ISLAMABAD, April 20: In an unexpected development, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) candidates in Islamabad have failed to woo rightwing Sunni group - Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) - despite the fact that the latter had in principle announced to challenge the PML-N at all fronts in the upcoming elections.
The JI candidates Mian Aslam (NA-48) and Mohammad Zubair Farooq (NA-49) held a special meeting with the central leadership of ASWJ in a mosque at G-9 Markaz after Friday prayers led by Masoodur Rehman Usmani, the central deputy secretary general of the ASWJ.
Mr Usmani is also the acting in-charge of the party affairs in Rawalpindi division. However, he extended a conditional support to the JI candidates.
“We have a strong block votes in both the constituencies and have a natural support for Jamaat, but they (JI) should also support our candidate for the provincial assembly in Murree,” said Mohammad Tayyab Hydri, the secretary information of ASWJ Islamabad. The ASWJ leaders told the guests that they had around 12,000 to 15,000 votes in both NA-48 and NA-49.
“Mian Aslam won the previous elections only because PML-N was not in form but now beating a sitting MNA - Anjum Aqeel - is not easy,” the ASWJ office-bearer said. “Blocks votes like ours are very important under this scenario.”
Mr Usmani said his party was interested in having adjustment with the JI not only because they were a religious party but also because the ASWJ was opposing the PML-N due to its support to Sheikh Waqas against their party head Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi in Jhang.
Mr Usmani told the JI leaders that PML-N had always been asking us for support when they were in government and it was an understanding that the PML-N would support ASWJ in elections 2013.
“Now after Sheikh Waqas has become controversial, the PML-N has given ticket to his father Sheikh Mohammad Akram from Jhang city,” the ASWJ office-bearer said.
But the support to JI in Islamabad is conditional with the ASWJ’s demanded that JI withdraw their Punjab provincial assembly candidate Sajjad Abbassi from PP-1.
A local office-bearer of ASWJ told Dawn that his party candidate Ishtiaq Abbassi had a firm standing in PP-1, and if there was a push from the JI he would be ensured of success ‘even before the polls.’
However, sources in the Jamaat-i-Islami said both the candidates had expressed their limitations to comply with the conditions set by ASWJ leader Usmani.
“The ASWJ was told that the issue was not only related to a different district but a different province too as Murree was in Punjab and the high command of the party had to be approached over the matter,” said the JI office-bearer in Islamabad.
Meanwhile, another ASWJ office-bearer said Jamaat leaders were expected to respond by Saturday evening but no reply was received.
The situation seems to have turned into a war of nerves as the local JI teams was determining the actual worth of ASWJ in the federal capital.
“Since they are already at odd with the PML-N too, they would have limited options in the elections,” said a JI Islamabad office-bearer, adding the estimated voting strength enjoyed by ASWJ was less than 10,000 in NA-48 and NA-49 combined. He said the JI candidate in PP-1 was in a better position to counter the PPPP and the PML-N.
It is less likely that a formal accord may be reached between the two parties because Jamaat-i- Islami candidates are also in touch with Shia and Barelvi voters in their respective constituencies. However, it is possible the ASWJ local chapter may agree to support JI in NA-48.
Whereas for NA-49, the ASWJ might follow the footsteps of Lal Masjid management who are extending unannounced support to Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the PPPP, mainly due to their close relations with Taji Khokhar, the uncle of Mustafa Khokhar.