A detailed report in this newspaper on the Wikileaks Afghan war logs has revealed the alleged double role played by the JUI-F in funding “assassination and propaganda programmes” in Afghanistan. The accusations may not be proven but there is little doubt that the loyalties of mainstream religious parties are divided, even when they are serving in a government coalition that is supposed to be committed to fighting militancy. Religious parties other than the JUI-F were also implicated. The Jamaat-e-Islami, too, is known for its rhetorical support of the Taliban and there has been speculation that the support may extend beyond just rhetoric. Also, when the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested from the house of a major in Rawalpindi, there were reports that the major’s family was linked to a mainstream religious party.
Fazlur Rehman knows that threatening to quit the coalition government is all it takes for his alleged support of militant outfits to be overlooked. On June 13, the government agreed to free 300 JUI-F workers arrested for suspected links to the Taliban. This was done after the JUI-F leader hinted at leaving the coalition. Apart from the role it may have been playing in destabilising Pakistan’s fight against militancy, the party also has a history of exacerbating sectarian tensions. Reportedly, one of the reasons that the party chief lost his Dera Ismail Khan seat in the 2008 elections was that he had alienated the Shia community and the result was that the PPP candidate won. There have also been allegations that the JUI-F’s network of madrassas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa supply recruits to banned outfits. It is understandable that the PPP wants to cast as wide a net as possible in its coalition government. But by including the JUI-F, the PPP may be undermining its own principles and policies.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.
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