Marriage of convenience: JUI-F’s indecision to quit central govt causes resentment among JI members

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—During MMA’s revival, both JUI-F and JI agreed to quit their respective coalition governments to focus on future of alliance

—JUI-F, JI poles apart on issue of FATA’s merger with KP

 

ISLAMABAD: All is not well in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), the recently-revived religious-cum-political parties’ alliance of five rightist parties, after two major political parties of the alliance, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), failed to resolve their differences on major issues, which can pose a serious threat to their marriage of convenience in the lead-up to the general elections.

JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman had proved himself a shrewd politician throughout his political career and had been known to utilise his cards in an effective and timely manner. This might also be the reason behind his success in convincing his allies to make him president of the alliance and adopt the book as its electoral symbol, despite strong opposition from JI in the beginning.

During MMA’s revival process, both the parties agreed in principle to quit their respective coalition governments in the centre and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), so as to fully focus on the political pursuits of MMA.

However, a senior JI leader, while talking on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today that though JI had parted ways with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government in KP, the JUI-F ministers were still enjoying the ministerial positions in the federal government.

He said that JUI-F’s indecision to quit the federal government had spread disenchantment within JI’s ranks. The JI leadership was of the view that it was not possible to keep the alliance strong if Fazl could not even give a small sacrifice by quitting the federal government before its term expired, he added.

The JI leader said that although it was not in black and white that both the parties would have to quit the governments after the revival of the defunct MMA, yet it was agreed upon orally that they would part ways with their respective coalition governments.

It is pertinent to mention here that two JUI-F ministers still occupied their posts in the federal government, including Fazl as chairman of Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir and Akram Khan Durrani as Federal Minister of Housing and Works.

He said that Fazl was simultaneously holding two positions as the chairman of the committee and head of the religious alliance, adding that by doing so he was not focusing on the affairs of MMA.

Despite stringent efforts, the JI could not even get hold of the top spot of the alliance in KP, as provincial chief of JUI-F Gul Naseeb Khan was appointed the provincial head of MMA.

Moreover, both JUI-F and JI have been poles apart on the government’s policy for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While the former strongly opposed the merger of the tribal areas with KP, the latter had been a strong proponent of the merger.

It is important to mention here that MMA comprises of JUI-F, JI, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), Tehreek-i-Islami Pakistan (TIP) and Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith (MJAH).

Sources said that JUI-F wanted to leave the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government at the centre since it was under immense pressure from JI. However, the government did not provide them an excuse to do so, as it even deferred the plan of presenting the long-awaited FATA reforms bills, if only to please Fazl.

Talking to Pakistan Today, JI KP chief Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Khan said that JI’s decision of quitting KP government was the party’s own decision.

However, he said that it was discussed during the revival of MMA that the two larger parties would leave their respective governments in the centre and KP, but it was not a pre-requisite.

He said that once MMA had been revived, JUI-F should have disassociated itself from the PML-N government at the centre to solely focus on the future of the alliance.

Talking to Pakistan Today, JUI-F Senator Attaur Rehman said they did not agree on quitting their respective allied governments in the centre and KP after the revival of the religiopolitical alliance.

When asked about JI’s reservations on the matter, he dropped the call and refused to receive a call from this scribe afterwards.

However, when this scribe approached JUI-F member of National Assembly (MNA) Naeema Kishwar Khan and asked about JUI-F’s plan of quitting the central government, she categorically stated that no such plan was being pursued, adding that there was no reason for JUI-F to quit the central government.

To a query about the pressure being applied by JI in this connection, she said that JI’s decision of quitting the government was its own and it had nothing to do with the revival of MMA.