By Sanjeev Sharma
Jamiat Ulema-e- Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a key leader of the Pakistan coalition government, cancelled a planned trip to India this week after tensions flared following Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a media report said.
Though there was no official confirmation that the chief of his own faction of the JUI-F and a coalition partner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government, was to travel to India on a four-day visit.
Fazl was to attend a religious congregation in Uttar Pradesh, according to reports. However, the visit, was called off following Bilawal's remarks that not only ignited fresh diplomatic row but also triggered protests in India against the Pakistani foreign minister, The Express Tribune reported.
The JUI-F chief's visit would have been the first by a prominent Pakistani politician in over four-years. Last time, a caretaker federal minister visited New Delhi in 2018 to offer condolences on behalf of Pakistan on the demise of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Fazl also visited India in the past but his latest trip would have been significant given the state of current relationship between the two neighbours, particularly in the wake of the renewed tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi in recent weeks, The Express Tribune reported.
Key cabinet ministers in recent days held back-to-back press conferences, accusing the Indian secret agency for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.
Islamabad also dispatched yet another dossier to the UN Security Council, containing "irrefutable evidence of India's involvement in terrorism" in Pakistan.
Also earlier this week, the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan engaged in a war of words that further deepened tensions. Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, while responding to Pakistan's dossier, said Pakistan had harboured Osama bin Laden.
Against this backdrop, sources said that the JUI-F chief cancelled his planned visit to India.
At a weekly news briefing, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch stressed the need for the resolution of all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India through dialogue. "However, in order to
pave the way for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue, India must take steps to create a positive environment in the region," the spokesperson added. (SJ/IANS)