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January 2, 2021

Maulana Fazlur Rehman gets message of ‘non-interference’ from powers that be?

Top Story

January 2, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The PDM leadership was on Friday informed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman about a ‘message’ from the powers that be assuring him that they would not interfere in political matters, including on those options currently being considered by the opposition alliance. 

A credible source who attended the meeting confided to The News that Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the PDM leadership that he has recently been conveyed messages from the ‘right quarters.’ It was also said that a desire was expressed to meet the Maulana but he said such overtures are now useless.

The opposition alliance that was created to oust the Imran Khan government, however, remained divided in its approach in achieving its announced goal. There are reports of some external influences having been used to divide the PDM.

As things stand, the different stances adopted by the PPP on one side and the Nawaz-Maulana duo on the other have seriously dented the opposition’s move and things are fast moving towards a point where the alliance will become ineffective.

Background interactions with some leaders belonging to the PDM reveal the growing lack of trust between the PDM parties, particularly between the PPP and the PMLN-JUI-F combo. The latter two parties suspect that Asif Ali Zardari has come up with a new stance following some strong assurances from the ‘right quarters’. An important PPP leader when approached laughed loudly when asked what Mr Zardari is up to. He avoided commenting on or confirming any backdoor deal between the PPP and those that matter but insisted that Mr Zardari’s approach from day one is to use constitutional means like a no-confidence motion to oust the government.

Mass resignations from the assemblies, it is said, will not be an option for the PPP which, unlike the PML-N and JUI-F, would have to sacrifice much including its government in Sindh. That for Mr Zardari is too heavy a price to pay for too small a gain.

In case the Imran Khan government is ousted following the en bloc resignations of the entire PDM parties, there will be new elections. In that case, will the PPP be able to win those elections at the centre, in Punjab, KP and Balochistan? Zardari, it is said, is sure, at this stage that his party will not gain anything beyond what it already has in Sindh. Even there, in case of a new election, the PPP could end up getting weakened.

“So why do what would solely and greatly benefit the PML-N,” the PPP source said, adding that this is the reason why Mr Zardari is pursuing the agenda of an in-house change in Punjab and at the Centre.

Even though many within the PPP are sceptical that any in-house change could be possible without the complete support of the powers that be, Mr Zardari has already assigned his men to lure the PTI coalition partners to his side.

The PML-N, which is currently the main advocate of en bloc resignations from the assemblies and also appears on the face of it to be united, is also actually divided in its approach. In public, the party might not be voicing these differences but many party leaders in background discussions insist that en bloc resignations will not be a rational political decision and, in case the PPP dithers, it would be a disaster for the PML-N.

While party stalwarts believe that Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz remain the main attraction for the party voters, many of them say in confidence that the recently adopted hard line against two top members of the military establishment has caused more problems for the party and damaged its reputation.

This could be the reason -- or it could be because of the continued backdoor interactions-- that Maryam Nawaz’s tone appears to have softened of late. She has now even announced to take the case of Imran Khan to a court of law for ‘defaming the institution of the army’.

Following the arrest of Khawaja Asif two days ago, Maryam hinted at two “important persons” who according to her had asked Asif to leave Nawaz Sharif or face the music. But Khawaja Asif tacitly refuted what she had conveyed by putting the entire blame of his arrest on Imran Khan.

According to a PML-N source, the recent harsh tone by Nawaz and Maryam against the establishment figures actually helped strengthen the Imran Khan government. There are many in the party who want to know if such a targeted political campaign was to be launched then why did the PML-N support not only an extension of the army chief’s tenure but also voted to make it a law, thus paving the way for extensions for future services chiefs as well. Both Nawaz and Maryam have been recently questioned by the media about why the PML-N had done what it had in this particular case, but the two avoided responding to these queries.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman shares Nawaz Sharif’s frustration with Imran Khan and wants to see his ouster at any cost. However, he and his party have now also started feeling the heat. What both Nawaz and the Maulana wanted to achieve by mainly targeting the establishment has worked to their disadvantage and in favour of Imran Khan.

Credible sources say that the establishment was frustrated by the performance of the Imran Khan government and had displayed some indications of gradually extricating itself from political matters. However, Nawaz Sharif’s frontal attack against the establishment could have undermined this decision of the powers that be.

However, the Maulana, while talking to the media on Friday minced no words in criticising the establishment and holding it responsible for the present political crisis.