PESHAWAR, Oct 25: As Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf stops pulling in leaders from different political groups for the time being, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl has opened its doors to electables, including turncoats, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Of late, PTI suffered major setback in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after several politicians ‘notorious’ for switching loyalty suddenly ended their honeymoon with Imran Khan’s party to join others.
Former federal minister Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti from Mardan, who joined PTI a few months ago, reversed his decision and became part of JUI-F.
Also, MPAs Attiqur Rehman from Hangu and Munawar Khan from Lakki Marwat recently joined JUI-F after quitting Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, now called Qaumi Watan Party, and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz respectively.
Divisional president of Pakistan People’s Party Ihsanullah Ihsan, who belongs to an influential family in Surai Nowrang area of Lakki Marwat, also joined hands with Maulana Fazlur Rehman along with office-bearers.
JUI-F provincial deputy general secretary Asif Iqbal Daudzai confirmed induction of Mr Khwaja Hoti in the party, saying several sitting and former lawmakers would come to JUI-F after Eidul Azha.
“Political atmosphere has changed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and people consider JUI-F as political substitute of Awami National Party (ANP),” commented Mr Daudzai over the resurgence of his party which was in turmoil after the growing popularity of PTI in the province.
He claimed that an MPA of ANP in Charsadda district and another lawmaker of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid from Abbottabad would soon join JUI-F. He said several political stalwarts from Hazara, Mardan and Charsadda district had decided to come to JUI-F and they would make announcements after Eidul Azha.
“They are joining our party unconditionally,” said Mr Daudzai, who gave its credit to Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s candid and bold stand on vital national issues.
He said the party would organise a big public meeting in Peshawar and more or less 10,000 workers of different parties would announce joining JUI-F.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman got isolated after he declined to join Difa-i-Pakistan Council, a non-political forum of several religious parties, militant groups and non political entities which distanced him from religious groups.
His strained relations with other parties, like PTI and PML-Nawaz also dealt his party a blow.
PML-N, PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami were unhappy over Maulana Rehman’s close working relations with President Asif Zardari and it was viewed as one of the major factors for delay in the revival of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) in its original form with JI as its key component.
However, Maulana Rehman, who is adept in the art of political manoeuvering, staged comeback by organising big public meetings in Karachi, Sukkur and other parts of the country besides reviving MMA minus JI.
Party’s leaders admitted that JUI-F suffered a major setback for not being part of DPC. However, they said Maulana Rehman was able to win sympathies of smaller religious groups like Tehrik Wahdatul Muslimeen and built his image as a moderate abroad by not joining the council.
When contacted, political rival of Maulana Rehman from southern districts MPA Israrullah Khan Gandapur said JUI-F leaders had realised that they could not manipulate voters by relaying only on clergy and in the name of religion, so instead of his past sharia enforcement rhetoric, they were talking about economic issues and public welfare, and criticising the military establishment in their public meetings.
“JUI-F is passing through the process of transformation and Maulana (Rehman) is trying to change his party posture by inducting clean-shaven people, who would be his candidates in the next elections,” he said.
The MPA said many people were joining JUI-F particularly in southern districts had understood that they could not run their election campaign for next elections.
“In southern districts, the politicians feared to join ANP for fear of militants due to which they are coming to religious parties to escape reprisals,” he said. Mr Gandapur said those joining JUI-F knew it very well that they could not run their election campaigns if they contested the next election on ANP or other party tickets.