ISLAMABAD, Dec 16: The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam has declared that its parliamentarians will sit on opposition benches during a joint session of both houses of parliament to be addressed by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Saturday.And in an apparent hardening of stance, the People's Party said on Thursday that it would not fulfil the JUI-F's demand for the religious affairs ministry.
At a meeting presided over by its chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at the residence of Akram Khan Durrani, the JUI-F decided to formally present resignations of cabinet members belonging to the party to the prime minister.
Talking to reporters, JUI-F secretary-general Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said Maulani Fazl had turned down an invitation for a meeting by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Differences between the two parties surfaced on Tuesday after the prime minister removed JUI-F's Azam Swati as the minister for science and technology along with religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi for violating discipline by exchanging accusations over the Haj scam.
Labour Minister Khurshid Shah met Maulana Fazl on Wednesday and reportedly gave a 'lucrative offer' to him to rejoin the government.
According to some sources, the JUI-F has demanded the portfolio of religious affairs in addition to those held by its members till Tuesday.
A source in the PPP said President Asif Ali Zardari had decided that the ministry of religious affairs would not be given to the JUI-F.
“President Zardari has agreed to fulfil some demands of the JUI-F, but there is no question of handing over the ministry of religious affairs,” the source said.
The PPP remained silent on Thursday and apparently made no effort to contact JUI-F's leaders.
However, the president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the government would pursue the policy of reconciliation. “We hope that the issues with the JUI-F will be resolved amicably.”
Ghafoor Haideri reiterated that his party would not rejoin the ruling coalition.
Former housing minister Rehmatullah Kakar of the JUI-F had said that the party would review at Thursday's meeting an offer conveyed by Khurshid Shah. The JUI-F decided not to accept it.
The JUI-F secretary-general said the government had appreciated Mr Swati's decision to inform the Supreme Court about corruption in Haj arrangements, saying this was not against democratic norms.
He said the sacking of the minister without consulting the party's leadership had led to the JUI-F leaving the treasury benches.
“We will submit an application to the speaker of the National Assembly to allot us seats on the opposition benches and after the address of the Chinese premier to the joint session of parliament the JUI-F will play the role of opposition in parliament,” he said.
Mr Haideri said the JUI-F had decided to part ways with the government after deliberations and it would stick to its stance. He said hasty and emotional decisions were not made in democracy.
“We will continue to respect from the core of our heart all political leaders and parties,” he added.
Federal ministers Maulana Attaur Rehman and Rehmatullah Kakar of the JUI-F have resigned in protest against the sacking of Mr Swati and returned their official vehicles and staff and vacated their offices.
Talking to journalists, Attaur Rehman vowed to oppose the reformed general sales tax in the National Assembly.
The JUI-F is also reported to be considering parting ways with the provincial governments in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. Ministers belonging to the party from the regions met Maulana Fazl and discussed the latest developments.