ISLAMABAD: The government will release more than 300 prisoners arrested for suspected Taliban links to meet a demand of JUI-F to keep a fragile ruling coalition at the Centre intact.
The government has also agreed to appoint the JUI-F’s Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani from Balochistan as chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) when its incumbent head retires this week.
The men, some of them close associates of terror network, are being released from various jails of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa because they belong to the Jamiat Ulamae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The JUI faction headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman has long been threatening to pull out of the coalition government if its demands, including release of workers arrested on terror charges, are not met.
More than 300 JUI-F activists from various southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were picked up by security agencies. They were blamed for either being part of the Taliban network or its active supporters.
The men were arrested from Kohat, Hangu, Tank,
Dera Ismail Khan, Lakki Marwat, Swat, Buner, Dir and Mardan districts since security forces launched an offensive against Taliban suspects in these areas.
So far none of these arrested activists have been charged in any court of law.
The JUI-F has already been successful in securing the release of around 150 of its workers arrested earlier in the year on same charges from Kala Dhaka
– a semi tribal region of Mansehra district.
It is, however, not clear when the process of releasing these ‘political workers’ would start.
A close associate of Fazlur Rehman told The Express Tribune that the release of workers was at the top of several demands the party had earlier forwarded to the government as a condition for continuing support.
The government, he added, had already given a green signal to meet all these demands during a meeting between Maulana Fazl and Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently.
But the final word came from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who met with two top leaders of the party in Lahore on Sunday.
“We have settled all the matters. Release of our prisoners is one of them,” the JUI official quoted Fazl as telling him over the phone from Lahore.
According to some media reports, Fazl is set to meet President Asif Ali Zardari in a couple of days to announce that he would continue to be part of the ruling coalition.
Neither officials at the Presidency nor the JUI-F, however, confirm this.
Releasing prisoners was, however, not the only demand of the JUI.
It also asked the government to bring Pakistan’s laws in accordance with the provisions of Islam as laid down in the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
For this, Maulana asked the government to appoint one of his party’s officials as the head of the council that recommends the government how to Islamise laws.
Gilani, the official added, has acquiesced to this demand.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 14th, 2010.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 14, 2010
Due to a transcription error, an earlier version of this article misstated the abbreviation for the Council of Islamic Ideology. It is CII not CCI.