LAHORE   -    JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman will not come to power even if all other aspirants perish, said Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed here yesterday. The minister made the prediction at a news conference at the railways headquarters, at a time when efforts are being made for a dialogue between the government and the opposition.

A day before the JUI-F chief had met PML-N leader Mian Shehbaz Sharif and others in Lahore. The government has also set up a committee of senior leaders to hold talks with the opposition which is bent upon ousting the PTI-led government as a result of a protest campaign scheduled to begin on Oct 27. The Maulana says talks are not possible unless the prime minister resigns, a precondition rejected by the ruling party.

The railways minister said the very elements the JUI-F chief was working for were likely to vanish. He recalled that whenever Ulema launched a movement, it led to the imposition of martial law. Sheikh Rashid said the situation was hazy at present. “Maybe, some way out of the situation is found,” he said.

“The JUI-F’s ‘sit-in is still in the grey list,” he said while commenting on the preparations being made by the Maulana. The Maulana will start his long march on October 27 from Sukkur. Protesters from various parts of the country will converge on Islamabad on Oct 31, the day the leaders will make public their future plan. The railways minister was of the view that the JUI-F chief could be given a face-saver. “Maulana Sahib has always asked Americans to bring him to power and promised them to make things better in Waziristan. He thinks that the power is given by the US.”

He warned that the government could arrest 400 to 600 people if the protest turns violent. Sheikh Rashid vehemently criticised the JUI-F chief for roping in the seminary students in anti-government protest. The move will send a very negative signal to the world that seminaries in the country are preparing terrorists. “Even India is now giving coverage to Maulana Fazlur Rehman instead of occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Ruling out the possibility of any threat to the democratic system, he said PM Khan and the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa were two wheels of the same vehicle.

About opposition’s demand for the prime minister’s resignation, the minister said it was out of question. “These leaders,” he said, “are actually seeking NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] from Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is not ready to give them what they desired.” He made it clear that issues cannot be resolved through protests in the federal capital Islamabad.

“The time is of tremendous importance in politics and the national institutions are apprehensive of risk of anarchy and political chaos.” He alleged that the JUI-F chief was promoting mindset of Hitler, the dictator hated across the world. To a question, Rashid said that PM Khan had discussed the ML-1 project with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said ML-1 is meant to run 138 trains. He said railways’ ministry had started 16 new trains in the first year and 20 more trains will also be inaugurated soon.

APP adds: Sh Rashid said closing doors of dialogue with the government by the JUI-F could damage democracy.

He said Fazl had not yet announced any sit-in. He said around 600 politicians would face consequences in case democracy was derailed due to Mualana’s protest. He said Fazlur Rehman’s protest would damage Kashmir issue also by diverting the attention of people from atrocities of Indian forces in the occupied Kashmir. The minister said that the government was ready to provide face-saving to the Maulana. He alleged that Fazl used Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto for his personal interests. “I am not worried about Fazlur Rehman, I am worried about madrasas and the Ulema who are already a target of Western media,” he said.

The minister said that madrassas were symbols of Islam but what was Fazl expressing through baton wielders who looked like terrorists. He alleged that Fazlur Rehman had never visited the tomb of Hazrat Quaid-e-Azam (RA), but he considered it an honour for him when he visited Sikh’s golden temple. He said that politicians should use their brains that the current situation was not suitable for any protest. “I am representative of religion, but all Muslim countries are under pressure currently,” he said.

To another question, he said that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari were supporting Fazl, but it would not bring about any change in the ruling setup and Prime Minister Imran would complete his five-year term. He said that nothing was permanent in politics and political friends and foes keep changing in the changing times.

Rashid said that National Action Plan was also under progress and everyone should be careful regarding national security.

The minister said that a new movement was being initiated in India, which would affect that country at large scale. However, he regretted that the opposition leadership in Pakistan was providing an opportunity to the Indian government to slow down that movement.

“No doubt there is inflation in the country, but Nawaz, Zardari and Shehbaz are responsible for this inflation, who destroyed the economy and looted the national wealth,” he added.

However, he said that economy was showing positive signs due to efforts of the incumbent government. He expressed his optimism that economy would improve within three years.