Opposition parties in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly unanimously appointed Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) parliamentary leader Maulana Lutfur Rehman as the new opposition leader on Thursday.
The seat had fallen vacant following the appointment of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mehtab Khan Abbasi as the K-P governor, who took oath on April 15. Opposition parties had been trying to agree on a joint candidate for some time, as both JUI-F and PML-N were claimants to the seat. The decision was announced at the provincial assembly after a meeting attended by parliamentary leaders and lawmakers of JUI-F, PML-N, Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP).
Talking to the media, ANP’s parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak said the announcement had been delayed due to consultations among the opposition. He added earlier during the day, lawmakers of QWP, ANP, JUI-F and PPP met leaders of PML-N and asked them to support Rehman for the post, to which they agreed. Babak said they told the PML-N leadership that since JUI-F is the largest opposition party in the assembly, they should extend their support for him. The ANP leader said a section of the press had said there was a split amid the opposition over this position, however, they have proven that to be untrue.
Rehman thanked opposition parties for supporting him and said the opposition will highlight the issues faced by the province and will try its best to force the government to accept its demands. PML-N’s Aurangzeb Nalotha said his party is in full agreement with the remaining opposition and supports Rehman. QWP leader Sikandar Sherpao and PPP’s Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha also spoke at the occasion.
Meet the man
Maulana Lutfur Rehman was born into an influential political family of DI Khan. His father, Mufti Mehmood became the president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam after the 1970 general elections and also served as the chief minister of what was formerly known as the North West Frontier Province. His brother Fazlur Rehman is the chief of JUI-F.
Rehman is currently a member of the provincial assembly from PK-66, DI Khan III: A seat he won with around 32,000 votes, defeating PML-N’s Sanaullah Khan by 13,000 votes and trumping PTI’s ‘tsunami’ entirely.
“Although, JUI-F is led by Fazlur Rehman, politics at the local level are mostly controlled by his brother,” said Zubair Baloch, a DI Khan-based journalist. “He is a person who accommodates people who are both religious and non-religious and has formed a strong vote bank for his party with his political wisdom.” Rehman is also the party’s district chief in DI Khan.
JUI-F’s DI Khan Information Secretary Chaudhry Ishfaq said the new opposition leader has studied at Gomal University and has long been a proponent of modern education in the region. He claimed that during the government of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Rehman provided the relatively undeveloped area with clean water, paved roads, electricity and a network of primary, middle and high schools.
“I have actively participated in social work for a long time and will do more now that I am the opposition leader,” said the newly-appointed opposition leader while talking to The Express Tribune. “I will especially focus on developing education in my district.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2014.