Govt courts Fazl to shun PTI alliance

Naqvi pays visit to Maulana a day after PM checked in on former ally’s health

Rizwan Shehzad   June 15, 2024
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman appearing for an interview with a private digital media platform on Friday. SCREENGRAB


Serious efforts appeared to be in full swing on Friday to pacify Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, as the government scrambled to forestall a potentially game-changer alliance between former rivals, the PTI and JUI-F, against the government and powerful circles.

Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi paid a visit to the Maulana, just a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif checked in on the JUI-F leader’s health.

The back-to-back meetings of the country’s top office holders with the JUI-F chief have come against the backdrop of his ongoing movement against the ruling coalition and powerful quarters over what he calls “mandate theft” and the possibility of rapprochement between JUI-F and PTI in the coming days.

Sources within the ruling coalition and JUI-F shared with The Express Tribune that the sense in the government circles and powerful quarters is that the JUI-F and PTI combo would be a dangerous alliance for the ruling parties and it should be avoided as it dims the idea of isolating incarcerated PTI founding chairman Imran Khan and his party.

While PTI and JUI-F have for a long time clashed — with PTI leaders publicly deriding Maulana Fazl as “diesel” — recent weeks have seen thawing relations and joint public demonstrations against the government and powerful stakeholders. Talks of a formal anti-government coalition between the two parties have escalated tensions.

On Thursday, PM Shehbaz Sharif visited Maulana. JUI-F officials, requesting not to be named, shared that the government side seeks more time as it feels that the political and economic situation is not good at the moment; funds and investment are awaited, and political instability is already hurting the economy.

Just a day after PM’s visit, interior minister went to meet Maulana at his residence to inquire about his health. Even people in the ruling coalition believed that Naqvi, who is considered to be a confidante of the powerful stakeholders, went to deliver key messages in person following Maulana’s hard-hitting speeches in and outside the parliament in the past few weeks.

However, Naqvi while talking to The Express Tribune said that he knows Maulana for the last 24 years and went to check about his health. To the questions if the government has given any offer to Maulana for abandoning or postponing his protest; or to keep Maulana away from PTI; and if he has been offered to join ruling coalition, Naqvi sticked to his previous stance. “He [Maulana] was in hospitals in these last few days, it’s not appropriate to talk about politics,” he responded.

Before PM and Naqvi, Senate Deputy Chairman Syedaal Khan Nasar, who belongs to the PML-N, had met the JUI-F chief at the latter’s residence and held a detailed discussion on the political situation as well as the key issues facing the country following the February 8 general elections.


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