Playing hard to get : JUI-F rejects govt’s offer again

Maulana Fazl hints at reconsidering his decision if the incumbent PM is replaced.

Irfan Ghauri December 30, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday made yet another failed attempt to convince Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI-F). This was prior to him leaving for Saudi Arabia where he will perform Umrah while his party sources did not rule out meetings with Saudi authorities during his two-week stay.

A day after Maulana demanded the removal of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari sent his chief negotiator Rehman Malik who held a one-on-one meeting with the cleric.

Sources in both parties said that the JUI-F chief declined to change his decision of parting ways from the ruling coalition but dropped a hint that he could reconsider his decision if President Zardari names some other candidate to replace Gilani.

“Malik had a one-on-one meeting with Maulana Fazl. As far as we know Maulana Fazl has refused to change his decision. We have formally conveyed our demand to the government about the change of prime minister,” a close aide of the JUI-F chief said.

When asked if the PPP names some other candidate to lead the house would his party support it, he said, “It is now up to the government to decide. We have conveyed this to them because we felt this was good for democracy and the government.”

JUI-F has quit the federal government and applied for space in the opposition benches in the National Assembly and Senate but the speaker and the chairman have not yet allocated the same to them. The JUI-F’s seven members are still sitting on the treasury benches.

In a recent press conference the JUI-F chief had said that he had no scheduled meeting with Saudi authorities during his stay in the Kingdom, however his party sources did not rule out such engagements.

“There is no such meeting in his schedule so far but during his 9-10 days stay if any such development takes place I can’t say anything,” said a JUI-F legislator. The Saudi government has had a very important role in Pakistan politics especially when it comes to right-wing parties.

Amid dwindling support to its fragile rule, coalition partner the Awami National Party (ANP) has come up with vociferous support for the Pakistan Peoples Party and said it would resist any in-house move to change the prime minister.

Talking to reporters Asfandyar Wali said the demand of the JUI-F chief to change the prime minister does not make any sense. Right-wing JUI-F and left-wing ANP are considered political rivals in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where ANP replaced the JUI-F led MMA government after the 2008 general elections.

Besides coming down hard on the PPP, JUI-F is also directing its criticism on the ANP, a move seemingly designed to attract the extreme right-wing vote for the party in the troubled province.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2010.


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