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Fazlur Rehman Engages Shehbaz Sharif on Poll Date Deferral

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JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman met with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif to discuss the possibility of postponing the upcoming elections beyond January. Fazlur Rehman sought Shehbaz Sharif’s support for this proposition, citing the need for joint political action in the current context. Shehbaz Sharif, however, requested time to consult with the leadership of his party before committing to this proposal.

The call for election postponement revolves around concerns related to the prevailing cold weather in January, which could potentially impact voter turnout and the electoral process. While the meeting’s outcome remains pending, it signifies an important development in the ever-evolving political dynamics of Pakistan.

The meeting between Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Shehbaz Sharif also featured the presence of prominent PML-N figures, including Ahsan Iqbal, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, and Attaullah Tarar. This gathering occurred mere hours before PML-N’s supreme leader, Nawaz Sharif, landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during his journey from the UK to Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan is eagerly anticipated by his party, as he is expected to lead the election campaign after his extended self-imposed exile since 2019. During this period, Nawaz Sharif was declared a proclaimed offender in the Al Azizia and Avenfield graft cases due to his consistent absence from legal proceedings.

In the wake of the meeting, the PML-N issued a statement indicating that both Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Shehbaz Sharif deliberated on the importance of ‘free and fair’ elections and the broader political landscape. The statement emphasized their mutual commitment to advancing their political strategies and confronting challenges together.

When questioned about whether Shehbaz Sharif had agreed to defer the polls due to weather concerns, Ahsan Iqbal, a prominent member of PML-N, clarified that no such decision had been reached. He reiterated the party’s stance, which aligns with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) schedule for the elections.

During the interaction, Shehbaz Sharif highlighted the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) 16-month endeavor to safeguard the nation. He underscored Maulana Fazl’s pivotal role in ensuring Pakistan’s stability during the PML-N-led coalition government. Shehbaz Sharif expressed his belief that unity and collective efforts could steer Pakistan out of its prevailing crises, and he anticipated that Nawaz Sharif’s return on October 21 would fortify the nation’s democratic foundations.

In response, Maulana Fazlur Rehman contended that Nawaz Sharif had been unjustly subjected to political victimization, characterizing it as a dark chapter in Pakistan’s history. He highlighted the challenging weather conditions in certain regions of Pakistan during January, emphasizing that it might not be feasible to hold general elections in KP and Balochistan at that time.

This proposal to delay elections due to inclement weather has not been universally embraced, as PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari criticized it, emphasizing his party’s commitment to timely elections. PPP Information Secretary Faisal Karim Kundi questioned the motivations behind Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s demand, alluding to potential vested interests influencing the call for postponement.

As Pakistan navigates its political landscape, the outcome of these discussions will significantly impact the timing and conduct of the forthcoming elections. The debate over when to hold the elections and the potential impact of weather conditions continues to be a subject of intense scrutiny and debate.

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