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Zardari calls on Fazl, discusses political situation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari called on Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman at his residence on Saturday before leaving for Karachi.

This was the second meeting between the two leaders in as many days as earlier they had met at a wedding ceremony in Islamabad on Friday.

Aamir Fida Piracha, a spokesman for former president Zardari, said that the two leaders “discussed the prevailing political situation” in the country.

He rejected reports aired by some private TV channels that during the meeting Maulana Fazl urged the PPP leader to have a meeting with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif presently serving a sentence in the Kot Lakhpat jail.

The spokesman claimed that the issue of a “meeting with Nawaz Sharif” did not come under discussion in the meeting. He provided no further details of the meeting.

PPP leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah had last month said that a meeting between Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif in near future could not be ruled out. However, before any such meeting, an accountability court convicted Mr Sharif in Al-Azizia case on Dec 24.

A banking court has extended interim bail of Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till Monday (tomorrow) in a case pertaining to alleged laundering of Rs4.14 billion through 29 ‘fake’ bank accounts.

Later, talking to reporters, the JUI-F chief claimed that his meeting with Mr Zardari was not pre-decided and that he had been informed about Mr Zardari’s visit to his residence just an hour ago.

“There was no agenda for the meeting. I have nothing to tell you or give you any news,” the Maulana said. “Neither any plan of convening another multi-party conference of the opposition came under discussion nor we discussed any programme to hold joint public meetings,” he said, adding that they simply had a “chit-chat”.

Though both the PPP and the JUI-F leaders are trying to downplay the meeting, political experts are giving importance to it in the wake of the ongoing trial of Mr Zardari and other opposition leaders.

“There is no option other than (the formation of) a grand opposition alliance,” the Maulana said, hinting that he was still making efforts to form an alliance of the opposition parties.

“Will we all meet when we all are in jails?” he said while criticising both the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for not being able to forget the past and failing his efforts to forge unity in the opposition’s ranks.

Responding to a question, the JUI-F leader said he had conveyed his concerns to Mr Zardari over the failure of the opposition parties to come out with a joint strategy. He said that opposition parties needed courage to make a decision.

He said the PML-N people were bearing the brunt whereas pressure was being exerted on the PPP as well through different means.

He said he had personally requested Leader of Oppo­sition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to consult all opposition parties and convene an MPC, but there had been no progress in this regard. He said if PML-N and PPP continued with the same attitude, it would be more damaging for the opposition and then there would be talks about “deals”.

The Maulana said he considered the incumbent rulers “enemies of Pakistan’s ideology”. He said there were talks about recognising Israel and the government had adopted a strategy to seek public opinion through leaking reports and floating ideas. He said if Pakistan recognised Israel then it would be amounting to accept the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

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