KARACHI: Most participants in what is being seen as the first major show of political prowess by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazlur Rahman) in the city over the past decade arrived from different seminaries across the province on Friday.
The crowd comprising mostly youngsters — with majority of them in a uniform dress code — was charged but disciplined though people had to wait for nearly six hours at the Bagh-i-Quaid to listen to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rahman.
Holding black and white party flags, they had a variety of slogans but common thoughts to share.
“We don't want any secular and liberal party to rule Pakistan,” said Haseebullah, a second-year student of Dars-i-Nizami, who accompanied his more than 500 seminary students from Korangi at the rally.
But he had few arguments to explain the reasons behind his party`s alliance with `liberal` and `secular` political forces to share power for almost a decade and earlier as well.
“You can`t reject what they say, neither can you fight them. So the only way forward is to contest elections and shake hands with the parties to show the difference between religious and liberal schools of thought.”
“People have witnessed those who are allied with the United States,” said Shiraz Khan, in his mid-20s, and enrolled with a Clifton seminary.
“As the slogan of this rally [Islam Zindabad Conference] reflects the emotion motivating this huge crowd, it also shows people`s loyalty to religious parties and we are hopeful about positive poll results even in Karachi if they are held in a transparent manner.”
By the sunset, the venue had little space to be occupied and the atmosphere turned even more charged when the JUI chief was seen climbing the stage stairs.
Party workers and loyalists were optimistic about winning the next general election in Karachi, though many of the participants did not have a registered vote in the city.
“If the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal) is revived and the Jamaat-i-Islami gives up its stance of a solo flight, the power of the religious parties will be felt across the country as well as Karachi,” said Mohammad Shamshad, a Baldia town middle-aged resident, a UC-level activist of the party.
The MMA had won the second largest majority in the National Assembly with 58 out of 342 seats and a majority in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the then NWFP) assembly in the 2002 election.
The alliance had also managed to get some Sindh and Balochistan assembly seats. With nearly half a dozen religious parties representing different sects and schools of thought, the alliance put a major dent to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement vote bank in the 2002 election by winning five seats in the national assembly and six in the Sindh Assembly from Karachi.
Although in the 2002 election the JUI had grabbed three seats in the Sindh Assembly and one national assembly seat from Karachi, participants in the rally pinned hopes on what they called a `changing trend` in national politics as well as in Karachi politics.