Maulana Fazlur Rahman, with a gray beard and wearing a yellow turban, is a powerful man. He was born in 1952 in the southern district of Dera Ismail Khan (NWFP) and comes from a religious family. His father, Maulana Mufti Mahmood, was a well-known Islamic scholar and seasoned politician who was the NWFP’s chief minister in the 1970s during Bhutto’s government.
Fazlur Rahman took over the JUI’s reins as secretary general after his father’s death. The JUI, which represents the Deobandi school of Islamic thought, split into two factions in the 1980s on the question of joining General Zia ul Haq’s military government. Fazlur Rahman leads the main faction, the JUI-F, while JUI-S is led by Maulana Sami ul Haq, another pro-Taleban Islamist leader.
A veteran politician, the Maulana has been elected to the National Assembly three times since 1988. Maulana Fazlur Rahman is a fundamentalist with a difference, known for his proximity to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Despite his fundamentalist orientation, he supported her right to become premier and opposed the campaign of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) in the 1990s against a woman heading the government of an Islamic country. Benazir Bhutto duly rewarded Maulana Fazlur Rahman by appointing him as the chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who heads the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and presently Secretary General of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) is presumed to have close ties with Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime. When US and allied forces began bombing Taleban strongholds in Afghanistan, he led large anti-US, anti-Musharraf, and pro-Taleban rallies in Pakistan’s major cities and threatened to launch a jihad (holy war) against the US if the bombings continued.