ISLAMABAD: There is a general perception among the opposition parties that after facing a revolt-like situation in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has considered it better to skip the PPP-hosted gathering of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders at Larkana on Sunday (today) to avoid a similar situation in Sindh.
Though officially both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the JUI-F are downplaying the absence of the Maulana from the Larkana rally on the occasion of the 13th death anniversary of former PPP chairperson Benzair Bhutto, background interviews of opposition leaders reveal the Maulana has decided to abstain from the event after getting reports that there is a group within the party’s Sindh chapter which was opposed to the idea of JUI-F taking part in the public meeting due to local rivalry between the two parties.
While announcing that a five-member JUI-F delegation under Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri will represent the party in Larkana, JUI-F spokesperson Aslam Ghauri categorically denied the media reports that the Maulana was not attending the public meeting due to some differences with the PPP.
Talking to Dawn, he said the Maulana had not been able to spend time in his hometown Dera Ismail Khan for the past few months and he had already scheduled some important meetings there since the Dec 27 event was not in the original plan announced by the PDM.
Similarly, a key PPP office-bearer on condition of anonymity said the party did not know exactly why the Maulana had decided to stay away from the PDM gathering despite being the president of the 11-party alliance. He said it was after getting the sense that the Maulana was thinking to avoid the Larkana gathering that former president Asif Zardari had himself talked to the Maulana and extended invitation to him. The other leaders, he pointed out, had been invited by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
The PPP leader said the party was thinking that the Maulana would not be able to refuse Mr Zardari’s invitation due to a personal relationship between the two. However, he said, the Maulana’s refusal was surprising for them.
Responding to a question, he said the Maulana might have told the actual reason to Mr Zardari for his decision, but the other party leaders were unaware of it.
Many in the PPP believe it was perhaps because of a rift within the Sindh chapter of the JUI-F that the Maulana had decided not to attend the public meeting, particularly after the recent revolt by some senior party members from Balochistan and the KP. They recalled that the JUI-F Sindh in general and Larkana in particular had always played the role of opposition and they had become more hostile after the assassination of the party’s senior leader Khalid Soomro in 2014.
They said for the past many years, the JUI-F Sindh chapter had been holding protest demonstrations and rallies on the occasion of Benzair Bhutto’s death anniversary to demand the arrest of the perpetuators of the terrorist attack on Mr Soomro.
Dr Khalid Soomro, who was the secretary general of the Sindh chapter of the JUI-F, was gunned down while he was offering Fajr prayers at a mosque adjacent to Madressah Haqqania in Sukkur’s SITE area on Nov 29, 2014. A complete strike was observed in Larkana and Qambar-Shahdadkot districts and adjoining towns and processions were taken out in protest against the murder.
The police claim to have arrested the murderers of Mr Soomro, but the JUI-F alleges that the arrested people were only “rented killers” and the real culprits had not been identified or arrested so far.
“We are the real opposition to the PPP government in the interior Sindh and our party has never ever participated in the death anniversary function of the late Benazir Bhutto,” said a JUI-F leader, requesting not to be quoted.
He said the JUI-F was opposed to the PPP’s governance style in Sindh and was playing the role of the real opposition in the province. He said the JUI-F had been a part of Larkana Awami Ittehad and it was because of the party’s strategy that the PPP had lost the seats in its stronghold. He said the JUI-F and the PPP were together only because of the PDM declaration.
The JUI-F leader said that recently after the death anniversary of Mr Soomro in Larkana, the local administration on the directives of the deputy commissioner removed the party flags and banners from the city over which the party lodged a strong protest. It was after the JUI-F’s protest that the deputy commissioner visited the party office and apologised over the incident.
Talking to Dawn, PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari said he did not believe that the Maulana was not attending the public meeting due to some “local political issues.” He said the two parties were united on the PDM platform despite having different ideologies for a common and bigger cause of removing the present “fake government”.
He said the PPP always fielded candidates against the JUI-F chief in KP and never provided an open field for him. Similarly, he said, the JUI-F always contested elections against the PPP in Larkana.
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2020