ISLAMABAD: JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has stirred up a buzz in the country’s political circles with an astonishing claim: The Chaudhrys of Gujrat, who negotiated with him on the government behalf during his dharna, are no longer an ally of the ruling PTI.
The politico-religious leader’s “revelation” was, however, quickly repudiated by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Speaker Punjab Assembly, who said his party – the PML-Q – has no plans to pull out of the PTI-led coalition.
In an interview with a private TV channel, the Maulana insisted that Elahi had actually endorsed his anti-government stance when he had left after meeting him during the dharna. The cleric also denied he had struck any deal with the government.
Elahi revealed in a television interview that the cleric had called off his 13-day-long dharna in Islamabad as a result of an “understanding” with government negotiators.
“He [Pervaiz] was speaking from his own perspective. JUI-F activists will not end their protest until the government steps down,” the Maulana said.
Similar to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s prediction a day earlier, the Maulana also predicted that there would a new prime minister next year. “I can’t tell you how that will happen, but we won’t rest until he [Prime Minister Imran Khan] resigns,” he added.
The JUI-F chief contended that his ‘Azadi March’ was not a failure and the ‘Plan B’ of his strategy – blocking roads and highways across the country – was actually putting more pressure on the government.
Speculations that the ruling party’s allies are having a second thought have been rife even before the Maulana’s statement. The PTI has recently drawn flak from the MQM-P for “failing to keep its promises and not releasing funds for Karachi’s development”.
In the case of the PML-Q, they are fuelled by party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s and his cousin Elahi’s different take on the issue of allowing former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The Chaudhry brothers have opposed the government’s move to place conditions for removing the ailing Sharif family patriarch’s name from the no-fly-list.
However, Elahi has said that his party would remain an ally of the PTI.
“What I said [about Nawaz’s travel abroad] was for PM Imran’s own good,” he said in a statement. “Nobody can create misunderstandings between the PML-Q and the PTI.”
The government also tried to dispel the impression about a rift between the PTI and its ally.
Federal Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar told the media that the Chaudhry brothers were “strong allies” of the government and would remain so.
To a question, the minister said the government had never politicised the matter of Nawaz’s health. “The PML-N itself politicised the issue whereas the government has honoured the Lahore High Court’s decision.
JUI-F workers continued to block major highways in different parts of the country as part of the second phase of their party’s anti-government campaign.
They blocked Quetta-Chaman Highway in the Qilla Abdullah by staging a sit-in. Addressing the protesters, JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said the achievements of the ‘Azadi March’ would start unfolding soon. “The year 2020 is the year of Imran Khan’s replacement,” he added.
The JUI-F leader said the PML-N and the PPP were part of the opposition and it did not bother his party if they had gained from ‘Azadi March’.