PM asks aides to keep channel of dialogue with Fazl open

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday asked his political aides to keep open a ‘channel of dialogue’ with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who has given a call for a sit-in against the government on Oct 31 in the federal capital.

PM Khan gave these instructions during a meeting with government’s spokespersons at the Prime Minister Office (PMO).

When contacted, a spokesman for the prime minister, who was also attended the meeting, said a proposal was floated that the government must reach out to the JUI-F chief to ascertain demands of his party and it should not go for a deadlock on the issue.

It was also decided in the meeting that Maulana Fazl, who will kick off his agitation programme known as Azadi March from Sindh on Oct 27 and will reach Islamabad on Oct 31, would not be stopped from staging the sit-in in the federal capital, but in case protesters turned unruly they would be dealt with sternly.

“The prime minister’s response was clear that there is no harm in reaching out to the Maulana to avoid any deadlock,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the prime minister was of the view that the JUI-F chief was toeing the line of the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The spokesman quoted the prime minister as saying: “The Maulana is toeing the line of the PML-N and PPP because he is struggling for his own livelihood.”

The meeting noted that both the PPP and PML-N, which remained in power two and three times, respectively, had now reached a stage that they were compelled to seek help of smaller parties in the country.

The meeting observed that the JUI-F chief had used different cards on different occasions and this time the Maulana was using the religion card by bringing innocent students of seminaries to the sit-in, but expressed the hope that “this time the Maulana’s agitation plan will prove to be his waterloo”.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri on Friday clarified that he had not been tasked by the prime minister with holding talks with Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

In a statement, the minister said there was no truth in the news being run on the media that the prime minister had tasked him with forming a committee to look into the matter. Media reports also hinted that Maulana Fazl would not be allowed to enter the federal capital and could be arrested in Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is believed that the Sindh government, where the PPP is in power, will facilitate the JUI-F chief to start the Azadi March. Maulana Fazal is expected to unveil the next plan of action after reaching Islamabad. Thousands of students of seminaries are expected to take part in the protest.

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