With Maulana Fazal Ur Rahman all set to march on Islamabad next week, the political mercury in the federal capital is rising with every passing day. The maulana’s Azadi march and Dharna politics making headlines in the mainstream media, occupy central space in the national discourse. The 10 major and small time opposition political parties including the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are determined to make it happen at any cost and achieve the desired results while the government, apparently, seems undeterred with what it call the hollow claims of opposition benches to gather hundreds of thousands of marchers in the capital city and bring in the government to its knees. Whatever the case may be, the million dollars question however; remains, is Islamabad ready to take up the challenge?  

Till late, those in the corridors of power did not take the move seriously, thinking it to be mere a political stunt by a ‘rejected’ political leader to let its political rival down out of personal ego. However the worries of the treasury benches got multiplied after the move started gaining momentum. 

The joint press conference by the Mualana and his political ally Mr. Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore sent a clear and louder message across the government circles that the joint opposition of almost a dozen political parties was ready for a final showdown against the government. 

The demands are simple and clear – resignation of the government, electoral reforms and free, fair and transparent mid-term elections in the country. 

Maulana has long been accusing the Imran Khan led PTI government of coming into power through rigged elections.

In a latest move, an official notification from Aabpara police station in Islamabad calling for action against those providing tents, crockery and sound system to the organizers of the march is a reflection of the same worries. In addition, unannounced black out and ban on the coverage of the JUI-F activities and specially Maulana’s press conferences also speaks for the truth. The move is a negation of the government’s earlier pledge to provide food and containers to the marchers. On the other hand, the government has arranged for over 450 containers with over 100 only for Islamabad, but only to stop the protesting mob from reaching into the venue. 

The government constituted a seven members committee with speaker National Assembly and Chairman Senate as its members to give the opposition an impression of how much importance the committee was and that how much serious the government was for holding a meaningful dialogue with opposition, something the government would earlier take for granted. In another such move, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the high profile religious scholars to garner their support and counter the poisonous propaganda being carried out by the Maulana’s followers. The government imposed a ban on  ‘Ansar Ul Islam’ – the supporters of Islam that was supposed to along the marchers guarding the protesting mob.

But the JUI leadership hardly seems bothered by the move.  Finalizing the strategy at a multi party conference in Peshawar, the opposition leaders disclosed that the procession from southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would proceed to Islamabad via Kohat-Fateh Jang road while marchers from Peshawar, Malakand, Mardan and Hazara division will make their way to Islamabad via GT road on 31st of October. 

The Chief Minister KP has already announced he will not let the processions go through his province. The statement from the CM attracted anger and condemnation from the democratic forces. 

The political pundits foresee a tough time ahead for the government. The shattered economy coupled with political instability, price hike, unemployment, heavy taxes and growing unrest amongst the masses are some of the selling points with the opposition parties to capitalize on and exploit the situation in their favor. 

The medical practitioners, teachers and traders associations on the strike have already been earning bad name for the government. The doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and non-technical staff of the public sector hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are on strike for the last over three weeks, literally paralyzing health services in all the government-run hospitals across the province. Chairman of the Grand Health Alliance Dr. Alamgir Khan has announced the protesting doctor community would march on Islamabad on 25th of October if their demands were not met, adding they would also stay away from the polio campaign starting from November 4. The trader associations have already announced a two-day shutter down strike on October 29-30, the days Maulana would be entering Islamabad. According to the President, Markazi Tanzeem-e-Tajiran, Pakistan, Muhammad Kashif Chaudhry, traders have announced the strike after failed negotiations with the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) on issues pertaining to sales tax registration, computerized national identity cards (CNIC) condition and fixed tax regime. 

Maulana Fazal ur Rahman was one of the most vocal opponent of the FATA’s merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the overall government’s reforms agenda. Being a shrewd politician the maulana knows well how to play with the emotions of the frustrated and disgruntled sections of the society for promoting his political agenda. The Azadi march and following sit in may provide a strong banner to the suppressed and oppressed sections of the society to make their voices heard by joining the anti-government drive in Islamabad.

 This call may be more appealing to the people of the newly merged areas where people are already out on the street. The protesting traders community from North Waziristan district while staging a sit in in front of Miranshah Press club has set October 22 as deadline demanding the government to compensate them against the damages done to them in the decade long war on terror. Flanked by his fellow colleagues the President, Miranshah Traders Association Malik Din Khan said they would march on Islamabad if their demands were not met till October 22. The following day, October 23 is the deadline set by President, North Waziristan IDPs Committee, Malik Ghulam Khan. Malik Ghulam said they would protest on October 23, against the inaction of the government in bringing in the TDPs back home. Mr. Khan said some 40,000 families were still languishing at the IDPs camps in the eastern Afghanistan looking forward to the government to get them relocated back home.