LAHORE - Following Sunday’s meeting between JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the PML-N leaders, the two parties now seem to have come on the same page regarding the contentious issue of the planned long march on Islamabad.

The PML-N Monday announced that a comprehensive strategy regarding the anti-government protest has been finalized while a formal declaration in this regard would be made jointly by the PML-N president Mian Shehbaz Sharif and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Wednesday (tomorrow). 

A statement issued by the PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb at the end of a party meeting said that all contents of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s letter [written to Shehbaz Sharif] would be implemented in letter and spirit. It further stated that a strategy for October 31st rally had been finalized in the light of party Quaid’s directions and it will be made public by the heads of the two parties on Wednesday (tomorrow).

This was third meeting of senior PML-N leaders taking place in less than a week time to come to a decision on the issue in question. Mian Shehbaz Sharif chaired the meeting which was conspicuous this time by the presence of some party leaders previously not invited in the earlier two meetings. Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Mohammad Zubair, Senator Abdul Qayyum, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyum Auranzeb, Azma Bokhari and Rana Mashhood were prominent in the meeting among others. 

Some party men still have reservations over joining the sit-in

PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb briefed the meeting about their recent meeting with Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his team. The two leaders along with Amir Muqam had a meeting with the JUI-F chief on Sunday last and shared with him details of the much talked about letter written by Mian Nawaz Sharif. The letter reportedly contains the road map for the proposed long march.

The meeting continued for well over three hours. Insiders said that some of the participants expressed reservations over party’s participation in the planned sit-in as they advised the party leadership that the PML-N should get involved in the upcoming activity only to the extent of its contribution in the long march. In this background, Senator Abdul Qayyum also voiced his concern in his media talk before start of the meeting.

Party sources said that during discussion on party’ strategy to mobilize the party workers ahead of the mega political activity, it was proposed that workers from adjoining cities of Lahore should converge at the provincial capital for their onward march to Islamabad. The meeting also evolved consensus that PML-N workers from Sindh should join the JUI-F rallies from Sukkar instead of Karachi. It was also proposed that party workers from South Punjab should join the JUI-F caravans coming from Sindh and Baluchistan at the designated points. 

Shehbaz Sharif reportedly also directed the party organizations in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan to mobilize the party cadres ahead of the long march.

A party source also claimed that the PML-N leadership had been successful in convincing the Maulana to hold a big rally in Islamabad on October 31st instead of staging a prolonged sit-in, an activity the PML-N thinks could imperil the very objective of the long march.  

 According to the official statement, the meeting also discussed internal and external problems facing the country. The participants took strong exception to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s arrest in Chaudhry Sugar Mill’s case and termed it an attempt to pressurize the PML-N leader ahead of the anti-government protest. Deliberating on legal aspect of the case, party leaders noted that Sugar Mill case could not be reopened as it had already been probed as part of the Panama reference.