Govt renews talks offer, warns Fazl against blackmail


–NA Speaker Asad Qaiser calls JUI-F’s Akram Durrani, seeks meeting to hammer out differences

–Firdous lashes out at Fazl in late-night presser, says JUI-F chief is fooling nation in the name of religion

–Says govt willing to hold talks on electoral, economic reforms, appreciates protesters’ decision to stay put at H-9 ground

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to approach the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) that is spearheading the Azadi March in Islamabad for dialogue once again, as its chief spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan warned JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman against breaching the agreement with the Islamabad administration in a fiery presser.

The comments were made by Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan in a press conference at the Press Information Department. She was flanked by Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadiri.

Her presser followed a meeting of the government negotiating team at the residence of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, wherein the government decided to extend an olive branch to the JUI-F chief because he had ‘remained complaint’ to the accord which limits his march to the Peshawar Morr.

“JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman has still not violated the agreement hence we should also talk to him,” Sanjrani was quoted as saying at the meeting.

He reportedly told the participants that the government should “seriously negotiate” with Fazl to resolve the crisis.

The government’s negotiation committee also decided to send in Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to hold talks with the opposition’s Rehbar Committee.

Separately, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser called Rehbar Committee Convener Akram Khan Durrani and recommended that the two sides meet to iron out differences.

“We are politicians. Our doors are always open for negotiations,” Durrani assured Qaiser. Durrani also told the speaker that the opposition’s demands are still the same and they stand by them.

The meeting came after a press conference of the government body had rejected the demands of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation and snap polls made by the Azadi marchers.


In the press conference, the PM’s assistant called out Maulana Fazl for using religion for his political gains, as she called the Azadi March in the federal capital a “theatre”.

She said the Azadi marchers were gathered in the H-9 ground without any purpose and that the JUI-F chief, who calls himself a “religious scholar”, is hurling “baseless accusations” at the prime minister.

Despite her tone, Firdous didn’t rule out talks with the JUI-F chief. She said the government was willing to take two steps forwards if Fazl agreed to take one and that doors of dialogue were always open.

She said the negotiation team headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had PM Imran’s approval to hold discussion with the JUI-F and asked the opposition to put forth their “democratic demands”.

She also said the negotiation committee was willing to talk to the JUI-F on all issues, but the government would not cave in to the JUI-F’s “blackmailing tactics”.

“We are ready to take up the issues of electoral and economic reforms with the opposition,” she said, offering an olive branch to the agitating JUI-F chief.

Welcoming the announcement made by Fazl that the protesters won’t march towards the D-Chowk, she said it was a positive development and that she hoped the cleric would choose “dialogue instead of confrontation”.

Criticising the marchers, she said the entire federal capital has been put on halt due to the blockades. “Schools have been shut down and the children are forced to stay at home,” she said, adding that people were agitated because of the lockdown that resulted due to the march.

Speaking to reporters, Qadri said though the PTI was secular in outlook, the party was oblivious to the religion as he went on to recount the ‘Islamic reforms’ introduced by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

He urged Maulana Fazl to call off sit-in in the respect of Islamic month of Rabiul Awwal.


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