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MMA declares US envoy ‘persona non grata’
* Alliance to stage nationwide protest this Friday against exclusion of religion column from new passports
LAHORE: The US ambassador’s offer to help the government stifle Majlis-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat’s movement is interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, said the MMA general secretary Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, and demanded the US government to recall him because he was “personae non gratae”.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Ahmad said that American envoy Ryan C Crocker was lobbying to keep the religion column out of machine-readable passports. “All religious groups, including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), will hold protests this Friday against the government’s refusal to incorporate a religion column in passports.”
Earlier, he presided over a meeting of the Majlis-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat at Lahore Press Club, where he criticised PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Religious Affairs and Minorities minister Ejazul Haq for breaking their promise to add the religion column.
Ahmad said that the MMA would take out peaceful demonstrations throughout the country on Friday. “MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed will lead demonstrations in Islamabad, secretary general Maulana Fazalur Rehman in Peshawar, Syed Munwar Hassan and Maulana Abdul Gafoor Haidri in Karachi and Liaqat Baloch in Lahore.”
“We already knew that the ruling party, despite their assurances, would be unsuccessful in adding a religion column in machine-readable passports because Gen Pervez Musharraf opposed it under Qadiani and US pressure,” he said.
Ahmad said that the government should have discussed the issue in parliament before taking a decision, “but it had not done so because it was not the will of Gen Musharraf”.
To a question about the cooperative anti-Musharraf movement by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and the MMA, he said that the religious alliance was waiting for ARD’s decision on a meeting on January 12. He said that the MMA had launched the first phase of the movement, which would end on January 28.
Ahmad said that the National Assembly business advisory committee had recommended convening a session on January 3 but had not been able to do so because Gen Musharraf was reluctant to address the first session of the new parliamentary year.