KARACHI: Chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday ruled out any support for “minus one” formula and called for “minus all” while reiterating his demand for mid-term elections without any “interference from the institutions” and terming it the only democratic and possible solution to the crisis being faced by the country.

The senior politician and staunch opponent of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Isnaf-led government at the Centre was talking to reporters after chairing a multi-party conference (MPC) organised by his party.

The JUI-F chief said that his viewpoint right after the 2018 general elections to reject the results had now emerged as national narrative and all political parties had realised that even struggle from the parliamentary platform had failed to bring any change and the country had stuck into a crisis after the polls.

“We believe that the Constitution of Pakistan is a social contract which has well knitted all the segments of society,” Maulana Fazl said in reply to a question about the way out of the crisis and possibilities of fresh elections.

MPC warns bid to roll back 18th Amendment may lead to dangerous consequences for federation, democracy

“The Constitution offers provision of fresh elections. We believe that vote is the people’s mandate. This mandate should be returned to the people. The institutions should stay away and not interfere in this process. Let fair and transparent elections be held. It would lead to emergence of genuine leadership and despite all hardships, the challenges could be overcome,” he said.

Earlier, a declaration adopted by the MPC was read out. It warned the federal government that any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment could lead to dangerous consequences for the federation and weaken the already struggling democratic system of the country. At a time when the country was facing multiple crises amid the increasing coronavirus cases, the declaration questioned the fresh debate on the 18th Amendment, calling upon the federal and provincial governments to focus on measures to save people’s lives.

The conference also called for making the 18th Amendment beneficial for the people of the provinces through implementation of Article 140-A of the Constitution. It said powers transferred to the grass-roots level were key to utilising the 18th Amendment and until they were transferred to the district level, it would remain ineffective.

The conference, presided over by the JUI-F chief, was attended by leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jamaat-i-Islami, Awami National Party, JUI-F, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan-Noorani, Pak Sarzameen Party, Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party, Balochistan National Party and others.

Asked for his comments on the government’s response to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Maulana Fazl said the federal government had failed to devise a uniformed policy and its actions exposed differences between the political and military leaderships.

“There is no policy we have seen,” he said. “The federal government says one thing and then comes a statement from the military leadership saying something else. Then the Sindh government disagrees with the federal government’s policies. Even three other provinces don’t agree on one point with Islamabad’s decisions. So, there’s a complete mess through which one can gauge the competence of the people at the helm of affairs in these challenging times.”

Maulana Fazl said that the economic crisis had emerged as a serious issue for the survival of the country and if it was not addressed, it could lead to irreparable damage which could badly affect the country’s integrity and prestige.

“This is a global phenomenon,” he said. “In this world, your economic depth and strength determine your space and worth. Japan is not a military power but it is economically strong and no power in the world can even think of undermining its worth and space. We have seen in the past that Russia was a military power but its shrinking economy led to its collapse,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020