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|October 17, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Maulana Fazlur Rehman
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, has been named the prime ministerial candidate of the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of six Islamist parties that has emerged as the third largest group in Pakistan's National Assembly.
The MMA is negotiating with other two parties --- the Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-e-Azam group, and the Pakistan People's Party --- in an attempt to form the next government in Islamabad. What's more, the alliance is likely to form coalition governments in the North West Frontier Province and Balochistan as well.
Rehman, a hardliner and one-time supporter of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, wants the United States to pull all its troops out of Pakistan. Excerpts from an interview with Mohammad Shehzad:
Your landslide victory has frightened NGOs and the development community. They believe you will not allow them to work after forming the government in the NWFP and Balochistan. The apprehension is stronger amongst NGOs working for women's and children's rights. What is your view on this?
We objected to their 'unbalanced' activities. Their activities need to be balanced. We will think about it --- how the balance could be created. We have not opposed NGOs as such. We opposed only those NGOs who are a threat to our civilization under the cover of "welfare" work. Such NGOs have gained access to our streets and houses. They work to wipe out our Islamic and national trends. We will have to stop it. [But] we will not create hurdles in their welfare work.
Benazir Bhutto calls religious parties pariahs. She has accused General Pervez Musharraf of masterminding the MMA's victory in the election, so that he can give the US the impression that he is indispensable for the fight against religious fundamentalists.
What Makhdoom Amin Fahim [chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians] said to us today [Wednesday] was a very balanced conversation. Since I have spoken to the head of the parliamentarian group [of the PPP], I will not take notice of Benazir Bhutto's statements.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad [Jamaat-e-Islami chief and leader of the MMA] recently said government officials would have to pray not only five times a day but also at midnight (tahajjud). Would the MMA force people to worship god?
The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, never forced anyone to offer prayer. But when a chief minister himself leads the prayer, he will create an environment where everybody will be motivated to pray.
So that means you will not force those who do not want to pray?
Yes, of course! As I said, the Holy Prophet did not do so. Then who are we to do it?
Your father Mufti Mehmood had promised to implement revolutionary reforms when he came to power in the NWFP on May 1, 1972. He published a pamphlet, 'Darwesh Wazeer-e-Aala Ka Qissa: Daur-e-Mehmood' [Mehmood's rule: the era of a 'saint' chief minister]. He claimed that he would ban liquor, markups, gambling, and dowry, enforce a law to respect the sanctity of Ramadan, declare Urdu the official language and salwar-kameez the official dress, make burqa compulsory for women, etc. But he could not deliver on any of these promises. What would you do?
His government was dismissed after nine months! How he could have delivered? What could you do in nine months? You could only plan!
Your critics say you will fail to run the country because you have no experience of governance. What do you say to that?
Yes, we have no experience --- the experience of corruption, the experience of looting the people, the experience of spreading injustice in society, the experience of promoting suppression!
You differ with Gen Musharraf on certain policy issues. What are those?
We don't want US bases on Pakistan's soil. It is against our sovereignty. Their presence negates our freedom. We don't want Musharraf to be the chief of army staff or president. We would like him to quit both offices.
Women in certain tribal areas were disfranchised. Do you condemn it?
It happens only in certain areas, where elders decide it mutually. They don't impose such a ban with coercion. They do it voluntarily.
But do you appreciate such a ban?
I appreciate the local customs and rites. In this sense, I do appreciate it.
Did women cast votes in your favour?
It was reported on the grapevine that some leaders of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad met you and you assured them that the 'jihad' will resume in Kashmir. To what extent are such stories true?
Are you taking a report from me for any agency? You may go now!
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