ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F is learnt to have sought the ministry of religious affairs, in addition to those it had before quitting the ruling coalition, to rejoin the government.
Although efforts made by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to win back support of the JUI-F apparently remained futile, the party’s chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, showed some flexibility in burying the differences with the PPP provided the demands of his
party are met.
Sources in the Presidency told Dawn on Wednesday that during his meeting with Labour Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah, the JUI-I chief had sought the ministry of religious affairs, along with the ministry of science and technology which the party had lost after the prime minister sacked its minister Azam Khan Swati.
Two other ministries JUI-F had before leaving the government were those of housing and tourism.
The labour minister, who was asked by President Asif Ali Zardari to meet the JUI-F chief and extend him an olive branch, later called on the president and informed him about the demand.
“The JUI-F chief told Mr Shah that his party wants back the ministry of science and technology, in addition to the ministry of religious affairs. Also, the government should tender a public apology for sacking its minister,” an official in the Presidency said.
But a senior leader of the JUI-F and former housing minister Rehmatullah Kakar denied that the party had made any such demand for rejoining the government. Rather, he claimed, Khurshid Shah gave a “lucrative offer” to the JUI-F for withdrawing its decision.
He declined to disclose the offer and said it would be reviewed by the party at a meeting in a couple of days.
Some PPP leaders want the government not to give up so easily and continue to exert pressure on the JUI-F. Otherwise, they feared, the party’s demands would continue to swell.
Maulana Fazl praised the labour minister for his visit to the JUI-F chief’s residence and termed it a good tradition. But he did not take any decision and said “we would wait for the party’s decision”.
President Zardari has tasked some of his close aides, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Law Minister Babar Awan and Khurshid Shah, with holding talks with the JUI-F chief.
The law minister called upon Maulana Fazlur Rehman to resolve the issue through talks. “Although Maulana sahib has quit the government, he is still in our hearts,” Mr Awan said at a press conference.
The presidency sources said President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were not on the a same wavelength over the matter.
While the former is trying to control the damage by appeasing an a disgruntled coalition partner, the latter has been in touch with some opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and its forward bloc, to retain majority in parliament