NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 06

Rationality and irrationality of JUI-F’s march

The Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Fazl faction (JUI-F) was adamant to go on with its anti-government march despite the constitution of a negotiations committee by the federal government, making political situation quite uncertain. Whether the protest movement by the JUI-F would be successful or not and compel the government to resign, which was the main demand of JUI-F head Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the movement has some rationale and a lot of irrationality.
Insofar as the justification for the protest movement of the JUI-F is concerned it is quite justified due to bad governance by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. There is no doubt that the PTI government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has failed to provide any relief to the common people in its more than one year rule. Today, the financial condition of the common Pakistani is worse off and all the promises which Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party made before the 2018 election are far from being fulfilled. For instance, instead of making efforts to provide 10 million jobs, the government is making arrangements to reduce the size of government departments and even pack up a number of them. According to Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, the PTI government is planning to close down “400 government departments.” Although the Federal Cabinet Division has clarified the statement of Mr. Chaudhry, yet there is a lot of substance in the statement of the federal minister. The fact of the matter is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided the last bailout package to the PTI government and obviously there have to be some conditions for the provision of the pledged amount.
International financial institutions generally impose tough conditions for providing bailout packages to the Third World countries. Of the conditions, the foremost is to reduce the size of the government and the IMF must have asked the government to reduce the size of the government departments, which is a typical recipe for putting the economy on track. Curtailing the size of the government is obviously a very important solution for budget deficit and GDP growth. However, Pakistan has a huge public sector historically and reducing it at once could create a lot of problems and that is what the PTI and, more importantly, the country is facing now. In the situation, any protest movement by an opposition party or parties is really justified. Against this backdrop, the JUI-F’s protest movement against the PTI government is quite justified. In fact, the JUI-F knows this quite well and wants to exploit the situation for political expediency and this is what politics are all about.
Then the rate of inflation under the PTI government in the country has reached double figures, around 12 percent, which is quite unprecedented in the recent history of the country and pinching all of us. Therefore, any protest movement by an opposition party would definitely put pressure on the government to make efforts to reduce the price hike so as to stop people from becoming part of the protest and reinforce it. Reducing the price hike and inflation may not be the intended goal of the JUI-F protest movement, which is being supported by mainstream opposition parties, like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), but as a by-product it would compel the PTI government to provide some relief to the people.
Putting an end to financial corruption and misappropriation and evasion of taxes by businesspeople was also an important promise of PM Khan before the elections. Although two of the former prime ministers belonging to the PML-N, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, have been put in jail by the National Accountability Bureau for their alleged corruption and two of the other prime ministers, including Yusuf Raza Gilan and Raja Pervez Ashraf, have also been facing corruption charges by the accountability authorities of the country, yet not even a significant part of the misappropriated money has been recovered, raising important question marks on the performance of the governmental authorities. Again, in this backdrop the protest movement by opposition parties, whose important leaders have been incarcerated without conviction, is quite justified.
On the other hand, the JUI-F’s protest movement against the federal government of the PTI is quite irrational, keeping in view the fundamental demand of the party leadership that is the resignation of the government and holding of fresh national elections in the country. The performance of the PTI government may have been bad or even worse but this is no justification for any opposition party to ask the government, constitutionally elected for five years, to resign. The committee, constituted by the government to negotiate with the JUI-F, was headed by Pervez Khattak, who is the Defense Minister of Pakistan. His statement that the JUI-F must come up with the reason for protesting against the government is a rational argument. In fact, the JUI-F does not have a valid argument for asking the PTI government to resign. The only argument the JUI-F and other opposition parties have for demanding the government’s resignation is that the July 25, 2018 national elections were rigged in favour of the PTI. This is indeed a shallow argument because the JUI-F head contested the elections of the President of Pakistan by asking votes from the same parliament and provincial assemblies which he dubbed “the product of rigging.” Then one of the key opposition parties, the PPP, has its government in Sindh province. So, if the elections were rigged then they were equally so in Sindh province, therefore, if the PTI’s federal, Punjab and the KP governments are the product of rigging, then the PPP government in Sindh is also the result of rigging.
The protest movement of the opposition parties against the PTI government is also unjustified because in case of new elections there is no guarantee that the would-be winner of the elections will be acceptable to those who lose the elections. So, there are justifications for the JUI-F-led opposition parties for a protest movement but at the same time, there is a lack of justification for the agitation. The JUI-F head, Maulana Fazl, is a wily politician and he knows that it is high time that he could take the optimum advantage of the protest against the government. The JUI-F is completely down and out of the country’s power corridors and it has no hope to return to power through new elections. Secondly, the top leadership of the PML-N and the PPP are behind bars facing corruption charges and the NAB may also take to task Mr. Fazl as well as other leaders of the JUI-F. Already, former chief minister of KP, Akram Durrani, a top leader of JUI-F, has been asked by the NAB to provide justification for having assets well beyond his known sources of income.
Therefore, JUI-F head knows that it is the time to protest as he has a fair chance to win the leadership of the PML-N and the PPP to launch a joint protest while he could also save his own and other parties skins by making the government of the PTI to negotiate and accept some demands of the party which would primarily include dropping corruption cases against the JUI-F leaders.