The games people play!


The dust kicked up by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) by its parting ways with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition, appears to have settled and the chances of its transforming into a storm have also seemingly diminished, with the clouds of uncertainty too disappearing for the time being after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) softened its position after meeting the president and the prime minister.
The JUI-F had “apparently” quit the government after its minister was sacked for indiscipline. The sacking also sparked off JUI-F’s other two ministers’ resignation from the federal cabinet in protest against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s decision. While the JUI-F on Monday applied for seats for its members on the opposition benches in the Senate and the National Assembly, the party ameer’s decision not to resign from the chairmanship of parliament’s special committee on Kashmir and Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani also not compromising on the chairmanship of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), suggest that it was not simply a knee-jerk reaction to the sacking of the minister.
People on the inside believe that the JUI-F had already decided to quit the government and the sacking of its minister provided it a pretext to seize the moment and walk away from the corridors of power at a time when a political decision was to be taken for a military operation in North Waziristan.
Understandably the political mullahs – who are consolidating their position in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas would not like to stamp such a decision while being part of the government.
Knowing that it doesn’t have the numbers in parliament to rock the boat of an equally weak coalition, the JUI-F is not oblivious to the reality that a change at this time is not possible, with other much stronger players reluctant – at least for the time being – to venture into troubled waters. However, what the JUI-F is working on in partnership with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) is doable; forming a coalition government in Balochistan where they have more members than the ruling PPP.
The PPP has already built bridges with the PML-Q. And the PPP may also engage the JUI-F and the PML-Q by facilitating them in Balochistan in lieu of their tacit support in the Centre.
The PPP may however sacrifice its government in Balochistan and become a smaller partner in the province to once and for all free itself from the MQM. The choice is with President Zardari – sack Dr Zulfiqar Mirza for venting his spleen against the MQM or take it head on.
As President Zardari has moved to win over the support of his “estranged friend” by responding to his letter, it is equally difficult for the PML-N to outrightly reject this offer to work with the PPP to take “difficult decisions” in the larger national interest. The PML-N is an equal stakeholder in the present political dispensation and might not take a confrontational path since this will also cost it the provincial government; and beware, new alliances are in the making!