It seems that Maulana Fazlur Rehman has made up his mind. He has bought and decorated his bulletproof containers, and will march to Islamabad on October 27; with or without other opposition parties. And when he reaches there, he hopes that the government will fall; elections reform will be introduced, and then news elections will be held.
All endeavours to convince him to give up the idea or at least postpone it for a month have failed. The PML-N made several attempts to reason also Shehbaz Sharif had to back out citing health reasons. Shehbaz knows that this is not the ideal time for just a protest. Firstly, winters are approaching and they might not be able to bear Islamabad’s chilly weather, but more importantly he doesn’t want a direct confrontation with the government.
The only support from PML-N is coming from the incarcerated supremo Nawaz Sharif. He wants his party and others to support Maulana’s march. Nawaz is probably frustrated at Imran Khan’s government. He is not receiving any reprieve and has been languishing in Kot Lakhpat for over several months now.
The PPP has also shied from the protest movement. Bilawal has offered his moral support but has said this party opposes dharna politics and does not believe in toppling governments through unconstitutional means. Both parties agree that the government should be sent packing; they just don’t seem to agree on the mechanism. Bilawal also has more pressing issues on his mind; Zardari is under custody and the Sindh government is likely to falter after the impending arrest of the chief minister.
It also seems that Maulana Fazlur Rehman doesn’t know the consequences of posing a threat to the prime minister. Does he really think that the government will collapse when he camps out at D-Chowk? He has refused any reconciliation with the government but seems to be using the march as a pretext to gain some leverage. With so much already said, he can’t call off the march completely. It would land him in a rather embarrassing situation. Maybe he will march to Islamabad and then end the protest there.
Successful of not, the protest will surely draw parallels with the 2014 sit-in when Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri perched on a container and locked down the federal capital demanding Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. They stayed there for an astounding 126 days. Can Fazl-ur-Rehman manage to stay there longer? The government wasn’t toppled then and certainly won’t fall now. Does the Maulana have any strategy in mind to achieve his objective?
The general elections were a huge setback for Maulana Rehman; he still hasn’t come to terms that Imran Khan is in power. All attempts to dissuade the public against the government have been in vain. When all else failed the Maulana is now using the Kashmir cause for his political gains, by holding the march on the day Kashmiris mark as Black Day.
For now, it seems that the JUI-F chief is heading a march to nowhere. The opposition knows it and is choosing to stay away. The protest movement has already lost steam and doesn’t seem likely to achieve anything much.