ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari called on Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at the latter’s residence here on Wednesday night.
Without informing PPP leaders and members, Mr Zardari reached the residence of the Maulana hours after appearing before the National Accountability Bureau with his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in connection with an investigation into fake bank accounts case and remained there for some time.
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When contacted, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar initially expressed his ignorance about the meeting, but later confirmed that the former president had paid a visit to the JUI-F chief. Mr Babar said that since Mr Zardari was not accompanied by any PPP leader and they had a one-on-one meeting, therefore, he was not privy to what exactly had been discussed between the two leaders.
PPP cadre in the dark about meeting which took place hours after former president, Bilawal appeared before NAB
Mr Babar, however, said it was not for the first time that the two leaders had privately met. In the past too, he said, Mr Zardari had visited the Maulana’s residence several times and similarly the Maulana had visited Zardari House regularly without any aide.
Mr Babar said since the Maulana had been trying to unite the opposition parties on one platform, it could be assumed that the two leaders would have discussed possibilities of cooperation among the opposition parties.
Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Maulana Fazl had threatened to stage a sit-in in Islamabad against the government, saying if they came to the capital, they would not return without achieving their objectives. The JUI-F chief had also announced his party would stage a million march in Sargodha on March 31 against the government’s alleged move to make the country a secular state.
Besides, the JUI-F chief has also declared that his party would boycott a government briefing on the implementation of the National Action Plan to counter terrorism on March 28.
Following the announcement by the Maulana, the PPP and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have also indicated that they too might stay away from the briefing.
Following a series of similar meetings between Mr Zardari and the JUI-F chief in January, the media had reported that the Maulana had tried to convince the former president to have a meeting with PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, presently undergoing a sentence at Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia corruption reference.
A PPP spokesman later denied such reports and claimed that the issue of “meeting with Nawaz Sharif” did not come under discussion in the meeting.
However, the JUI-F chief himself admitted last month that he had tried to arrange a meeting between Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif, but all his efforts had failed. He announced that he was no more interested in mediating further between the two parties.
The JUI-F chief, who had been playing the role of a mediator between the two arch rivals of the past in an attempt to form a grand opposition alliance, stated that despite his efforts, both Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari were not ready to forget their grievances against each other.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019