01
Apr
07

Opposition in Pakistan divided over dealing with Islamists

Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, the major parties of the secularist Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, are split over doing business with Islamists.

The PPP doesn’t like to sit with Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal at any cost while the PML-N has no intention to part company with MMA, although Western envoys are advising them not to cooperate with whom they call an extension of the Taleban.


PPP Secretary-General Pervaiz Ashraf says MMA had committed an unpardonable ‘sin’ by extending support to the ruling PML in the adoption of the 17th amendment which ‘imposed a perpetual dictatorship’ on the country.

“The nation has still not come out of the state of shock”, he said, contempt for the MMA dominating his conversation. MMA Secretary-General Maulana Fazlur Rehman had called on Sharif in London on Thursday and set conditions for quitting the PML-lead coalition in Balochistan.

Ashraf said the assemblies had only a few more months before completing their five-year term, but the MMA was still not clear whether they should come out of the coalition. “They have neither quit the government nor the opposition”.

Referring to the “contradictions” in the MMA viewpoint, he recalled that when a multi-party conference was being called, the religious alliance had said they would not attend if any party other than the PML-N hosted it.

Then, he said, the religious alliance started saying that the PPP must attend it.

He said the MMA had changed its stances so frequently that it was hard to conclude what they were really up to. “I seriously advise everybody to see whether the MMA politics is in the interest of the country and whether the religion should have any role in politics?”

He said the ARD and the MMA should operate from their respective platforms, according to their own strategies.

Ashraf complained that the MMA leaders issued more statements against the PPP than they did against Gen Musharraf. He said the PPP was at a loss to understand whether the MMA wanted to weaken the government or the party of Bhutto. Then he hastened to add that the MMA was working to strengthen the position of Gen Musharraf.

Asked whether he agreed with Rehman’s argument that governor’s rule would be imposed in Balochistan if the MMA quit the coalition, the PPP leader said governor’s rule would mean the provincial government had failed to deliver. From the opposition’s point of view, he said, this was not a bad outcome.

He said if the MMA stayed in the coalition, it would be held responsible when the lawyers were beaten up in Balochistan.

When specifically questioned if the MMA should quit the coalition, he said it would not be in the national interest if the PPP launched a movement in cooperation with the MMA.

“We can’t afford to cooperate with them. We are ideological rivals. We want to promote politics of moderation, not extremism”.

A senior PML-N leader said on the condition of anonymity that the PPP’s reluctance to sit with the MMA was not based on logic. He said the PPP did not take even the PML-N into confidence before taking various decisions.

For example, he said, the PML-N was not informed when it held a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh or when the party met with the Chief Election Commissioner to present a set of demands.

The leader said that a number of diplomats had advised the PML-N against joining hands with the MMA, but they rejected the advice, saying the religious alliance was not opposed to democracy or the constitution.

He said PML-N had contacted MMA President Qazi Hussain Ahmed with the request that all opposition parties should jointly protest on April 3, the day the Supreme Judicial Council will resume hearing of a reference against the suspended chief justice.

Source: The Peninsula Qatar

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