Fazl’s appointment reflects that major opposition parties ‘lack street muscle’ | Pakistan Today

Fazl’s appointment reflects that major opposition parties ‘lack street muscle’

–Political analysts say JUI-F given PDM’s lead role for mounting pressure for another deal
–Raja Zafarul Haq says time over for making deals now
ISLAMABAD: The appointment of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), as the head of the multi-party anti-government alliance with a new name of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has raised serious questions among politicians and observers.
The appointment of Maulana Fazl has triggered a debate arguing why the religious party leader was given a lead role by two major parties. Moreover, the way the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government spokesmen have come to the fore with all guns blazing has sent a message to the public that the PTI government is also not happy with Fazl in the leadership role.
While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) are the two biggest parties in both houses of the parliament, the JUI-F has been given lead role in the anti-government drive despite the fact that is the smallest party in the parliament among the opposition alliance.
Political observers stand divided over the wisdom behind the move while sources in both the PML-N and PPP say that the leadership of both the major parties feel that they lack public support and street to launch a drive against the PTI.
Raja Zafarul Haq, the chairman of the largest opposition party in the parliament, the PML-N, told Pakistan Today that the earlier decision was made that the PDM would be headed by Ahsan Iqbal and he has been taking decisions.
“But now after agreement on Fazl, Ahsan Iqbal would be heading the decision-making team of the PDM,” he said. Raja Zafarul Haq, the senior-most politician, agreed that Fazl may have been given lead role as he could muster street muscle by amassing religious seminary students to street.
“When Imran Khan’s jalsas [rallies] were declining during sit-in of 2014, he went to London and lured in Tahirul Qadri so Fazl too could send in his seminary students as reinforcement. Similarly, when General (r) Pervez Musharraf came to power, he gave representation to Maulana Fazl’s party, MMA, due to their street power,” he added.
Asked why he was removed as PML-N chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq said that he was still the chairman of the party and he had chaired the recent sessions of the party.
Asked whether or not the PML-N leadership wanted to use seminary students of the JUI-F to build pressure to cut another deal with the establishment, Raja Zafarul Haq did not agree.
“I think that the matter has gone beyond a deal now,” he asserted.
Imtiaz Gul, a political commentator, told Pakistan Today that the leadership of PML-N and PPP know well that the Fazl himself is out of the assembly and the JUI-F chief wants that all parties should resign from the assemblies.
“I do not see any utility of this alliance as it is a league of contradictions. is out of the system and he wanted to torpedo the system through mass resignations. Now the opposition has given him a pie to remain in the saddle,” he added.
Imtiaz said that the opposition have given the Fazl a leadership role so that he could have stakes in the system too.
“I do not think the utility and effectiveness of the alliance. I also do not think that JUI-F is a radical force anymore and rather it has been a part of democratic process. They have captive audience and they can amass seminary students,” he added.
Asked how potent the threat was to the system from the PDM, Imtiaz said that Pakistan Army and government are on the same page and they both know the opposition alliance cannot topple the government.
“Both the PPP and PML-N want to use Fazl. The PPP cannot badmouth with the Centre as the NFC [National Finance Commission] share of Sindh can be hurt if things go worse between Centre and Sindh. So, the PPP does not want to take leadership role and rather it wants someone else to challenge the government,” he added.
Murtaza Solangi told this scribe that the appointment of Fazl does not reflect anything.
“All the parties in past public mobilization campaigns had the leadership role on rotations. So is the case with PDM as it would have leaders on monthly-basis. Next month may be Bilawal Bhutto Zardari heading the PDM. In 1980s and in early 1990s, same thing happened,” he said.
Asked whether the opposition parties wanted another deal by launching a drive against the government, Solangi said that Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were released under a deal.
“But the talks were derailed on August 11 when properties of Maryam Nawaz surfaced. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam were silent before under the deal. But then talks were derailed and the PPP leaders were also arrested. This pushed the opposition to forge an alliance,” he said.
Solangi though agreed that there is no revolution in the offing but asserted that the economic issues have not been resolved yet which was a threat to the government.
“Things are not improving and prices are on the hike. Medicines are vegetables prices are rising. The government needs to deliver, failing which a change is likely,” he added.
Senior PPP leader Taj Haider told Pakistan Today that unity among the opposition parties is natural at the moment and there is a collective leadership concept among 11 political parties of the opposition.
Asked whether he thought the rise of religious party could endanger democratic process, Taj Haider said that religious extremism has been always against progressive parties.
“PPP has always had a conflict with religious parties. In 1970s, Shaikh Mujeeb was heading a Nationalist Party which was a hurdle to progressive as it believed in narrow nationalism. Religious parties were also against progressive agenda of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as they carried imperialistic agenda,” he added.
He said that since religious parties could not come to power through election in Pakistan, they joined hands with the army to scuttle the progressive agenda of Bhutto.
“Whenever a big alliance comes together, it denies the possibility of cutting a deal. NRO was not only for Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif was also its beneficiary. Resignations from assemblies are one of the options on the table,” he added.
He further said the biggest challenge for Pakistan is to revive its sick economy.
“I am one of the team working on the revival plan. Under public-private model, public sector has to play a dominant role in revival of economy after the fall of the PTI government departs,” he concluded.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Dr.M.M.Khan said:

    It reminds of ZAB’S conversation with COAS Zia. after the coup. ” Look you have the muscle power and I have the intellectual power. Both of us can run the country” History tells us what happened. When politicians resort to rented crowds of religious bigot failures there is nothing but disaster. Maulana Faizul Rehman is a political chameleon. For him the end of PTI justifies the means employed. He is being used!

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