ISLAMABAD -  Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman on Tuesday appealed to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to stop attacks on major political parties including PPP, ANP and MQM currently facing repeated security threats and attacks on their offices and candidates.

“I appeal to the Taliban that they spare these political parties who have already lost moral justification for another term and are nothing more than a spent political force,” said JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman in an exclusive interview to The Nation.

These three parties were part of the last ruling coalition government, and they lacked any terrorism strategy, the JUI Chief observed. “Unfortunately, these attacks were going on for the last couple of years. Now when they (ticket holders, former legislators and ministers) have lost the government provided protocols and secure bunkers, they have felt the pain of terrorism,” said the Maulana, adding that people remember that the former governments spearheaded by these parties had received billions of aid to stop terrorism but it was squandered. He further said that people of the country still remember that these former rulers had called in the Army in tribal region, tacitly backed drone strikes and collateral damage, and as a result we see Internally Displaced People (IDPs), misery and destruction all over FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“I believe that over the last five years no operation could eliminate terrorism instead it spread to other parts of the country,” opined Maulana asking these parties to admit that they had made mistakes, thus should seek repentance for their failed policies.

Maulana, however, added: “we have always condemned political violence. But we ask these parties if taking up gun in the name of religion is extremism, hating moderate religious forces and religion is also a form of extremism.” Repeating his old mantra, the JUI-F chief said that he has always believed that any change in the country should be through democratic means. However, he added, the past policies of rulers, and the parliament’s lackluster performances have led to suicide bombings, drones, and militancy in the country.

To a question about consequences of the attacks on election campaigns, Maulana believes that elections should not be delayed at all costs. Despite these incidents most areas of the country including FATA were witnessing robust electioneering.

Candidates are canvassing, holding meetings and corner meeting, he added.

“A level playing field is also an issue with JUI-F. We are facing security situation in Balochistan, we do not have choppers, jets, billions for adverts and professional media mangers for perception management so we are also at the receiving end yet we oppose any delay in elections,” he viewed, hinting that there are enormous challenges awaiting the next government that should start work soon after May 11 elections.

When asked about the post-elections scenario, he said that JUI-F has a serious strategy as they through tribal jirga - the APC of 28th February - decided to   negotiate with the Taliban.

“We also asked the governor, who is effectively controlling the FATA administration, who is the representative of the President to cooperate with the Jirga, but he did not show eagerness. Then care taker government came in and it was having a limited mandate to conduct elections.”

However, once the elections are over, Fazlur Rehman hoped, the Jirga would be strengthened by the next government and it would resume its efforts and start serious negotiations with both sides to work for a ceasefire and work for a permanent solution for peace in the region while preserving red lines of the parties.

Confident about the post-elections scenario to bag seats, he said JUI-F believed that people were very much looking forward to JUI- F to take the helms so that enormous challenges could be tackled head on.

“We will sweep elections in FATA, will have respectable position in Balochistan and also pick up seats in Sindh and Punjab. As I said no government in the centre will be able to form or run without the backing of JUI-F,” he believed. To a question about JUI-F’s seat adjustment deal with PML-N, Maulana in a tricky way answered that PML-N did have a change of heart for some reasons known to them. “But we tried to come out with some sort of understanding, it did not work,” he added. When asked about JUI-F’s position in KPK where party is facing PTI’s boom, Maulana was much confident to even form government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). “I am touched by the response wherever I go in KPK. I see the enthusiasm among voters at an unprecedented level and even people of other parties particularly, ANP, PPP and PTI are joining almost every day,” he added.

Commenting on PTI chief Imran Khan’s convincing style in public rallies, he was of the view that Imran Khan has strings being pulled by powerful foreign lobbies. “Imran Khan is basically posing as if he were anti-American, pro-poor and pro-youth. Late Bhutto also tried to be Awami leader but people found out soon his true standing, inclinations and foreign strings,” he remarked.

About the Afghanistan situation in post 2014, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, “We really need Afghan reconciliation to progress in next 10 to 15 months and for this all stakeholders particularly the role of the US is decisive. Of course Pakistan has a crucial role to play as peace in Pakistan is correlated to a great extent with peace in Afghanistan,” he added.