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PTI, JUIF Inch toward Alliance

Erstwhile rivals say they share views on alleged rigging during Feb. 8 polls, as PTI issues call for nationwide protest on Saturday

by Staff Report

Screengrab of the PTI and JUIF’s joint press conference

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan on Thursday directed his party leaders to initiate contact with other political parties to jointly protest against alleged rigging during the Feb. 8 general elections, while also nominating Omar Ayub for the slot of prime minister.

According to PTI leader Asad Qaiser, who met Khan at Adiala Jail alongside Barrister Saif, the former prime minister directed them to reach out to all parties who are protesting against alleged rigging, including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP). Shortly after the announcement, however, the ANP rejected the offer, noting the beneficiary of rigging against it appeared to be the PTI itself.

On Thursday night, a PTI delegation led by Qaiser and Saif called on JUI leader chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad, with both parties subsequently addressing a joint press conference in which they claimed the 2024 elections had triggered a fresh political crisis. “The views of the PTI are the same as the JUI-F Central Executive Committee,” said JUI spokesperson Hafiz Hamdullah, adding they were in agreement that these polls could not bring about political or economic stability. However, he added, the two had not yet formed any formal alliance and would continue meetings to determine the extent of their cooperation.

Saif, meanwhile, reiterated that the PTI would launch a nationwide protest from Feb. 17 (Saturday) against alleged rigging, adding this would continue until they were granted their rightful mandate. It is, thus far, unclear if the JUIF would join the PTI’s protest on Saturday.

Rival reactions

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) spokesperson Faisal Karim Kundi said the JUIF-PTI alliance negated their own narratives. “Let’s see when PTI founder Imran Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman apologize to each other,” he told Geo News, recalling their mutual disdain, with Fazl often accusing Khan of being part of a “Jewish lobby,” and Khan pejoratively referring to his rival as “Maulana Diesel” and accusing him of misleading children studying at madrassas.

Similarly, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said it was difficult to imagine Fazl allying with the PTI. Both spokespersons also indicated the real reason behind Fazl’s accusations—including the allegation that the vote of no-confidence against Khan was brought about at the behest of then-Army chief Gen. (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa—was the loss of his son in the elections.

PTI election picks

Earlier, during their press conference after meeting Khan, Saif and Qaiser said the PTI founder had picked Omar Ayub to be the party’s candidate for the prime minister and Aqibullah—Qaiser’s brother—for the speaker of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. They said Ayub would become the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly if he lost the election for the premiership.

Saif, meanwhile, said Khan had expressed annoyance at the U.S. government’s “mild” response to the alleged rigging. He said the former prime minister had conveyed a message for the U.S. government, urging it to condemn in “strongest possible terms” the alleged rigging and exert pressure for the ensuring of the people’s mandate.

Also on Thursday, PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan said the party founder had picked Mian Aslam Iqbal as the PTI’s candidate for the chief minister of Punjab. He also reiterated the call for a “peaceful” protect on Saturday and urged the entire nation to participate in it.

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