Ahead of his long march to the federal capital against the Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman has asked the media fraternity “to unite against bars on its freedom”.
“You the journalists should plead your case against censorship being imposed by undemocratic forces,” Fazl said while addressing a press conference at the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).
The JUI-F chief’s statement came days after a private media outlet took off the air his media-talk, alleging a ban imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA).
The incident was followed by veteran journalist and analyst Hamid Mir’s tweet stating that the media watchdog has “forced TV channels not to show” Fazl’s presser.
He said that the government was showing weakness by “imposing unannounced censorship” in Pakistan.
Speaking to journalists Friday, Fazl said that media had a key role to play in the current situation. He claimed that it was the media that was giving his efforts a name of its choice and said, “For the JUI-F, it is an attempt to secure respect for popular vote and warn those who are trying to steal it every time.”
Flanked by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Pervaiz Rasheed and JUI-F leader Abdul Ghaffoor Haideri, the religio-political party chief said that if any individual wanted to attain absolute power in the negation of the democratic norms, it could not be accepted in a free and sovereign state.
“Mutiny can take place any time against tyranny,” he warned, adding that the constitution clearly demarcated the area of jurisdiction for all organs of the state, and all must respect it.
“The trouble arises when one institution tries to hog the domain of others and creeping influence destabilises other state organs by breeding frustration among them. Once that frustration hits a boiling point, the entire process implodes. This cycle is being repeated with regularity for the last seven decades. The current JUI-F effort is aimed at breaking the cycle: demolishing illegal results of the last manipulation, ensuring fresh and legal mandate and securing commitment on part of the stakeholders to respect the constitution,” Fazl explained.
He said the public mandate had been hijacked in the last general elections, adding that the nation should once again be given the right to chose and change should come through ballot to put an end to the prevailing sense of uncertainty among people.
“Only two persons, including the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the chairman of FBR [Federal Board of Revenue], have got employment in the country so far,” he said and added that the entire nation and opposition parties were on the same page against the government.
Earlier, SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam urged political parties to extend support to Fazl and sign a charter of democracy-like agreement to reject and discourage any anti-democratic regime in the country.
A “civil society declaration” on civil, political, social and human rights of the oppressed people, women and minorities was also presented to the JUI-F chief with a demand that an all parties conference must make a commitment to the people of Pakistan to make them sovereign.
GOVT READY FOR ACTION?
The capital will likely be sealed from Oct 31 onwards by either the police or the JUI-F as preparations on both sides for the Azadi March gain momentum, Dawn reported.
According to police officers, the Islamabad police have demanded more than 550 shipping containers to intercept the march before it enters the city. The demand was made by zonal superintendents of police City, Saddar, Industrial Area and Rural to the police’s logistics division, they said.
The police have decided to block each of the Expressway’s connecting roads from both sides from Faizabad to the Koral flyover, they said, as this area becomes ‘Waterloo’ for them during protests and law and order problems.
All the connecting roads of Rawalpindi to I.J. Principal Road will also likely be sealed, the officers said, and steps will be taken to intercept people trying to join the march or gather in the capital.
The police have more than 1,000 gas masks, 200 teargas launchers and 13,000 shells available in the logistics division armoury, they said, along with enough batons, plastic helmets, riot jackets, riot shields, shin guards and arms, if needed.
More riot gear was demanded to cope with a deteriorating situation, if it arises.
The police have also threatened local traders with legal action if they do business with the organisers or participants of the Azadi March, the officers said.
These traders include catering services, tent services, hotels, motels, guest-houses and inns, generators, workshops, hardware stores, welding workshops, sound system services, excavator owners and crane owners.
Rawalpindi police, on the other hand, have requested 6,000 shells of tear gas, 1,600 rubber bullets, batons, masks and shields. Anti-riot exercises have begun in Police Lines Headquarters and special squads have been formed to be deployed at sensitive locations.