Cracks widen in Pakistan opposition; JUI breaks ranks


Islamabad : With just six weeks to go for Pakistan’s general elections, the cracks in the opposition have widened with a key religious party saying it would not support the call to boycott the Jan 8 polls.

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Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamait-ul-Ulama-Islam (JUI) has refused to accept the decision of opposition conglomerate All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) to boycott the polls and threatened to quit the grouping, as also the six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) religious alliance of which the JUI is a part.

“All the JUI-F members have been asked to go ahead and file their nomination papers without paying any attention to the boycott call given by MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed,” The News reported Sunday, quoting sources.

After an APDM meeting here Saturday that the JUI boycotted, Rehman sent a message to its leadership, as well as Ahmed, that he would not abide by the boycott decision as his party was not taken into confidence.

He also described it as “a decision taken in haste”.

The APDM meeting collectively decided that its component parties would not take part in the elections if the government did not lift the state of emergency by Tuesday.

The JUI and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are the only two opposition that have decided against boycotting the polls so as not to leave the field open for politicians backed by President Pervez Musharraf.

The JUI says it will boycott the elections if the PPP also decides to do so.

“In his contacts with Qazi Hussian Ahmed and the APDM leadership, Fazlur Rehman not only strongly protested over the boycott announcement but also told them that he would come up with a decision shortly whether or not to remain a part of the alliance since his party was being ignored in collective decisions,” The News said.

“The APDM decision of boycott is not binding on our party though we have not closed this option,” JUI general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said.

He recalled that on Thursday, the MMA Supreme Council, at a meeting presided over by Ahmed, had unanimously decided to file nomination papers till the entire opposition said it would boycott the elections.

“We are unable to understand as to why Qazi Sahib and the APDM leaders are in such a hurry to boycott the elections,” Haideri maintained.