PESHAWAR:(APS) Ostensibly to mourn the killing of a senior leader of his party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman may have played one of his smartest moves by calling a countrywide wheel-jam strike as this is likely to affect the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf’s show in Islamabad on Sunday.
He called for the strike, including the blockade of all major roads, in protest against the killing of Dr Khalid Soomro in Sukkur.
The JUI-F held demonstrations across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday to condemn the killing.
The party’s provincial chief, Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan, told media that its workers would come on the roads and highways at 9am and remain there till 4pm.
He said there would be a complete wheel-jam strike and the motorway and Grand Trunk Road, which links Peshawar with Islamabad, would be blocked.
The workers would hold sit-ins on highways while rallies would be held in the entire province, he said.
The PTI has planned to take thousands of workers from the province in a procession to Islamabad to participate in the party’s public meeting.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, ministers and lawmakers of the party will lead the procession which will proceed to the capital on the motorway. Convoys from other parts of the province will join the main procession.
The PTI’s Peshawar chapter has announced that it plans to take around 100,000 people to participate in the rally. The party has asked its workers in the city to assembly at the motorway toll plaza at 9am.
A major procession from Hazara division will join them at Burhan interchange.
Inner circles of both parties expressed fears of an imminent clash between their workers if the JUI-F blocked the highways. A JUI-F leader said his party’s blockades and the PTI processions would ultimately lead to a clash.
Maulana Gul Naseeb said the JUI-F had lost a senior leader and it had the right to mourn the killing. “If we cannot do politics in the country, nobody can do it in the present scenario,” he said.
Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani said the killing of Dr Soomro was condemnable but the PTI would not cancel its scheduled programme and would take its processions from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Islamabad.
“JUI leaders should think before giving a call for a countrywide strike,” he said, expressing hope that the Jamiat would provide passage to the PTI workers to Islamabad. “They are political people and will not create hurdles for us,” he said.
Kalbe Ali adds from Islamabad: “There will be complete wheel jam on all the key arteries in the country tomorrow. The workers should come out, hold peaceful demonstrations and show their strength in the protests,” Maulana Fazl said at a press conference, and added after a pause: “Workers should register their forceful protests.”
Just a month after a deadly suicide attack on the JUI-F chief, the party faced another blow on Saturday morning when Dr Soomro, its Sindh secretary general, was shot dead in a targeted attack.
Replying to a question, Maulana Fazl declined to say who was responsible for frequent attacks on his party’s leaders, including suicide attacks on him.
“It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens, a duty which it has failed to perform. All the previous inquiries have remained incomplete. The government should identify the killers or take the responsibility on itself for failing to prevent these acts of terror.”
He discounted the chances of any clash because of the PTI’s and his party’s plans coinciding and said it was his supporters’ right to express their concern over the killing.
“We are peace-loving people. If some people have the right to celebrate on the streets, it should be understood that we have the first right to mourn our dead.”
A meeting of the JUI-F’s central executive committee has been called in Sukkur on Sunday to discuss a course of action.
The party had already announced plan for protests from Dec 5, spread over the next three months, against suicide attacks on Maulana Fazl.
Replying to a question, a party leader said: “We can only guess or suspect somebody for the attacks.”
He said the first suspect would be the Taliban and the second sectarian-based killers, but “both of them have not only denied it through the media but we have had persons coming to our top leaders and assuring the in this regard.”
JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai said: “We have already told the authorities to conduct the inquiry and share its findings with us. Only then can we give our opinion based on a factual report.”