told Arab News.
He said that “all preparations for the anti-government march are in place and no force can stop us now from marching toward Islamabad.”
Political analysts said the government’s engagement with the opposition parties to stop their protest at this stage would not yield result, but some differences over issues, such as transparency in elections and improvement in governance, can be worked out.
“Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was reduced to a nobody after the last year’s elections, has succeeded in garnering political relevance through mounting pressure against the government,” Zahid Hussain, a political commentator, told Arab News.
He said the opposition parties would protest against the government as per plan, but “they will neither succeed in getting the prime minister’s resignation nor a new date for fresh polls in the country.”


251 Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

251 Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

  • This was the eighth PIA special flight to bring Pakistani nationals back from the Kingdom
  • Earlier, over 15,000 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims were brought home on special flights 

ISLAMABAD: A repatriation flight with 251 stranded Pakistanis on board departed for Karachi from Jeddah, the Consulate General of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia said in a statement on Sunday.
This was the eighth special flight of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), from Jeddah following the coronavirus related suspension of routine international flight operations in the Kingdom on March 15.

Pakistani nationals wait for a special flight to Karachi at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on May 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah)


“Consul General Khalid Majid and Deputy Consul General Shaiq Ahmed Bhutto were present at Jeddah International Airport to bid farewell to the passengers,” the statement said.

“A total of around 1,700 Pakistanis have so far been repatriated from Jeddah region through seven special flights,” the statement added, and said similar special PIA flights were also being operated from Riyadh region.

Pakistani nationals wait for a special flight to Karachi at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on May 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah)


“Embassy of Pakistan at Riyadh and the Consulate General at Jeddah in close cooperation of PIA, are coordinating arrangements of these special flights in their respective jurisdictions.”

Saudi Arabia halted all international travel and suspended Umrah pilgrimage in response to the pandemic in March this year.

Over the months, Pakistan has brought back over 15,000 of its nationals who had gone to Saudi Arabia for Umrah but found themselves stranded amid coronavirus lockdowns in the Kingdom.