Islamabad: The Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, considered a front for the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, has claimed it played a key role in Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif`s victory in a bye-election in 2008.
Khadim Hussain Dhillon, the central secretary general of the ASWJ, made the claim after Sharif`s PML-N party sought to deny its links with the ASWJ.
Angered by the PML-Ns "changing tone and tenor" towards it, the ASWJ has reminded Shahbaz Sharif that he owes his chief ministership to the party, according to a report in The News today.’
The ASWJ withdrew its candidate in Bhakar constituency of the Punjab Assembly to ensure Shahbaz Sharif’’s election in June 2008.
Sharif was elected unopposed after 17 candidates were "made to withdraw from the race", the report said.
The Punjab government recently launched a crackdown on the ASWJ, SSP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in connection with terror attacks that killed nearly 200 people, a majority of them Shias, in the southwestern city of Quetta.
After PML-N spokesman Pervaiz Rasheed said he hardly knew about the existence of a party named ASWJ, Dhillon advised Rasheed to check with Shahbaz Sharif on whose request ASWJ chief Maulana Mohammad Ludhianvi had withdrawn the party’s candidate to pave the way for Sharif`s unopposed election.
Bhakar constituency was won by an independent candidate in polls held on February 18, 2008.
The independent candidate vacated the seat and retained another seat he had won.
Sharif could not take part in the February 2008 polls as he was then disqualified by the Lahore High Court.
He subsequently became eligible to contest polls and was elected in the June 2008 bye-polls.
Providing details of the 2008 understanding between ASWJ and the PML-N, Dhillon said: "Our candidate from (Bhakar) was Maulana Abdul Hameed Khalid, the president of the Bhakar chapter of the ASWJ. Of the 18 candidates in the run, 16 had been made to withdraw by the local administration.
"Those left in the field were Shahbaz Sharif and Maulana Abdul Hameed Khalid who had refused to withdraw from the race.
As the by-election loomed, Shahbaz Sharif approached Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi with a request to withdraw his candidate in his favour.
"For further talks, a six-member PML-N delegation called on Maulana Abdul Hameed Khalid at his seminary in Panj Garan area of Bhakar district a day before the by-election.
"They formally requested Maulana Ludhianvi and Maulana Khalid on behalf of Shahbaz Sharif to pave the way for his unopposed election to ensure the beginning of a new chapter of friendship and amity between PML-N and the ASWJ. Our leadership subsequently decided to oblige Mian Sahib by withdrawing its candidate as a goodwill gesture."
Khalid, the candidate who withdrew in favour of Shahbaz Sharif, said he was extremely hurt for having sacrificed my candidature and facilitated the election of someone who has no regard for his benefactors from the ASWJ.
He said former Punjab Police chief Shaukat Javed had approached Ludhianvi and arranged his meeting with Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore shortly before the bye-polls.
"During the meeting, Maulana Ludhianvi had called me and handed over his phone to Shahbaz Sharif. It was then that Mian Sahib made me a personal request for withdrawal in his favour," Khalid said.