Lahore witnessed yet another mammoth public meeting on Sunday in the run-up to the general elections due on May 11. This time it was the JUI-F of Maulana Fazlur Rehman that made a surprise big showing at a place where it could not boast of a sizeable support. It seems possible, as reported in the media, that students of seminaries and other religious-minded persons converged on Punjab’s capital to hear the views of the head of a religio-political party on the prevailing frustrating mess in the country and how he planned to clear it. Earlier, it was the Imran Khan’s PTI that had created quite a stir in political circles, in fact, the entire society with his slogan of ‘Change’ that brought hordes of people, youth in particular, to Minar-e-Pakistan at Iqbal Park. It appeared a spontaneous response of the masses grown weary of trying the same old set of professional politicians in the hope that the untried new face with a credible record in social service might succeed in breaking open the logjam. Another figure was a Pakistani-Canadian, who descending just out of the blue in the land of his birth with the call for “Save Country” and possessed with the crusading zeal of cleansing the political Augean Stables of Pakistan, attracted a vast crowd to listen to his ‘learned’ demagoguery. Though he faded away from the scene as breezily as he had appeared on it, his footprints in the form of the current exercise to filter the candidates for the coming elections through the sieve of articles 62 and 63 are visible enough and have focused everyone’s attention, the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and all.

The JUI-F rally passed as many as 15 resolutions, the most important of which was the reaffirmation of Pakistan Resolution of 1940, followed by a commitment by Maulana Fazl that his party would make Pakistan a true Islamic welfare state. He conveniently ignored his own failed chairmanship of the Kashmir council for the last few years, and instead saw fit to lash out at the outgoing government for putting the Kashmir issue on the backburner under foreign pressure and criticised its terming terrorism the main challenge, instead. For, peace in the country depended on Pak-India peaceful relations and they, in turn, were beholden to Kashmir’s settlement. He characterised those who let India construct dams on the rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty as “national criminals”. Obviously, he had in mind the lukewarm resistance of both the PPP-led government and the preceding regime of military dictator Musharraf to India’s bid to build dams. All these were right noises the ‘Islam Zindabad Conference’ that the JUI-F rally was called made and which would appeal the people across the country. But with such a fundamental difference how he remained part of the coalition is the question he kept quite about. The only jarring note was Maulana’s nitpicking of Iran-Pak gas pipeline. Most experts would agree with him that the country has ample resources of natural gas, but tapping them would take years and for that even the required rigging machines have not been ordered. Exploration could only commence later. The Iranian gas is due to come online in 15 months time, thus relieving us of a crisis situation of energy shortfall.