Islamabad: Pakistan's firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman called off his anti-government gathering in Islamabad after nearly two weeks and announced that the massive protest will be expanded across the country by blocking major highways and trade links to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan. Addressing the 'Azadi March' sit-in, the right-wing leader said that the Plan B would witness the lockdown of main roads outside the cities, such that locals did not suffer and the movement of humanitarian workers, ambulances and firefighting vehicles was not disturbed.
"I appeal to the masses to join the movement and support the lockdown as this fight is for your cause and I direct my workers to take along the local populace with you to block the roads," the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief said. "We have the support of Almighty Allah and that power will provide us strength in these fronts too." He warned the state institutions not to disturb the Azadi march caravans and respect the JUI-F workers in their sit-ins across the country. "If you (the authorities) remove us from one place we will shift to another and if we are forced to vacate that spot we will appear at the third one, but our movement will not end without resignation of Imran Khan and holding of free and fair elections in the country," he declared.
The firebrand cleric lambasted the government for failing on key domestic and foreign policy fronts. He said only Pakistan's economy was going down whereas the economies of all other regional countries were going up. Fazlur, who is amongst the most pragmatic and deft politicians in Pakistan, had in June this year announced that his party would hold a long march to Islamabad in October. The march kicked off from Karachi on 27 October, with rallies from Balochistan province also joining the march in Karachi, and descended upon Islamabad on October 31. Despite failure to achieve the objective immediately, it is believed that he gained politically by showing his power to assemble large crowds. The discipline and peace of the protestors was also acknowledged even by his opponents.
After initial objections, the two main Pakistani opposition parties, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) had joined with several smaller parties in extending support to the Maulana.