LAHORE -  On an apparent task to grab political support for the government against PTI’s Islamabad protest, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman yesterday held a meeting with leaders of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, the religio-political party already in camp of Maulana Fazl and has soft corner for the PML-N government.

After meeting with JUP president Pir Ijaz Hashmi and secretary general Shah Awais Noornai, son of the late Shah Ahmed Noorani, at Pir Hashmi’s residence, Fazl addressed a press conference along with them and reiterated his support for ‘prime minister and democracy.’

He said defending Prime Minister Sharif was not a sin and that the PTI had lost the “moral and political” right for holding protest demonstration on Panama issue since the matter was in the Supreme Court. The protest, he added, of Imran’ party would now give an impression of putting pressure on the court on the Leak’s matter. However, he did not fully opposed the PTI’s Islamabad lockdown of November 2, saying every political party has had the right of protest.

“PTI let the apex court to decide on the Panama Leaks issue now,” he said, adding the “pro-democratic” forces would not allow the derailment of democracy in the country now. To a question, he replied the current situation was entirely different from of October, 12, 1999, the day when Pervaiz Musharraf toppled the then Nawaz Sharif’s government. There would be no confrontation and  marshal law on November 2 or later, he added.

“It is not mere a claim. I assure you no one could lockdown the capital and derail democracy in the country,” he said.

To a question, he replied he was not aware of the government strategy to cope with the protest. However, he added, it was the responsibility of the government to keep control on law and order situation.

To another question, he replied the issue of the extension of army chief fell under discretion of the prime minister and he did not have any right to speak on the matter.   

Maulana Fazal is in Lahore and for two days and he is likely to extend his delay in the provincial capital for next couple of days and hold meeting with Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and leaders of other religio-political parties for ’ leaders for getting .

The JUP, a party led by religious leaders of Brevli school of thought and has some vote bank in Karachi, is in Maulana Fazal camp against its rival faction, JUP-Noorani, which is headed by Sahibzada Abual Kher Zubair and sides with Jamaat-e-Islami, the ally of PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The religio-political parties of different schools of thought were divided into two camps led by JI and JUI-F after Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of religious parties formed during Musharraf tenure, became defunct.

Political observers say the JUP would support the PML-N if the JUP-Noorani comes close to the PTI. Similarly, the JI and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S, a party of the followers of Deobandi school of thought led by Maulana Samiul Haq, are reluctant to sit with JUI-F in the same camp. The two major parties led by Shia scholars, Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen and Allama Sajid Naqavi’s Islami Tehreek are also not ready to sit together.

Last week, PML-N central leader Khawaja Saad Rafique also held a meeting with JUP’s head Pir Ijaz Hashmi to win the latter’s support for the government which he (Khawaja) was assured. However, PTI leaders have so far not contacted with any religio-political parties to get their support for Islamabad protest and it might be for a reason which an insider argues that if a religio-political party sides with the PML-N, the other would certainly sit in the PTI’s camp.