An Islamabad-based religious leader, who is placed by the United States on a terror watch list, has announced to support the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the upcoming general elections scheduled for July 25.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil was placed by the US government on Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) list on September 30, 2014, for his alleged role in Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) militant organisation, which he reportedly founded in the past.
He later founded and is still heading Ansarul Ummah, which he says is a political party. Both HuM and Ansarul Ummah are on the SDGT list.
Khalil’s Ansarul Ummah also took part in the last local government elections.
However, many were surprised on Monday when senior PTI leader Asad Umar took to social media to announce that Khalil along with hundreds of other Ulema (clerics) had joined the PTI and announced to support him in the upcoming elections.
“Maulana Fazlur Rehman Kahlil has joined the PTI along with hundreds of his followers and Ulema,” Umar wrote in a Facebook post with an album showing Umar being welcomed by Khalil and others and the two addressing the ceremony.
When contacted, Khalil confirmed that he and other Ulema had hosted Asad Umar on Sunday and announced to support him in the elections. However, he clarified that he had not joined the PTI. “We are not joining the PTI. We just announced to support Asad Umar in NA-54,” he told The Express Tribune.
Asad Umar also edited his Facebook post on Monday evening saying Khalil and others had announced to support the PTI in NA-54.
When contacted, Umar said he had checked and made sure that Khalil was not on the 4th Schedule before he sought his support.
He said he was unaware whether Khalil was on the US-designated list. “I have known him for three years. He has condemned terrorist
activities by the TTP and made efforts for unity and harmony between various religious groups and sects. This is what I like about him,” the PTI leader said.
He claimed the gathering of Ulema in which Khalil announced his support also included religious leaders from other sects, some junior members of his team had mistakenly posted that Khalil had joined the party but it was corrected immediately.