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PPP’s refusal to join long march embitters JUI-F

ISLAMABAD: The relationship between the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has started to turn sour after the latter refused to join the anti-government long march with leaders from both the parties now accusing each other of playing politics on the matter.

While PPP leaders are still showing some restraint and not coming out with a direct attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman or other party leaders, the JUI-F’s information secretary Hafiz Hussain Ahmed has openly criticised the PPP over its stance on the long march issue.

“The PPP has adopted double standards. On the one hand, it considers our long march unconstitutional and illegal and on the other, it is extending moral and political support to our protest,” the JUI-F leader said while talking to Dawn on Sunday.

“The problem with the PPP is that those who are in jail want to come out and those who are out of jail do not want to go to jails,” Mr Ahmed said.

Fazl’s aide says mode of protest could still be discussed with other opposition parties

When asked about the PPP’s allegation that the JUI-F leadership was using “religion card” during the planned anti-government protest, Mr Ahmed said the JUI-F had never criticised the PPP for always using the “Sindh card” in politics.

“The religion card is just an excuse by the PPP as it wants to appease some powers,” the JUI-F leader alleged, adding that the PPP had previously “ditched” the opposition during the elections of prime minister, president and the Senate chairman.

“Did Quaid-i-Azam not use the religion card during the freedom movement? Is making a demand that the Constitution be implemented in letter and spirit unconstitutional?” he asked.

Mr Ahmed claimed that when the PPP faced victimisation despite creating rift within the opposition ranks in order to appease certain forces, the party leaders came to Maulana Fazlur Rehman and asked him to launch a campaign against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

Mr Ahmed made it clear that the one-point agenda of their planned march would be “fresh elections”. He, however, said that the JUI-F workers and supporters would always stand for defending Namoos-i-Risalat.

The JUI-F leader said the mode of protest could still be discussed with the opposition parties at the level of the Rahbar Committee formed by all opposition parties during a multi-party conference (MPC) last month.

He said the JUI-F wanted to go ahead with its anti-government protest after taking all the parties on board.

When contacted to seek his response on Mr Ahmed’s remarks, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said he would not make any comment at this stage as he did not want bitterness between the two parties. He, however, made it clear that the PPP had never considered the protest march as “unconstitutional” and believed that every party had the democratic right to hold protests against the government.

Sources said the JUI-F leadership was unhappy over certain remarks made by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari about their planned long march. The sources said the JUI-F leaders had taken a serious note of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks during his last week’s news conference that he was not participating in the JUI-F’s protest sit-in as he did not want to become a ‘Moulvi’.

Speaking at a news conference after presiding over a meeting of the party’s core committee in Islamabad on Sept 19, Mr Bhutto-Zardari had ruled out the possibility of joining the long march.

“I do not want to do politics of dharna. I want to do politics of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Why do you want me to become a moulvi,” the PPP chairman had stated in response to a question as to why the party was running away from the anti-government protest of JUI-F.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had said that he had already announced his party’s “moral support” for the JUI-F’s long march. He said how he could believe that the military leadership would not play the same role which it had played during the PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) movement that led to the imposition of martial law in 1977.

JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who enjoys equally good relations with former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had recently made an attempt to arrange a meeting between the two leaders, but all his efforts failed.

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