As Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Azadi March approaches Islamabad, the authorities tighten their noose around JUI-F’s leadership.
Is Freedom of Association only for JUI-F Workers?
JUI-F’s Mufti Kifayatullah was arrested during a raid on his residence at E-11/3 sector of Islamabad. He was booked under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. According to the order, he was involved in chanda (donation) collection. He was also accused of inciting the public to take part in the Azadi March.
“These activities pose a great threat to public safety which may create disturbance of public tranquility, danger to human life, health and safety,” the order said.
He is currently being detained in Haripur Central Jail.
The JUI-F’s legal eagle and former President of Supreme Court Bar Association Kamran Murtaza, while speaking to voicepk.net, said the government should not clampdown on JUI-F leaders preparing for the rally, as Articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan allow freedom of movement, assembly and association.
No Such Freedoms for Women in the Azadi March
However, the JUI-F has barred women from joining the protest or even reporting on it. Recently, a female journalist was told to leave a JUI-F rally in Karachi. JUI-F workers escorted her back to her car, saying “Women are not invited and by being here you are spoiling the atmosphere.”
PPP Senator Robina Khalid, whose party is supporting the Azadi March, reprimanded the JUI-F for its “no women” policy. She demanded that women be allowed to participate in the protest.
After much media backlash and criticism from female legislators, the JUI-F leadership has stated that women are welcome to cover and attend the Azadi March. They also reiterated that there was no official JUI-F policy barring women from the rally. However, this raises the question why female journalists were turned away for “spoiling the atmosphere” in the first place.
Report by Munizae Jahangir