ISLAMABAD: The last stumbling block in redrafting terms of engagement with the United States, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was the centre of discussion at a late-night huddle of coalition partners at the Presidency on Tuesday.
The government decided to attempt once again to convince the JUI-F chief to take part in proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. Earlier on Tuesday, Fazl also met with the US Ambassador Cameron Munter.
“We will try to build consensus and approach the opposition parties. An attempt at the highest level will be made to persuade Fazl to rejoin the process,” a participant of the meeting at the Presidency told The Express Tribune.
Ruling party’s Khurshid Shah briefed the meeting about backdoor contacts with the opposition, and the progress made so far, he said.
The JUI-F, however, has been adamant that it would not take part in the process.
“It has been decided that the JUI-F chief will be asked to put forward party’s recommendations”, another participant said. It is likely that President Zardari himself takes initiative and holds a meeting with Fazl in a day or two, he added.
The president also took the coalition partners into confidence over his visit to India on Sunday.
JUI-F chief’s meeting with Munter
In his effort to reach out to parties delaying the parliamentary review to reset ties with the US, Ambassador Cameron Munter met the JUI-F chief on Tuesday to convince him to abandon his opposition to the resumption of NATO supplies.
The meeting took place at the residence of the JUI-F leader and lasted close to an hour.
Last week, Munter, and some other diplomats from Nato coalition countries, also met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to discuss the delay in the parliamentary review. The party has also taken a hard-line position initially but has, since then, shown flexibility.
US Embassy spokesperson termed the meeting between Munter and the JUI-F chief as ‘cordial and constructive.’ He did not, however, say if the envoy explicitly requested the JUI-F chief to drop his opposition to the reopening of NATO supply lines.
Fazl, meanwhile, attempted to play down the hype surrounding the meeting, and insisted there was no ‘specific agenda.’
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.