ISLAMABAD, 24 September 2007 — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman “have joined hands to stab the opposition in the back,” a media report yesterday said.
“There are some among the opposition who believe that Fazl’s somersaults are also the result of a conspiratorial wink from Washington. Fazl was always considered the government’s man disguised as an opposition leader,” The News said in a report filed by its correspondent Ansar Abbasi.
“Though Benazir and Fazl might seem poles apart from each other and at times publicly attack each other, they had a happy time together as partners in the coalition government in the mid-1990s with Benazir as the prime minister and Fazl as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly,” the newspaper added.
“For (President Pervez) Musharraf’s continuation in the office, the biggest contributor so far has been Fazlur Rehman. But today, Benazir is playing the lead role while Fazl is trying to catch her to provide a lifeline to the top general who was never as vulnerable as he is today,” the newspaper noted.
On Friday, soon after the opposition announced that all its legislators would resign from the national and provincial assemblies on Sept. 29 to protest Musharraf’s re-election bid, Fazl set the cat among the pigeons by saying he had not been consulted on the issue.
Fazl’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) is a key constituent of the six-party Muttaheda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) religious alliance. Fazl is leader of opposition in the National Assembly, while the JUI has the majority of members in the MMA. The JUI also dominates the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan assemblies and has formed governments there.
Benazir, who has been in talks with Musharraf on a power-sharing arrangement, has announced she would be returning home from exile in October. Both the government and Benazir have been blowing hot and cold over the outcome of their talks.
Retired Lt. Gen. Hameed Gul told The News that like Benazir, Fazl “has also cut a deal with the Americans and was playing a dubious political role as per the script written by the US.”
Gul had played a role in the government-Benazir talks. He headed the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) in 1987-89 when Benazir was the prime minister and is said to have masterminded the insurgency that erupted in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989.
Benazir’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has kept away from the resignation issue and Fazl’s about-turn has “left the opposition badly divided at a time when its unity was the key to counter the president’s re-election bid.”
“Now, no one is sure even in the opposition about the number of MNAs (National Assembly members) who would quit their seats on Sept. 29,” The News said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Khan Niazi was not ready to accept that even a single opposition MP would resign on Sept. 29.
“Let me assure you they would not resign,” he said, adding that Musharraf would be re-elected for another term on Oct. 6 “without any problem.”