NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 39

Causes of JUI-F’s pro-activism and its implications

For the last several months, Fazlur Rahman, chief of his personal faction of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), has become very active in the country’s politics despite having a miniscule electoral constituency and public support base in the country. There are several reasons for him to become so active, which are solely personal and vested in nature. However, the problem is that his style of politics and other parties accepting him as their leader to fight out the most popular party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and its charismatic leader, Imran Khan, have serious repercussions for the country.

All ruling parties, including the PML-N, PPP, ANP, MQM, BAP, BNP etc. and their out-of-parliament supporting groups, like Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) of former interior minister Aftab Sherpao, and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) as well as the general public must understand the reasons for Fazl’s vitriolic anti-PTI stance so that Pakistan could be protected from politics of personal interests. Moreover, the JUI-F’s extremist politics also has implications for other allied parties of the group.

Observably, of all ruling parties’ alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), and out-of-PDM allied parties, like the PPP and ANP, the stance of JUI-F head Fazlur Rahman, has been most intransigent in terms of talking with the largest political party, the PTI. Perhaps, this is the reason that the PDM parties chose Fazl as the head of the alliance when it was formed but these parties must realize that they are no more in the opposition rather in the government now. Therefore, the intransigence of the ruling alliance is destructive for the country. This is evident from the near-collapse of the economy in the last four months when the 13-party ruling alliance took the reins of the government on April 11 by removing the PTI government through a highly-controversial vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan. On the other hand, the PTI and Imran Khan have been gaining politically and electorally during all these days and months. This is evident from huge public rallies which the PTI has been organizing within no time and the party’s landslide victory on 20 Punjab Assembly seats in the July 22 by-elections.

The JUI-F’s pro-activism is irrespective of the fact that politically and statistically it is a very small group in comparison to the dominating parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Consequently, Fazl has gone to a point of taking a position that if the country has to be protected, the PTI and Imran Khan have to be ditched. He has ruled out talks with the most popular leader, Imran Khan. This does not augur well for the sustainability of democracy in the country. Because in the current highly divisive and bombastically polarized politics of Pakistan the only way forward is that all important political groups come together to lead the country out of the morass. So, any thinking of ditching the PTI and Imran Khan is reckless. In fact, whether the JUI-F is a part of talks or not, it does not matter but the PTI has become one of the key political cementing forces in the country at a time when no other party could claim to have an electoral base out of a specific province, like the PML-N in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh.

There are different causes for the JUI-F head to have such a strong anti-PTI stance. It was the JUI-F that had launched an anti-PTI government protest and tried its level best to bring it down. However, it had miserably failed. Noticeably, main opposition parties, the PML-N and PPP, had been banking upon the party to launch a successful anti-government struggle. Because historically, Muslim clerical parties launched important movements in Pakistan against sitting governments and have been quite successful in weakening them through street protests. Despite it, the JUI-F failed and Imran Khan’s government could only be dislodged through a suspected vote of no-confidence.

After initial vows by the PML-N and the PPP to let the PTI government of PM Imran Khan complete five years in office so that there was democratic continuity in the country, the parties unequivocally announced in November that the PTI government had to be dislodged by any means. This was obviously due to the fact that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been investigating financial corruption cases against the top leadership of both PPP and PML-N and the parties had only one option to create political instability in the country to evade conviction by the NAB and put an end to the all-out support of the PTI government to the national anti-graft body. They were finally successful when international and national players also put their weight behind the PML-N, PPP and JUI-F. What was more concerning was that the PDM parties, time and again, had asked the military establishment to send PM Imran Khan’s government packing and hold fresh elections. The demand was totally unconstitutional and unjustified. Interestingly, the PDM parties were asking the security establishment to interfere in the political and democratic process while at the same time blaming it for sabotaging the process. Ultimately, somehow the powers-that-be were convinced of removing the government but the consequences of the engineered dislodging have been catastrophic for Pakistan.

The other reason for the JUI-F and Maulana Fazl’s anti-PTI stance is that it is Imran Khan’s politics that has inflicted irreparable damage on the religious parties, specifically the JUI-F, by defeating its candidates including its chief in its once strongholds in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As Maulana Fazl was out of parliament personally while his son, Asad Mehmud, though an MNA but with no chance to become a minister, Fazl had been least interested that the parliament remain in place. This is how personal interest inflict irreparable damage on the national interest. But since coming to power of the 13-party alliance and Asad Mehmud becoming a minister of communication, Fazl wants the parliament to complete its tenure and has taken a complete U-turn to state that fresh elections were in no way acceptable to his party, while new elections are the cry of the hour as saner voices have expressed.

Moreover, in the last PML-N government of PM Nawaz Sharif (2013-2018), the JUI-F was a junior coalition partner and when the PTI under Imran Khan was then holding unprecedented protest demonstrations against the PML-N’s alleged fraud in the 2013 national elections, the JUI-F was in the frontline to defend the PML-N. The JUI-F had two of its parliamentarians serving as federal ministers as Fazlur Rahman had put more than its political weight behind former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He had asked PM Nawaz Sharif not to submit resignation at any cost, as demanded by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which were holding simultaneous protests for the ouster of the PML-N government. Surprisingly, Fazl had gone an extra mile to support and defend ex-PM Nawaz Sharif and in this connection even outperformed most senior members and parliamentarians of the PML-N. He had announced holding anti-PTI and anti-PAT rallies across Pakistan. The purpose was to give a tit-for-tat response to the PTI and the PAT. However, the JUI-F support to Nawaz Sharif and opposition to the PTI was not politically motivated but driven by vested interest of its top leadership, particularly Maulana Fazl and his family members.

The JUI-F has been a part of almost all governments since early 1990s, irrespective of which party, whether the PML-N or the PPP, was in the saddle. The party was even a part of the government of the Pakistan Muslim League of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat in Balochistan from 2002-2007, when General Pervez Musharraf was the godfather of the party. This was irrespective of the fact that the religious parties alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) which the JUI-F headed, ostensibly opposed Pervez Musharraf but at the same time facilitated the extremely unconstitutional step of electing him the President of Pakistan while in military uniform.