Islamabad: In order to avert a looming lockdown and march on Islamabad by right-wing political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) later this month, the Imran Khan government has decided to woo the leader Fazlur Rahman to convince him that his Freedom March was neither in the interest of the country nor the Kashmir cause.

With the approval of the Prime Minister, a committee has been constituted under the leadership of Defence Minister Shah Pervaiz Khattak to talk to Fazlur Rahman.

Addressing reporters after a meeting of the PTI core committee chaired by Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi announced that a small political committee has been constituted under Khattak “to keep in touch with Maulana Fazlur Rahman”.

“We are a political party and fully capable of, and willing to, deliver a political solution to political matters,” said Qureshi.

He, however, warned that if someone thought that by staging a protest rally or sit-in, the government could be sent packing, then he must remember that the PTI has a record of 126-day protest in Islamabad and we know how such matters are dealt with.

He said October 27 was a black day in the history of Kashmir, and the Maulana should refrain from holding his protest and sit-in on this day, which is dedicated only to the “memory of the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian forces”.

Dialogue offer turned down

In response to the government’s extending a ‘hand of friendship,’ Fazlur Rahman has turned down the dialogue offer saying the time for dialogue with his party is over. “If the government really wants to hold meaningful dialogue, it should hold negotiations with the united opposition,” he said.

Addressing a press conference, Fazlur Rahman expressed his ignorance of the formation of any ‘dialogue committee’ by the PTI government, saying before any talks, the offer of resignation is mandatory.

Fazlur Rahman, who is leaving for Lahore on Friday to consult with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President, Shabaaz Sharif on devising a joint strategy for the Freedom March, made it clear there would be no dialogue unless Khan stepped down and announced new elections.

He has also asked state institutions not to interfere with the political process. “If a state institution supports PTI-government in handling opposition during the Freedom March, it will be assumed that the state institution was not working for the interest of the state but for a political party,” he said.