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Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif attempts to woo former ally JUI-F's Fazlur Rehman, falls short

Leaders of both parties noted that progress had been made in the talks between Nawaz and Fazl, but the JUI-F remained adamant about remaining in the opposition. The JUI-F, which played a vital role in Imran Khan's poll, rejected the results of Feb 8 elections and decided to stay in the opposition.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: March 02, 2024 11:24 IST
Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, Fazlur Rehman, coalition government
Image Source : JUI-F (X) PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and JUI-F Fazlur Rehman

Islamabad: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif on Friday visited the residence of former ally and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to seek the latter's support in the formation of the upcoming coalition government at the Centre as the latter abstained from the voting for speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. However, despite PML-N's optimism, Fazl remained unconvinced and firm on his decision to stay out of the government.

The meeting took place in two segments, initially involving a private one-on-one meeting between Nawaz and Maulana Fazlur for half an hour. Subsequently, both Nawaz and Fazl joined the room where delegations from both parties were seated, the Express Tribune reported citing sources. PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Ishaq Dar, Rana Sanaullah and Khawaja Saad Rafique joined the meeting along with JUI-F representatives Maulana Ghafoor Haideri, K-P Governor Ghulam Ali, and Noor Alam Khan.

The JUI-F has rallied against alleged rigging in the elections and remained adamant about staying in the opposition. The talks encompassed the political landscape of the country, with Nawaz extending an invitation to Fazl to join the PML-N at the national level. However, the JUI-F chief told the former PM about his grievances regarding the rigging allegations.

Leaders asserted that Nawaz managed to sway Fazl to a considerable extent despite conflicting stances. JUI-F's Haideri confirmed progress in discussions but reiterated the JUI-F's firm decision to stay out of the government. "We have made a significant decision, and we are committed to it," Haideri told media.

PML-N remains optimistic about meeting

Haideri reiterated JUI-F's stance to not be a part of the government despite the meeting being conducted in a "positive atmosphere". On the other hand, PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah also said the meeting was productive and covered various national issues. He also expressed optimism for positive developments in the country's favour.

"In a one-on-one meeting, a conclusion must have been reached for the betterment of Pakistan. I’ve already stated that Maulana is our leader and we’ve faced tough situations together. We have always received guidance from him and we wish for that process to continue," said Sanaullah.

“Maulana Fazlur Rehman has no grudge against us and our effort is that they will stay with us, we want his guidance,” he added. The JUI-F, a traditional ally of the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has refused to vote for the prime minister and the president. 

The meeting comes ahead of the key election of the prime minister, which is set to be held on Sunday. The coalition led by the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has nominated Shehbaz Sharif for the post, after Nawaz surprisingly did not put his name forward following a poor show in the elections.

The JUI-F, which won five National Assembly (NA), and 18 provincial assembly (PA) seats, collectively, in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), announced to stay away from being an ally of a new coalition led by the Nawaz-led PML-N party in the Centre and provinces but decided to play its parliamentary role as an opposition.

The Fazl-led party had played a vital role in running a political movement against former prime minister Imran Khan-led PTI in 2022. It was also part of the multi-party alliance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for the successful ouster of the ex-premier Imran Khan in 2022 through a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Pakistan National Assembly elects Speaker, Deputy Speaker

PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was elected as the new Speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly with 199 votes, while PPP’s Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah was elected as the deputy speaker of the National Assembly with 197 votes. After taking oath as the National Assembly speaker, Sadiq has urged both the government and the opposition to work together for the betterment of the country.

Independent candidates - a majority backed by 71-year-old jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party - won 93 National Assembly seats. The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has 17 seats.

Sarfraz Bugti becomes Balochistan CM

Months after stepping down as the caretaker interior minister, Pakistan Peoples Party's Sarfraz Bugti was on Saturday elected unopposed as the new chief minister of the restive Balochistan province. Bugti, who recent­ly joined the PPP and enjoyed PML-N's support, submitted his nomi­­nation papers with Assembly Secretary Tahir Shah on Friday. No other candidate filed nomination papers till 5 pm on Friday.

Separately, PTI-backed candidate Ali Amin Gandapur has been elected as the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The party-backed independents had swept the province by winning 84 seats in the February 8 elections. Soon after being elected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa CM, Gandapur slammed the “injustice and cruelty” imposed on party leadership, including Imran Khan and party workers. Gandapur defeated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Ibadullah Khan after securing 90 votes compared to the latter's 16. 

(with PTI inputs)

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