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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

JUI-F quits govt over sacking of minister

ISLAMABAD: The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) has parted its way with the coalition government in protest against sacking of its minister Azam Swati from the cabinet by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Analysts say the departure of JUI-F, which has seven seats in the 342-member national assembly and 22 in the 100-seat Senate, will weaken the unpopular government but not deprive it of a majority.

Gilani on Tuesday sacked Ministers for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi and Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati from their offices.

Though the PM House statement did not mention any reasons, it is believed that Kazmi was fired as serious allegations of corruption in the Hajj this year were levelled against him.

While there seem to be no reason why Swati was sacked, other than he entered verbal bout with minister of Religious Affairs Hamid Kazmi, blaming him for corruption in Hajj operations.

The party's leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said it was leaving because one of its ministers was fired after a scandal involving government organized pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.

"JUI is leaving the government from today ... our decision is final," Rehman said.

“We were cooperating with the government under Zardari’s reconciliation policy, but now it’s impossible for us to stay in coalition after Gilani’s one-sided decision to sack Azam Swati,” he told reporters.

“We are saying goodbye to the government” Fazlur announced after chairing an emergency meeting of Majlis-e-Shura (advisory council) of the party.

He, however, mentioned that his faction will not leave parliamentary committees, on the grounds that the bodies belong to the National Assembly.

JUI-F’s Maulana Sheerani will remain the chairman of Islamic Ideological Council.

To a query about quitting the coalition government in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the JUI-F chief said “such decisions will be taken in future.”

He expressed regret over Swati’s removal “without any reason.”

“Mr Swati cooperated with the government over the Hajj scandal despite the fact that there was no allegation on him. He even wrote letters to prime minister and President Zardari and also answered questions in several cabinet meetings… but a unilateral decision was taken against him.”

Two more federal ministers from the JUI – Maulana Fazl-Ur-Rahman’s brother Maulana Atta Ur-Rahman, which is minister for tourism and Federal Housing & Works Minister Rehmat Ullah Karar – have reportedly sent their resignations to the PM.

Damage Control

Government high-ups contacted annoyed JUI-F for the damage control.

Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira and Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik telephoned Maulana Fazl in their efforts to reunite him. They express hope that JUI-F would soon be convinced.

Another Zardari aide, however, said he met with Rehman shortly after his announcement and was hopeful that JUI would remain in the government. "JUI is our allied party and we will not let them go," Qayyum Soomro said.

MQM Factor

In the wake of JUI-F’s stance, PPP-led government’s ally in Sindh, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has called an emergency sitting of its Coordination Committee on Wednesday in London and Karachi, simultaneously.

The Wednesday’s meeting would chalk out its plan of action for future keeping in view PPP’s relations with coalition partners and the JUI-F’s stance to leave government seats, MQM leader Babar Ghaori said.

He said his faction will also mull over the option if MQM should continue supporting the PPP government or break up the alliance.

MQM is also angry with the ruling quarters over Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement that 26 of 60 target killers arrested in Karachi were found associated with MQM.

On Monday, a meeting of MQM's CC reviewed aftermaths of the statement which has reportedly prompted the party to mull over pursuing the path of JUI-F.

MQM leaders have said President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani would be contacted in this regard after the Aashura.

Political analysts see the midterm polls in near future as Zardari government has angered key allies, further weakening the unpopular government and facing a political instability.

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