KARACHI: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan met ulema and scholars in Islamabad, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has geared up its efforts to foil an anti-government march to be organised by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and backed by major opposition parties later this month.

In this connection, two federal ministers belonging to the PTI called on the chancellor of Jamia Binoria — an international Deobandi seminary where a large number local and foreign students have been studying — here on Saturday in a bid to get his support against the anti-government march on Islamabad.

Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi met Mufti Mohammad Naeem at Jamia Binoria, SITE, and discussed with him the overall political situation with a specific reference to the JUI-F’s ‘Azadi March’.

The two sides met behind closed doors, but later they appeared before the media.

Issues statement after two federal ministers call upon him at his madressah

Accompanied by the two ministers, Mufti Naeem did not categorically reject the JUI-F’s ‘Azadi March’ call, though he spoke about the alleged use of seminary students for political aims.

In a video statement aired by almost all TV news channels, he asked all seminaries to not use their students for political objectives.

“Do not allow participation of students in any sit-in, rally or a similar programme. It would give a bad name to madressahs if students get injured while participating in a rally,” he said.

He said that students of 53 countries were studying in Jamia Binoria which is one of the big academic institutions of the country.

“This is my message for all and I will request to all madressahs to not use students for their petty politics. No country will send its students if an institution is [found to be] used for political ambitions,” he said.

He said that it was a matter of happiness for him that Mr Zaidi and Pir Qadri visited his seminary.

Only on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had held a meeting in Islamabad with ulema and scholars, belonged to the four mainstream sects of the country, included members of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Muttahida Ulema Board, Punjab, and Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee.

The PM told them that he was not worried about the ‘Azadi March’ and “this meeting is not for seeking your support over the protest march of Maulana Fazlur Rehman”.

Later in the evening, the PTI named a seven-member high-powered committee to hold talks with JUI-F and other opposition parties on their planned march.

The committee, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, is comprised of PTI stalwart Asad Umar, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, federal ministers Shafqat Mehmood and Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019