Is ‘Azadi March’ Part Of Maulana’s Hate-Filled Agenda?

Firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, center, and head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party waves to his supporters during an anti-government march, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Tens of thousands of Islamists at a massive protest camp in Pakistan's capital awaited a deadline set by their leader calling for Prime Minister, Imran Khan to resign. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

By Shazia Malik

Is history repeating itself in Pakistan when all political parties joined hands to replace Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government in 1977? Or is Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan getting the taste of his own medicine when he started his sit-in against the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in 2014?

Well the answer of both the questions lead to one person – Maulana Fazlur Rahman of JUI-F, commonly known as ‘Maulana Diesel’ (after he got diesel permits in late Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s time) who has brought utter chaos under the garb of his so called ‘Azadi March’ asking prime minister Imran Khan to resign from his post.

Before entering the seventies era, it is important to understand the history of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind – a party that called Jinnah – the creator of Pakistan – a kafir (infidel) and was against the very idea of creation of Pakistan. In fact, the party’s main member, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, Fazulur Rehman’s father was quoted saying in 1971: “Thank God we were not part of the sin of making Pakistan.”

After the creation of Pakistan, this group became part of Shabbir Ahmad Usmani’s Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam which pressurized prime minister Bhutto to pass 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan 1974 against Ahmadis.

Still not happy with Bhutto’s move, Maulana Mufti Mahmood joined hands with nine other parties called Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) in 1977 and asked Bhutto to fully enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa’ – that started a long era of radicalization under General Zia. The protest, of course, finally dislodged Bhutto’s government.

Though it is said there are no permanent allies or enemies in politics, it is surprising to see Bilawal Zardari – who also uses his maternal grandfather Bhutto’s name is seen supporting a man whose father was instrumental in removing Bhutto’s government. It is equally surprising to see Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif supporting him though he was not in favour of being part of this mess. But he had to heed his brother Nawaz’s instructions to give all assistance to Maulana and his hardline party.

Rehman is widely known to be an opportunist. Harping on the tune of Imran being part of the Jewish lobby who sold Kashmir to India, is being asked by the media now about his own achievements when he was heading the Kashmir Committee. For 10 years, Maulana just toured the world and enjoyed a luxurious life but could not garner enough support for the issue in the Muslim world. It is also note worthy that the same Maulana in 2007, asked the then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, to help him become Pakistan’s Prime Minister and in lieu of that favour was ready to give all out support to the American administration in war against terror.

One of the closest allies of Bhutto, Maulana Kauser Niazi quoted an incident in his book – Aur Line Kut Gaye – when he was visiting Rehman’s father Mufti Mehmud at his residence.

Niazi wrote that the Mufti would always stop talking whenever a young man entered the room and resumed discussions when he left. Seeing Niazi’s curiosity, Mufti told him that the boy was his son, Fazlur Rahman, was allegedly working for some agencies and spying on him.

So, what do we gather about Fazlur Rahman’s character? When the country is passing through such a critical phase and the government is trying to stabilize situation, has Maulana being paid by a ‘foreign hand’ to derail the whole system? The question also is where will his hate-filled bigoted agenda lead Pakistan?

Will a ministry or a post in government resolve this deadlock as Maulana has a heartburn for not winning any seat in last elections and sitting in the Parliament? Meanwhile, PTI government’s spokesperson, Defense Minister Pervez Khattak has already made it clear: “There is no possibility of the prime minister’s resignation. That is not even an option to discuss with the Rahbar committee. We can negotiate on other demands but no talks will be done on PM resignation.”