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Boycott not to benefit APDM, says Fazl

December 01, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Nov 30: The JUI (F) will not abide by the decision of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) to boycott the elections as it will not benefit the movement, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, said on Friday.

Addressing a press conference here, Maulana Fazl said he was “deeply concerned about the Muttahida Majli-i-Amal’s future” because of the “adamant attitude of the alliance’s president Qazi Hussain Ahmed”. However, he said that he would try to keep the alliance intact in Saturday’s emergency meeting of the MMA party heads.

Highly-placed sources in the MMA also dismissed fears about the MMA’s break-up, saying the “alliance will remain intact even if the JUI (F) contested the elections against the wishes of five other parties of the coalition. He said that the MMA had been set up mainly to combat sectarianism and, therefore, it would stay in the field despite differences on the election strategy.

After relinquishing the post of COAS and accepting almost all opposition demands, President Pervez Musharraf had become weaker and there was no reason for the boycott, Maulana Fazl said.

Questioning the logic of the APDM decision, the Maulana said it should first gauge public response to the decision. Otherwise, they would find themselves alone after the start of the process, he warned the alliance.

He said that he had talked with PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto on telephone and there was a possibility of seat adjustments with her party.

But a senior MMA leader said that if the JUI-F contested the election, it would not be allowed to use the MMA’s platform. The JUI (F), he said, would not be allowed to use the ‘book’ as its election symbol, although Maulana Fazl could not be stopped from doing so if he used the government’s influence to get the symbol allotted to his party, he said.

In case the MMA breaks up, JUI (F) will suffer the most in elections, particularly in the NWFP, where it had won maximum seats in 2002 because of the electoral alliance with other religious parties, especially the Jamaat-i-Islami.

“If other parties in the coalition don’t go by Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s decision to contest the election, and the alliance breaks up because of differences, we’ll not repent our policy,” the MMA leader told Dawn.

Interestingly, chief of another faction of JUI, Maulana Samiul Haq, also dissociated himself from the boycott call.

About the APDM’s demand for restoration of Supreme Court to its pre-Nov 3 position, Maulana Fazal said: “We support the independence of judiciary and not restoration of judges. The sacked judges, including the Supreme Court Chief Justice, had taken oath under PCO. The present lot has also done the same.”

The boycott of elections would be counter-productive if the decision lacked collective backing of the opposition, according to the JUI (F) chief.

The Maulana said that the APDM was not an electoral alliance. It was formed to launch a campaign against President Musharraf and it was not mandated to decide on the election issue.

When asked about the APDM committee which was to meet him to try to convince him to support the boycott, Maulana Fazl said: “The committee must come with an open mind because I am ready to advance my own arguments and may convince them, instead of the other way round.”

He advised the APDM leaders to change their perspective.

“There is no consensus among the opposition parties at any level,” Maulana Fazlur Rahman noted.

The Maulana, however, demanded immediate restoration of the Constitution and judiciary.

“We represent the standpoint of Muslims of the world and will not leave the Pakistani nation alone when the forces supporting the US view point are getting ready to participate in the elections,” Maulana Fazlur Rahman said.

CONFUSION: There is a total confusion among APDM candidates about continuing their election campaigns.

Some candidates said on Friday their voters were not supporting the boycott decision and that they were apprising the APDM leaders of the public reaction they had seen on the first day after the boycott decision.

One APDM leader said he did not know whether he should suspend his campaign or not. He said if he suspended it now, it would be difficult for him to revive the same if the APDM reviewed its decision for any reason.

The APDM leaders are trying to devise a strategy to convince the voters about the rationale behind the boycott.