LAHORE    -   The maiden meeting of a government delegation with the JUI-F leaders, scheduled for Sunday evening in Islamabad to discuss long march or sit-in in the federal capital, was cancelled at the eleventh hour as the opposition’s driving force – Maulana Fazlur Rehman – has decided to refer the matter to the ‘Rehbar Committee’, a body of leaders from different parties, to take it onboard. This committee will meet on Tuesday.

The JUI-F chief has, apparently, done this to gain time to address the complaints of the PPP which feels annoyed because of the Maulana’s party’s support to the PTI candidate in a recent by-election on a provincial seat in Larkana. The PPP, despite being in power for the past 11 years, lost the seat to the GDA candidate. This provided enough political munition to the rivals to raise fingers at the performance of the PPP government and its failure to win hearts and minds of voters in the power bases of the Bhuttos. The defeat of the PPP candidate has caused tremendous embarrassment to Bilawal, who is leading the party in the absence of his incarcerated father and is the future of the party. Also, the JUI-F’s support to the GDA contestant has left little justification for the PPP to support the Maulana’s anti-government initiative.

The Maulana cannot afford to keep the PPP out of the opposition. A joint decision by Rehbar Committee will bring all opposition parties on the same platform for the same agenda.

While the talks are yet to begin, the PTI has already rejected the opposition’s demand for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation before talks. The ruling party leaders argue that if the PM has to resign before the talks then what will the opposition discuss with the government team.

Political observers say that outcome of negotiations will be a test of the far-sightedness and negotiations skills of the leaders of the two sides. These are the parties, whether in government or opposition, that are supposed to work out a strategy to get the besieged Kashmiris their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN resolutions. If they failed to find a solution to the prevailing domestic crisis through talks, nobody will be ready to believe that they will be able to defeat enemy India through diplomacy on the Kashmir issue.

The government as well as the opposition parties must bear in mind the lurking Indian threat. They should try to find a basis to avert the long march or sit-in as such a protest will further divide the nation at a time when unity is needed and shake the already groggy economy.

All leaders should remember that Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had recently asked Pakistan to change the direction of their thinking or else they will be divided into several parts. Speaking at a rally in Haryana, he said “I would like to suggest Pakistan work honestly, eliminate terrorism and maintain brotherhood. We are neighbours and we want to walk together. If you don’t fight terrorism honestly, I clearly state that India has the ability to fight fundamentalist forces,” he said.

Referring to a recent speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan that Pakistan will continue to raise the Kashmir issue at international forums, the Indian defence minister said: “Forget about Kashmir, don’t even think about it. Raise the matter, nothing will happen. No one can exert pressure on us,” he said.

A few years ago Indian Prime Minister Modi had said in a televised address that he would separate Balochistan from Pakistan.

In view of the enemy’s designs the PTI-led coalition and the opposition should show maximum flexibility and find a solution to the prevailing crisis.

As a matter of principle it was the parliament’s prerogative to discuss the situation at length and come up with a solution. But since top leaders of opposition parties like Mian Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman are not part of parliament and former president Asif Zardari, in spite of being an MNA, is behind bars, the decisions have to be taken by other leaders in the field. The treasury has failed to refer the matter to parliament because of which it stands bypassed.

Now all eyes are focused on the future moves of those whose duty is to steer the country out of any crisis.