ISLAMABAD       -      The opposition’s first power show - Azadi March - in the capital turned out to be a solo show of JUI-F on Friday as there was negligible presence of other parties among the crowd.

In the anti-government protest rally that is seen as a first test of the strength of opposition, majority of the party flags in the crowd belonged to the JUI-F with some dozens of Pakistan Muslim-League-Nawaz and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

Most of the participants in the rally were followers of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman with some hundreds of PML-N and PkMAP workers. While protesters of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) were not over few dozen as this could be estimated with the protesters carrying flags of their own parties.

All opposition including two main opposition parties - PPP and PML-N - are backing the JUF-F chief’s anti-government march seeking resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and fresh elections in the country. However, they remained absent from the caravans of marchers that kicked off on October 27 from different parts of the country to reach Islamabad.

Though major leadership of all main opposition parties were present on the main stage of the rally, the number of their party workers, except JUI-F, remained low among the protesters that have camped on the main Kashmir Highway of Islamabad. Especially, PML-N who has a large following in Rawalpindi, the garrison city, could not pull a sizeable crowd for the rally.

“I have come to join this protest because I am a follower of Maulana and we have camped here because Imran Khan’s government is responsible for rising inflation in the country that has broken the backbone of the poor,” said Abdur Rehman, a former madrassah student, while standing at the main protest venue.

In spite of the fact that Maulana has a little political clout despite having some seats in the national and provincial assemblies, he through his first power show entered the centre stage of Pakistani politics and now can be seen as the real opposition leader in place of Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — the two leaders of main opposition parties.

There was almost zero participation of women in the protest rally with 90 percent of the participants apparently belonged to the same school of thought having strong affiliation with the religion with beards and shalwars tucked up from their ankles.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) castigated the JUI-F for not giving a representation to the women in the rally what it said that they were almost half of the population of country. JUI-F says that there were not allowed due to security reasons.

Former finance minister and PTI MNA Asad Umar through his Twitter post said that: “One thing is clear from what has been seen of the opposition march so far…Their version of Pakistan is one where women have no place  in public space.”

As Islamabad remained on high alert on Friday with partial holiday in the city and all education institutions were closed, the protest marchers remained peaceful apparently without violating 37-point code of conduct earlier signed between the government and the JUI-F leadership. The internal security of the protest venue is being performed by the volunteer force of the religio-political party wearing khaki shalwar kameez and carrying batons in their hands.