ISLAMABAD - Worried to see the convergence of religio-political parties and ulema from various schools of thought on one platform against what they termed targeting of religious seminaries and sects through the 21st Constitutional Amendment, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership sprang into action to thwart the move by attempting to allay the concerns of these parties.

The sources aware of the developments taking place on this front said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had gone the extra mile to satisfy Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, but could not win his support for the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment and the Army Act (Amendment) 1952, as was adopted by the Parliament with JUI-F and JI abstaining from the proceedings.

A senior leader in the ruling PML-N informed The Nation on the condition of anonymity that the party leadership had discussed in detail the JUI-F annoyance with the government and it was unanimous decision of the party’s central leadership that all the genuine concerns of JUI-F, other religious-political parties and ulema from various schools of thought regarding the amendment would be fully addressed because the government wanted to move forward against the menace of militancy with the whole nation standing behind it.

To a question, the PML-N leader, who preferred not to be named, said the political fallout in case of some extreme step on part of JUI-F also came under discussion at the party meeting, quickly adding Premier Sharif would not let the things go to such an extent.

To another question, he said there were bleak chances of revival of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of mainstream religio-political parties, which ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for five years in the past. He added even if JUI-F and JI managed to revive the alliance, it would hardly affect the ruling PML-N.

But now after the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment and amendments introduced in the Army Act, 1952, the PML-N has adopted a strategy to make the religious parties and leading ulema realise that through these amendments no sect or religious seminaries would be targeted in the name of operation against terrorists and only those people found involved in activities against the state of Pakistan would be tried in the special courts to be set up in the light of the new legislation, sources in the party said.

The sources said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be likely to meet Maulana Fazlur Rehman in next few days to personally give him an assurance that no religious seminary or people from any particular sect would be targeted through this amendment.

Sources in the government informed The Nation that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was tasked by Premier Sharif to contact the leading ulema from the main sects and the leadership of Wafaqul Madaris to allay their concerns regarding the new legislation.

Through some channels, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had conveyed his limitation regarding the adoption of the amendments proposed by JUI-F in the draft bills of 21st Constitutional Amendment and Army Act, 1952, reassuring him the government would fully address their concerns, a source aware of the developments informed The Nation.

The sources in the government confirmed that Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan People’s Party leaders had vehemently opposed the deletion of the words sect and madaris from the draft bills. The MQM leaders even went to the extent of withdrawing their support to the 21st Constitutional Amendment in case of incorporation of the changes proposed by JUI-F in the proposed bills.

These sources said Premier Sharif was also planning to call a meeting of the leading ulema and leaders of major religio-political parties in the coming days to give them assurance that the new legislation would in no way be used against any sect or religious seminary.

Political analysts say the convergence of religious forces on one platform against the fresh amendment in the Constitution and the Army Act, 1952, could be a big nuisance for the ruling PML-N which could not afford another agitation by the religious forces commanding street power, in the face of Imran Khan’s threatening tone to restart his protest programme in case a judicial commission was formed to probe the alleged rigging in the general elections.