LAHORE - The religious parties have no future in politics if they stand disunited, as at present, and will be thrown out of the arena by “secular forces”, head of a party representing Ahle Sunnat school of thought warned on Thursday, calling upon the Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI-F to quit their coalitions with the PTI and the PML-N, respectively, to pave the way for a grand alliance of religious parties.

Pir Ijaz Hashmi, president, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, said in an interview to The Nation that he had already started efforts for the unification of both the factions of the JUP and would be contacting the leaders of other religious parties in the weeks ahead to bring them on a single platform. He said despite their claims that they are rightist parties, the PML-N and the PTI are “secular forces” just like the PPP, the ANP and the MQM and the religious parties would have to prepare themselves to fight a decisive battle against all of them.

“The JUP is willing to take a back seat,” said the JUP chief, offering the leadership of the proposed alliance to the Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI-F. Known for its pragmatism and adaptability, the JUI-F worked with the PPP in the past and is now an ally of the PML-N, although it has been expressing reservations about a number of policies being pursued by the senior partner. The JUI-F also got Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri elected as the deputy chairman of the PPP-dominated Senate.

The Jamaat-i-Islami, on the other hand, is part of the coalition led by the PTI in KP.

“Anyone rising above his personal interests and willing to work for the enforcement of Nizam-i-Mustafa can lead the proposed conglomerate”, said Pir Ijaz when asked who could head the new alliance.

He said no towering leader comparable to the late Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani or Qazi Hussain Ahmed was there in any party. In the prevailing situation anyone who sacrificed personal interests for the cause of Islam could get the captaincy of the new alliance, he said.

Recalling the blessings of unity, the JUP chief said when religious parties operated from the Muttahida Majlis-i-Aml’s platform, they formed their governments in KP and Balochistan during the Musharraf era. They could again become a force to reckon with by closing their ranks, he asserted.

According to him, secular forces had tons of money at their disposal and they posed a very serious challenge to religious parties.

Religious parties, the JUP chief said, would have to stop branding followers of other schools of thought as Mushrik (polytheists) and kafir (disbeliever, infidel) to make the formation of a new alliance possible.

At present, the JUP is divided into two factions. One is led by Pir Ijaz Hashmi with Maulana Awais Noorani as its secretary general. The other is headed by Sahibzada Abul Khair Zubair with Mahfooz Mashshadi as its secretary general.

Pir Ijaz invited all leaders of the rival faction to rejoin the “real JUP”, promising they would be given offices.

He said contacts between the two factions were going on and unification could take place during the next couple of months, latest by Ramazan.

Asked what difference it would make if religious parties, because of their poor performance and declining public support, quit politics, the JUP president said: “We are not in politics because of any personal gains. We are trying to spread the message of Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani. If we quit politics, secularism would dominate all walks of life. We are trying to resist secularism in a country which was achieved in the name of Islam. We will continue our sincere efforts, no matter what the outcome is”.

In response to a question, Pir Ijaz said the JUP would identify some constituencies in Sindh and South Punjab for the purpose of elections. Instead of wasting energies all over the country, he said, it would be a better strategy to get better results.

The JUP, he said, would take an active part in the local elections, due to be held in Punjab and Sindh in September.  He said he had issued instructions to party leaders at all levels to prepare for the local polls.