Monday, 4 July 2016

QK archives:Interview Maulana Fazlur Rahman

From 2003-2004

Interview with Maulana Fazlur Rahman
Rahimullah Yusufzai

Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the head of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and secretary general of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), is the most influential leader of the six-party religious alliance. Never far from controversy, he generated more controversies due to his statements and actions during his recent visit to India. Back home, he led the MMA into fresh talks with the PML-Q-led federal government on long-standing constitutional issues and is close to clinching an agreement. The TNS interviewed him in the Frontier House, the home of his hand-picked NWFP chief minister Akram Khan Durrani in Peshawar, on matters arising out of his visit to India and the MMA's ongoing negotiations with Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali and his PML-Q team.

Q. You were referred to as the "Father of the Taliban" in India. How did you feel with this tag and is it true that you fathered the Taliban?

A. I knew that the Indian media had picked this up from the Western media. I think I managed to overcome this image during my 10-day visit to India. By the end of the visit, the media was saying that I was more of a politician than a Maulana. They were also writing that I was softliner rather than a hardliner. I must say that the Indians and their media is largely unaware of our stand on issues and the role of our elders in the struggle for freedom in the pre-Partition days. They don't know that the JUI has been part of every democratic movement in Pakistan and has struggled for human rights and rule of law. They are unaware that our party wants a negotiated solution of Kashmir, that it backed Vajpayee's Lahore visit on bus for peace. I kept telling the Indians that we surely backed the Taliban because they were a continuation of the Afghan mujahideen who fought against the Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan. We considered Taliban freedom-fighters like the Palestinians and Chechens but at the end of the day they were Afghans and we are Pakistanis and we operate in different situations.

Q. India's defense minister George Fernandes claimed that the recent deadly attack on Indian army headquarters in Jammu & Kashmir was a protest on your remarks on the Kashmir issue and your alleged acceptance of the Line of Control as an international border. What is you response to all this?

A. There is sketchy information about this attack. The Shuhada Brigade that reportedly launched the attack hasn't been heard before. It is possible that a group with vested interest wanting to spoil our goodwill mission to India planned the assault. It was certainly based on wrong information because I never accepted the LoC as an international border. I intend to meet politicians in Azad Kashmir including those belonging to the JUI soon to clarify the misperceptions and explain by India visit.

Q. You sidestepped the issue whenever you were asked in India if the uprising in Jammu & Kashmir was "jehad." Your critics allege that you pandered to the wishes of your hosts from Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JUH) and, therefore, failed to highlight the Kashmiri cause.

A. We support the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people and this a national cause of Pakistan and not of any government. I told the Indians that what you call terrorism is struggle for freedom in our eyes. I maintained that there is a dispute on Kashmir and it needs to be resolved through dialogue. As I was on a peace and goodwill mission I refrained from highlighting controversial issues in India. As for toeing the line of JUH, let me remind everyone that a resolution supporting the right of self-determination of Kashmiris was adopted in our Deoband conference in Peshawar in presence of a JUH delegation.

Q. Your peaceful overtures surprised the Indians and some people in Pakistan. Some even hailed you as a statesman. Was your reconciliatory tone an attempt to disguise your radical image or a deliberate act on the advise of the Pakistan government?

A. I was misquoted on three points and as I said earlier most Indians weren't aware of JUI's stress on the need for a peaceful dialogue to solve contentious Indo-Pak disputes. I was wrongly quoted for accepting the LoC as an international border and for supporting the idea of Akhand Bharat. Besides, my backing for a bilateral dialogue with India was construed as a general rejection of any third party mediation including the US on Kashmir dispute. Though I do feel that there is a window of opportunity for Pakistan and India to bilaterally resolve their disputes. Moreover, I knew our government's stand on issues of concern for Pakistan and India because I had asked for a briefing by foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar before my visit. I promoted Pakistan's national cause during my stay in India and stressed the need for confidence-building measures such as starting the bus service, Samjhota Express train, airlink between our countries, allowing overflying rights to each other, easing visa restrictions and strengthening trade ties. I believe we politicians achieved more during our visit for promoting peace between Pakistan and India than what the Pakistan government and diplomats could have gained. I feel political must be involved in the peace process but the decisions ought to be taken by the two governments who know more about the intricacies of the issues. The Indian media also tried to quote me out of context when I spoke about the Simla Pact, Vajpayee's Lahore Bus trip, and Agra Summit.

Q. It is said that your conciliatory tone in India and stance on Kashmir upset the Jamaat-i-Islami but Qazi Hussain Ahmad kept quiet to save the MMA? Any comments?

A. The MMA's founding declaration says that the Kashmir issue should be solved on the basis of the UN resolutions through negotiations and in keeping with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. My utterances were based precisely on this declaration. There could be differences on priorities among us but the MMA stance on Kashmir is unanimous. I briefed the MMA leadership on my India visit and every component of our alliance expressed satisfaction on our stand and achievements.

Q. Was the MMA constrained to strike a deal with the federal government to save its government in NWFP and Balochistan and to avoid disqualification of its legislators for having "sanads"?

A. We want to pull the country out of the constitutional crisis, hence our flexibility on certain issues. But won't compromise on the LFO, on the supremacy of parliament, on the National Security Council, and on clause 58/2 (B) of the constitution. We also have no intention of joining the federal government and would instead remain in the opposition. Some of the allegations against us are being made by the ARD but we don't want to enter into a verbal sparring match with our opposition colleagues from the ARD. We still want the ARD to join the national dialogue to overcome the constitutional crisis confronting the country. Also those accusing us of buckling under pressure must realize that we had almost opted out of parliamentary politics and decided to pursue a movement to reach our Islamic goal. We have sacrificed power in the past also by resigning from the government and even now we were ready to sacrifice our governments in the NWFP and Balochistan. What sacrifices the ARD is willing to make to uphold its democratic credentials?

Q. It is alleged that your party, JUI, was impatient compared to the Jamaat-i-Islami to strike a deal with the federal government as it had a greater stake in the status quo. Also that the MMA's imminent deal with the PML-Q has divided the combined opposition and strengthened President Musharraf's hands?

A. The MMA is united on all issues and there is no rift between our party and the Jamaat-i-Islami. We agreed to allow General Musharraf to wear his army uniform for another year after making him agree to drop his demand for five years in uniform. It is our political victory. Also I must say that the ARD, or the PPPP and PML-N, are less principled in their attitude than us. In fact, we are moderate in our conduct despite our portrayal as extremists. We have always joined the secular parties in every democratic movement and showed tolerance towards them. It is the secular parties that refuse to tolerate us and an evidence of it is the non-stop criticism of Benazir Bhutto of the religious parties.

Post a Comment