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Why Maulana, Once Mocked As ‘Diesel’, Now Wants To Become Imran’s Engine

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In recent years, Pakistani politics has seen Imran Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rahman hurling accusations and derogatory titles at each other, labeling one another as “Jewish agents” and “Diesel”. However, now that both are out of power, they seem willing to shake hands and move forward together. In the 2024 elections, PTI’s Ali Amin Gandapur handed Maulana a humiliating defeat in his home constituency. Interestingly, despite losing to PTI, Maulana blamed the PDM for rigging. With Maulana’s primary political arena being Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his main competitor is PTI, it is perplexing for political observers to understand what goals he aims to achieve by allying with his traditional rival in his own province and constituency.

Senior journalist and analyst Suhail Warraich, in his latest piece, writes that Maulana apparently has risen against the current government and the military because he aspired to the presidency. Voters in Maulana’s native Dera Ismail Khan regard him as a political king. He is indeed a master politician; whenever he addresses an issue with his well-reasoned arguments, his critics are left speechless. He has always been an advocate of constitutional and democratic struggles. Early in his career, he faced General Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship. Many from his ideological school were lured by Zia’s religious rhetoric and the sacred Afghan Jihad, but Maulana stood firm against both internal and external conspiracies with wisdom and outmaneuvered his internal rivals one by one. Though new to politics, his involvement in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) led to his imprisonment, but these trials only strengthened his resolve. 

When Maulana entered politics, his party was divided into several factions, and the Deobandi school was not ready to accept him as a leader. Concurrently, he faced the charismatic Barelvi leader Shah Ahmed Noorani and the dynamic Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Maulana navigated these challenges through reconciliation, strategic wisdom, and at times, political shrewdness.

Warraich notes that like any political party, Maulana’s ultimate goal has always been to attain power, and he has been relatively successful compared to his rival religious parties. He has been part of several federal governments, chaired the Kashmir Committee, led the Foreign Policy Committee, and recently succeeded in having his party’s member become the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a position once held by his father, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, with the help of Wali Khan’s National Awami Party (NAP). Reviewing his journey, Maulana has achieved significant success in both politics and religious politics, extending his party’s influence from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Balochistan and making inroads in Sindh. He has maintained strong ties with national institutions, been a close ally of PML-N, and has a personal friendship with Asif Zardari. 

For years, Maulana’s criticism was directed towards Imran Khan, with both parties accusing each other of numerous misdeeds. However, the 2024 elections brought a dramatic change, with PTI defeating Maulana in his home constituency, leading to a noticeable shift in his rhetoric and strategy. His arguments, previously aimed at Imran Khan, are now directed towards his former allies and the establishment. Maulana’s relationship with the establishment has always been fluctuating; he also criticized it in 2018 for supporting Imran Khan and his party. While his latest political maneuver might be seen as a routine change in the political landscape, it has left both his supporters and opponents puzzled.

Maulana’s primary political battleground remains Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his main opponent is PTI. Therefore, the question arises: what does he aim to achieve by aligning with Imran Khan, his traditional rival? Warraich suggests that Maulana’s interests extend beyond domestic politics to global affairs. He has initiated peace negotiations in India and sought to mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan before the elections. Maulana and Imran Khan’s shared views on the Taliban could be a significant factor behind this political shift. Additionally, Maulana might be discontented with both the military and PML-N because he felt entitled to the presidency as a senior PDM leader, a position taken by Asif Zardari.

Warraich concludes that Maulana’s cooperation with PTI could make Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a stronghold of the opposition, given the dominance of the two major parties there. People in Dera Ismail Khan know Maulana well and regard him as a political king, yet he feels his political achievements do not reflect his stature. Maulana aspires to become the ultimate ruler, and until he achieves that, he will continue using logic, reason, and political maneuvering to reach his goal. If the military obstructs his path, he will strive to overcome that hurdle as well.

 

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