LAHORE: Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid on Friday urged JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to keep the door to dialogue open.

“Since a politician doesn’t refuse to hold dialogue, I request Maulana Fazlur Rehman Sahib not to close the door to dialogue. Shunning talks offer may have consequences in politics. And when they occur, the development process stops,” he said while responding to questions posed by journalists at the Raiwind railway station.

For the last many days, Mr Rashid in various media talks and press conferences in Lahore and elsewhere severely criticised Maulana Fazl for his ‘Azadi March’ plan. In the recent talks, he claimed that Maulana wanted face-saving before cancelling his long march.

“He wants face-saving and he can be given this... We are giving him importance without any reason,” he told the media in Lahore and Nankana railway stations on Oct 15.

At an earlier press conference in Lahore on Oct 12, the minister claimed that “a man of Maulana Fazlur Rehman would be arrested soon.” He also commented that “those expert in making contacts are in contact with Maulana Fazlur Rehman.”

However, on Friday, Mr Rashid seemed soft on the JUI-F chief and asked him to point out the fault or mistake of the government he wanted to throw out.

“I request you to let us know the reason and tell where the government committed mistake,” he asked.

The minister also criticised the media for giving undue coverage to Maulana at the cost of the Kashmir issue. “At a time when the Kashmir issue should be given importance, our media is showing Maulana Fazl and his Azadi March,” he said.

He said he would hold a weekly press conference at the Pakistan Railways Headquarters on Saturday (today).

About his department, he said Pakistan was the only country in the world where passenger trains were running in profit. “We have fulfilled our promise of running 38 trains including eight new fright trains within one year,” he claimed.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019