ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religio-political party, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), on Tuesday demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “selected government” to pave way for fresh elections in the country.
“This is an illegitimate government and should resign immediately. Fresh polls should be announced by dissolving this assembly,” the JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said while talking to a group of foreign journalists in Islamabad.
Rehman has been struggling for the last one year to mobilize the public and garner the support of other opposition parties to topple the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. He has repeatedly accused the government of being the “product of rigged elections” that were held in July last year.
“We are launching a peaceful movement that will continue till the ouster of this government,” he said while discussing “Azadi March” that is scheduled to begin on October 27 from different cities across Pakistan and enter Islamabad on October 31. “We are sure to enter Islamabad with at least one million protesters.”
The JUI-F chief said his party wanted to move forward against the government by remaining within the limits of the constitution. “We are neither staging any sit-in to oust the government nor going to lock down cities,” he said while quickly adding: “We will keep changing our strategy to achieve our goal.”
He claimed to have garnered the support of other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to oust the PTI government by launching mass protests.
“All opposition parties are on the same page since we all agree that last year’s elections were heavily rigged [in favor of the ruling party],” he said. “We are in touch with all relevant institutions and people from all walks of life to make our protest a success.”
Lambasting the government for its performance, he said the economy had nosedived and inflation had broken all previous records in just one year. “Modern states keep their sovereignty intact through peace and strong economy,” he said. “This government has put all of this at stake.”
Pakistan’s economic growth plummeted from 5.8 percent to 3.3 percent in the last fiscal year due to a sharp decline in industrial and agricultural production along with rising inflation and interest rates.
“Unemployment has increased manifold in the last one year due to poor economic policies, causing significant disappointment among people,” Rehman said while referring to the IMF’s recent reports on Pakistan.
The JUI-F has a large network of religious seminaries across the country which is considered the party’s major support base. The government has been accusing the JUI-F leadership of planning to use young seminary students as “fodder” for its forthcoming protest.
“We have issued no instructions to madrassa students to participate in Azadi march,” Rehman clarified while calling it “mere propaganda” of the government.
On the other hand, the government has constituted a high-powered committee, led by Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, to negotiate with the opposition parties.
Amir Dogar, a ruling party’s lawmaker and chief whip in the National Assembly, said the government was making serious efforts to resolve any genuine grievances of the opposition parties as “this is not an appropriate time for any protest movement.”
“Demands like resignation of the prime minister and the dissolution of the elected assembly are ludicrous,” he told Arab News.