ISLAMABAD: The government has given its staunchest political ally the cold shoulder after it sought to cash in on the tiff between the PML-N and the PPP, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Not long ago, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of his eponymous faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, had offered his services to win over the PPP, but the PML-N top cadres refused to assign him the role.
Sources say the PML-N leadership knew that in return the JUI-F would seek favours to pursue its interests in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – something not acceptable to the ruling party.
The JUI-F eyes the lion’s share in recruitments in the tribal region. It also seeks a hefty amount in the name of development funds, important appointments in the government departments and ministries and a significant quota for Umrah operators in the religious affairs ministry.
“They complain that ‘we are part of the government and we support you, but you don’t support us in a big way’,” a federal minister told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity. “Stakes are high, they want more than their share.”
Insiders say the politico-religious cleric had met PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and opposition leader Khursheed Shah ahead of the Dec 27 deadline set by the PPP for the acceptance of its four demands, and assured them that he would help in extracting concessions for the PPP in the backdrop of the prevailing situation in Karachi.
The issue, sources say, figured high in Fazl’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last Tuesday. Reportedly, the JUI-F chief conveyed a reconciliatory message to Premier Sharif on Zardari’s behalf.
Contrary to the reports suggesting the possibility of backdoor contacts between the PML-N and the PPP, Fazl was told that there would be no concessions as far as Karachi was concerned and that the security establishment and government were in agreement over taking on terrorism in Karachi.
“It was politically embarrassing for Fazl that he came to the forefront as a ‘mediator’ between the two parties but failed to make an impact,” said the minister.
The JUI-F chief has denied his efforts to mediate between the PML-N and PPP were more of a bargaining chip to secure the JUI-F interests.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Fazl said a host of issues were discussed in his meeting with Premier Sharif. Without elaborating, he said ‘important’ issues came under discussion.
“The government-PPP confrontation is not the only issue on earth. There are several issues concerning the JUI-F and our relationship with the federal government. Everything came under discussion.”
Fazl also denied Premier Sharif had tasked him to facilitate backdoor contacts with the PPP. “I don’t believe in secret meet-ups. I’m not anybody’s middleman.”
The cleric said his party enjoyed cordial relations with the PML-N and the PPP. “So in this context, if there is a common ground to resolve issues, what’s wrong with that? But if things don’t work, never mind. Every political party has its own set of priorities and political interests,” he said without offering a direct response on the issue.
Sources believe the JUI-F’s limited support base explains the PML-N’s lack of reliance on the party. “We have an active political presence in K-P to take care of our interests and to counter the PTI instead of relying on the JUI-F,” said a PML-N lawmaker from K-P.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2017.