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Let’s Be Frank About Azadi March

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He came, he saw, and decided to retreat. That’s how the Azadi March will be interpreted in the future. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, along with his religiously charged crowd, is in Islamabad now. Asma Sherazi, during his brief stay in Gujranwala, succeeded in talking to him. During the interview, Maulana seemed desperate when he said, “Now the crowd will decide for us what we have to do when in Islamabad.”

Maulana Fazlur Rehman played two political cards to motivate people to come out for the march. In his so-called million-man march, he played a religious card by declaring the present government the stooge of Israel as was his wont during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s first stint at government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In the past, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has exploited the support of the people of tribal areas, where religion has contours of tribalism. He was not alone but the powers that be also have been playing the same dirty game since decades.

By allowing the PTI to form a government in KP, Nawaz Sharif put a dent in the permanent exploitation of the religious/tribal psyche of the people of erstwhile FATA. Well informed journalists, who remained close to Nawaz Sharif during his London stay in the last years of his exile, wrote on his displeasure with Maulana.

The other card Maulana played was that of Pashtun nationalism to motivate the disgruntled Pashtun nationalists. The archaic nationalist forces of Balochistan and KPK, who saw Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement a great threat to their survival, jumped the wagon and are now in Islamabad. But, interestingly, Ghafoor Haideri was more excited when welcoming people from Hazara; Hazara wants its national and political identity.

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On the other hand, the PTM has distanced itself from the Azadi March. One of its leaders, Mohsin Dawar, recently said, “Cosmetic changes in dispensation have never been PTM’s aim; such changes have no impact on the status of PTM’s demands. PTM will continue its struggle in manner & tone it always has. However, we fully support the constitutional rights of JUI & other parties to protest under AzadiMarch.”

The mainstream political parties are displaying a lukewarm response to the march. Bilawal Bhutto from the very beginning admonished Maulana for playing the ‘religious card’. The mainstream parties, and rightly so, fear that supporting the march may give the religious element within Pakistan’s politics an opportunity to obtain the ultimate command of the opposition to the ruling government.

Moreover, the rumour is that Maulana is in Islamabad to demand for a ‘big’ resignation. If it is so, which to me is hyperbolic, it will be a blow to the chain and command of the institution and the institution can’t afford it. So, there does not seem to be any truth to this.

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