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November 16, 2020

JI’s ex-finance minister’s decision to join PPP jolt to party


November 16, 2020

PESHAWAR: After its humiliating defeat in Lower Dir and Upper Dir district in the 2018 general election, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has suffered another serious blow in its erstwhile stronghold as former provincial finance minister Muzaffar Sayed has parted ways with the party and decided to join the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Reports about the possible defection of Muzaffar Sayed had gone viral on social media and caused serious concern in the party ranks. Leaders and workers of the JI seemed unhappy with the social media reports as they were quite hopeful that he might have some reservations that would be addressed to stop him from quitting the party.

The party leaders and workers made every effort to trace him and hold talks with him. However, he remained out of reach on all his possible contacts and stayed in some undisclosed location after the reports about him went viral.

The party leaders from Lower Dir, Upper Dir and Bajaur districts formed a grand jirga under the veteran politician, former MPA and respectable elder from Upper Dir, Malik Behram Khan to make an effort to persuade Muzaffar Sayed to stay in the party. Other members of the jirga were former member National Assembly Maulana Asadullah, JI Lower Dir president Aizazul Mulk Afkari, Bajaur president of the party Sardar Khan, members of the family of Muzaffar Sayed and other leaders of the party.

The jirga members stayed at the house of Muzaffar Sayed in Talash, Lower Dir, for two consecutive days and waited for him to return. However, Muzaffar Sayed remained unavailable and his telephone contacts were inaccessible.

On Saturday night, the jirga head Malik Behram Khan managed to reach him through someone’s mobile phone, but Muzaffar Sayed flatly refused to rethink his decision. After this development, the jirga members dispersed and Malik Behram Khan announced that their efforts failed to bear fruit.

Muzaffar Sayed is expected to join the PPP at a public gathering today (Monday). It is obvious he had already made up his mind and negotiated with the PPP leadership on joining the party. The PPP has a sizeable vote-bank in both Dir districts and has been winning some assembly seats in the past elections.

Muzaffar Sayed since his student days was affiliated with the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba, the JI’s students’ wing. Later he became active in the JI. In 2002, he got elected as member provincial assembly from the platform of Muttahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) on the JI quota. He was re-elected as member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in 2013 and was made provincial minister for finance and statistics in 2014 as part of the PTI-led coalition government. He served in that capacity till 2018.

Jamaat-e-Islami suffered a major setback in the July 2018 general election. It could secure only one seat in the KP Assembly and one in the National Assembly. Upper Dir and Lower Dir have always been the stronghold of the party and it has rarely lost an election in which it has taken part. However, this time the PTI made a successful entry into the district and won

all the National Assembly and provincial assembly seats except two from the two districts. The remaining two seats were shared by the JI and PPP, both in Upper Dir.

Amid allegations of rigging in the election, internal differences in the JI played a key role in its worst defeat. There were differences over distribution of tickets. This was the reason that members of the JI contested the election against the candidates nominated by their own party. Some reports suggested that provincial leadership of the party, particularly its president Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, was responsible for the mess and fingers were pointed at him even in the report prepared by a central committee of the party that probed the reasons for the failure.

It is said that Mushtaq Ahmad Khan made some “dictatorial decisions” ignoring the opinion of the local leadership of the party that led to bickering in the party. However, JI provincial general secretary, Abdul Wasi, rubbished all such reports, saying that all the tickets were awarded with the consent of local party shuras and no such decision was made directly by the provincial leadership.

The prime reason for Muzaffar Sayed’s parting ways with the party is also that he believes he lost the election due to his own party members who campaigned against him and supported PPP and PTI candidates. He felt that the JI leadership didn’t take action against those members and rather elevated them to higher positions in the party.

Abdul Wasi, on the other hand, clarified that the JI leadership had already decided to expel all those members who played a role against the party candidates. “But the final decision rested with the shuras of the respective districts. Muzaffar Sayed was present in the shura meeting, which decided to issue mere warning to such members instead of expelling them from the party,” he recalled. “Muzaffar Sayed didn’t even express a dissenting opinion and now he says no action was taken against those who violated the party discipline,” he argued.

A senior JI member said whatever the reason for Muzaffar Sayed leaving the party, but it is a fact that the leadership has to think seriously over the situation. He pointed out that greed for acquiring tickets to contest election and lust for personal interest instead of party’s ideology has been playing a vital role in weakening its position in the two Dir districts. He added that the role of influential families and groupings is another major issue that needs to be properly addressed.

Two members from the influential Sahibzada family in Upper Dir - Sahibzada Sibghatullah and Sahibzada Sanaullah - had left the party on the occasion of the previous 2018 election and got elected on PTI and PPP tickets as MNA and MPA, respectively.