KARACHI: JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addresses a press conference after a meeting of the party’s general council, in Korangi, on Sunday.—Facebook / juipakofficial
KARACHI: JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addresses a press conference after a meeting of the party’s general council, in Korangi, on Sunday.—Facebook / juipakofficial

KARACHI: It seems that Asif Ali Zardari does not command the same popularity among his allies as he did when first elected president in 2008, with JUI-F opting to abstain from voting in the presidential election, while MQM-P has declared they will present their demands if approached by the PPP for votes.

JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, while addressing a press conference in Karachi on Sunday, made it clear that his party would abstain from voting in the presidential elections, and he conveyed this stance to all leaders of the ruling alliance who had recently sought his support.

Asked about the prospects of the upco­ming presidential elections, he expressed support for the opposition candidate Meh­mood Khan Achakzai over the PPP’s Mr Zar­dari but clarified that it was “a personal wish” and not the party’s decision.

“I personally want to vote Achakzai Sb [in the presidential election],” Maulana said. “But this is my wish and not the party’s decision. If the party decides to abstain from the voting, my wish doesn’t matter. The party decision is supreme over personal wishes.”

Fazl expresses ‘personal preference’ for Achakzai over Zardari; Farooq Sattar seeks answers on ‘misuse of funds’

Dashing the hopes of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led ruling alliance, JUI-F chief ruled out all possibilities of joining the treasury benches and insisted to be a part of the opposition in the parliament while giving hint to launch a “countrywide protest campaign” against the “rigged” elections.

Reiterating his stance on the Feb 8 elections, he accused the establishment of “stealing and managing” the mandate of the people of Pakistan, who, he claimed, were betrayed once again in 2024, just as in 2018.

“Our friends [leaders or PML-N and PPP] approached us and held meetings,” he replied to a question about results of his recent meetings with the leaders of the parties which are part of the ruling alliance.

“We met them, gave them due respect and argued our case before them. I am sure that they would be convinced now and won’t ask us again [to join the government]. We would be sitting on opposition benches [in the parliament] and no one should have any doubt about this.”

While describing the Feb 8 elections in general “rigged and controversial,” he specifically mentioned provincial assemblies in Sindh and Balochistan where the mandate was “bought” spending huge amount of money. In both provinces, the PPP which emerged as majority party, has recently managed to get its nominees elected as chief ministers and set up its government.

“This doesn’t mean that we are satisfied with the election results in KP or other parts of the country,” said Maulana when asked about his opinion on elections in other provinces. “The establishment came up with a weird plan distributing mandate on its own ignoring people’s will and votes. We were against this plan and weren’t part of this sale purchase game so we lost the elections.”

To a question about the possibility of a “grand alliance” of opposition parties in the parliament, the JUI-F chief said that it would be too early to suggest any such partnership in the near future.

Apart from “local elements”, Maulana was sure that the defeat suffered by his party in the recent elections had also some “international factors” which made “foreign powers angry” on JUI-F.

“How can you ignore the role of international powers [in the elections] who were obviously not happy over my meetings with leaders of Hamas to show solidarity with the people of Palestine and condemn Israeli atrocities,” he said.

“Then I met the leaders of Afghanistan where the US has suffered humiliating defeat and Islamic Emirate has come into power. Though my meetings with Afghan leaders was meant to bring the two countries closer and peace in the region, it wasn’t felt good by the international powers. So they put our establishment under pressure and then came the results of the elections.”

MQM-P to present demands

Separately, MQM-P senior leader Dr Farooq Sattar said that there have been no discussions with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) regarding the upcoming presidential elections.

While talking to media, Dr Sattar said that if the PPP is interested in talks, “we are not against them and our doors are open”.

He emphasised that if they do reach out, MQM-P will present their demands and seek answers.

He stressed the need to seek answers regarding the apparent misuse of billions of rupees received in the budget.

“We will seek answers about their behaviour towards MQM-P and the people of Sindh, particularly in terms of the allocation and utilisation of budgetary funds,” he said.

He said that MQM-P would like to know about Mr Zardari’s future plans.

“We want to know how, as president, Mr Zardari would play his role in creating harmony among different factions within the provinces.”

Riaz Usman also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2024

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