Millennium Post

Call for "Azadi"

It appeared that matters could start taking a different turn after Imran Khan was elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan but recent development in the western neighbour point to factors that suggest that things might only be going in circles. Calling it 'Azadi March', the massive protest rally held in Pakistan to topple the incumbent government, hard-line cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the religio-political Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam, was emphatic in his address when he said that only the people of Pakistan and not any "institution" had the right to govern the country. In the course of this protest, the cleric announced an ultimatum to the Prime Minister to resign, saying that the "Gorbachev of Pakistan" must step down without testing the patience of peaceful protestors. Calling a multi-party conference at his residence to decide the future strategy against the government, Rehman's address was attended by Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari; Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chairman Mehmood Khan Achakzai; Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Asif and Awami National Party (ANP) general secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain. The opposition leaders have come together with the common agenda of toppling Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan for the reason that the elections of July 25 were fraud elections and that "We neither accept the results nor the government that came into power after those elections. We gave this government one year but now we cannot give them any more time". Complaints against the government are centred on the claim that Khan's PTI government has destroyed the economy while endangering the very existence of the country. Rehman urged the powerful institutions (of armed forces) in Pakistan to stay neutral in the situation, saying (earlier) that "We do not want conflict with our institutions. But we also want to see them to stay neutral. We give two days to the institutions also to decide if they will continue to support this government. After that, we will decide what opinion we should have about them [the institutions]". Further calling out the government on its Kashmir policy, Rehman accused it of abandoning Kashmiris, and on the other hand, the Pakistan government is easing relations with India by opening up the Kartarpur corridor in spite all the tension surrounding Kashmir. As the rebellion gained momentum, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif went on to announce to a gathering of tens of thousands of people that "The time has come to get rid of this fake government. We will not let Imran Khan Niazi go free until Pakistan gets rid of [the Prime Minister]...We have launched a movement to get rid of the government and will take this movement to logical end".

In the wake of the institutional discontent with Imran Khan's government in Pakistan, it may be likely that the joint opposition stabilises the country's economy within six months if given a chance. Demonstrations assert that Imran Khan was a "puppet" and that the nation will not bow its head before a "selected" Prime Minister and "those who have selected him", in the words of Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. He went on record saying that "We do not accept this selected government. Everything done by the government is against the interests of the people," adding that the PTI government has sold Kashmir to India which was unacceptable to the people. The deployment of Army inside and outside the polling stations in last year's elections to apparently facilitate Imran Khan's victory is also a major point of contention. The opposition upholds that there has never been a worse state of affairs in the country's 72-year history and is intent on "sending home" Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government of which Imran Khan has been consistently trying to present an alternate picture of Pakistan to the world. And the very first step to realise this agenda is the foremost demand of the 'Azadi March' protesters which was the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. On the other hand, the graceful conduct of the Pakistani Prime Minister showed how unfazed he is by the protest, and while addressing a public rally in Gilgit-Baltistan, told the protesters congregated in Islamabad that when they run out of food, more will be sent to them, but their leaders should not expect any relief from him. Setting an example of good leadership and people-oriented outlook, the Prime Minister said that "Gone are the days when one used to use Islam to gain power. This is a new Pakistan. Sit however long you want. When your food runs out, we will send more. But we will not give you an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]". National Reconciliation Ordinance was an ordinance issued in October 2007 granting pardon to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism. The question now left to ponder over is that who are they wishing to gain freedom from? Pakistan has had a long history of being governed by the Army to suit the state policies before everything else; and the needs of common people and general welfare have often missed the priority slot. The intent of Rehman is to send the "army-installed" and "army-backed" government of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, packing. But if the intent is to rid the government of the tight control of the Army, ousting a civilian government will be of no avail. On the other hand, if there might be any merit to such demonstrations, they ought to focus on a goal constructively such as instating development projects and hunger and poverty alleviation instead of bringing down a fresh government and setting in motion the cycle of electoral battle once again.

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