Firebrand cleric calls off sit-in in Islamabad, to expand anti-govt protest across Pakistan

The firebrand cleric lambasted the government for failing on key domestic and foreign policy fronts.
Photo courtesy: Reuters
Photo courtesy: Reuters


Pakistan's firebrand cleric-cum-politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday called off his anti-government sit-in 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 increase pressure on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
Addressing the 'Azadi March' sit-in here, right-wing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Rehman told his supporters that it was time to implement 'Plan B' of his protest.
He said the key highways and major roads will be blocked to force Prime Minister Khan to resign and hold new elections.
While explaining the "plan-B" of the Azadi March, he said that not only major arteries but roads and streets of the country will be blocked by 2pm on Thursday.
He said that government had been considerably weakened and just needed a little push to crumble.
He asked the protestors to go back to their homes but not to sit back comfortably as they were tasked to organise protests in their respective areas.
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.
Rehman launched his protest on October 27 from Karachi and arrived in Islamabad on October 31, leading a caravan of tens of thousands of followers.
He repeatedly said that the protestors would stay until Khan resigned and new elections were announced.
The government also engaged him in talks but failed to make any headway as he refused to budge from the key demand of resignation of the Prime Minister.
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.
Meanwhile, Rashid Soomro, another leader of the JUI-F, directed the party workers to block Hub River road in Karachi by 2pm on Thursday. He directed the workers to provide passage to ambulances during the blockages.
The opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People Party (PPP), have also thrown their weight behind the massive anti-government rally comprising thousands of protesters in Islamabad.

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