ISLAMABAD, Jan 22: Pakistan will take up the issue of drone attacks on its territory with the US ambassador here and officials in Washington, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Tuesday.
Making a brief policy statement in the Senate in response to concerns expressed by members of the house over a US bill allowing the CIA to continue drone strikes inside Pakistan, she said the attacks were not only a violation of the country’s sovereignty but also against international laws.
She said the issue had repeatedly been raised with top US officials, but no explanations were given on CIA’s statement about continuing drone strikes inside Pakistan.
She said so far only media reports suggested that the CIA had been allowed to continue drone strikes inside Pakistan, but if reports about the US Congress giving blanket powers to the CIA were correct, the matter would be raised with the United States at all levels.
The matter had been raised in the house on Monday and the minister was called to respond to the views expressed by members.
The other issues raised on Tuesday were imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan and a ban on recruitment placed by the Election Commission.
The imposition of governor’s rule created fissures in the house with some members demanding its reversal and others justifying it.
The issue was raised by Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F who termed it as an ambush on the democratically elected government of the province and announced that his party would boycott the proceedings till the decision was reversed.
Before walking out of the house, he said the imposition of governor’s rule had not ended target killings and dumping of mutilated bodies.
“Is the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa better than in Balochistan?” he asked. He pointed out that 104 people had been killed in a single bomb explosion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He also mentioned the unabated killings in Karachi and the sit-in staged by Tahirul Qadri in Islamabad and asked why a step-motherly treatment was being meted out to Balochistan.
Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch said the Balochistan Assembly had been suspended for two months and claimed that the step had not been taken because of the protest by the Hazara tribe, but due to financial irregularities and mis-governance.
He said the JUI-F had on record held provincial ministers responsible for kidnappings for ransom.
He said it was the president’s discretion to take the action. He was, however, immediately corrected by Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari who observed that it was not the president’s discretion but the step had been taken under Article 234 of the Constitution on a report sent by the governor of Balochistan.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, who is spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, also said the action had been taken on a report from the governor that had reached him through the prime minister.
Some members, including Mukhtiar Ahmad Dhamra and Kulsoom Parveen, criticised ECP’s decision to ban fresh recruitments and said the commission could do so only after announcement of the election schedule. They were of the view that giving jobs was the duty of the government.
Senator Muzaffar Shah of the PML-F expressed surprise over the announcement of the schedule for by-elections in Sindh and Punjab at a time when only about 50 days were left for the assemblies’ term to expire and those elected might not even be able to take oath.
He proposed an amendment to the Representation of People Act for banning by-elections when less than six months remained in the life of an assembly.
DEVOLUTION: Speaking on a point of order PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani said some vested interests in the government wanted to obstruct devolution.
He pointed out that although the subject of education had been devolved, the ministry of vocational training had been renamed as ministry of education and training without the cabinet’s approval.
Leader of Opposition Ishaq Dar said there was a clear plan to hijack and reverse the devolution process.
Ilyas Bilour of the ANP said efforts were under way to sabotage the 18th Amendment since the day it had been adopted. “We will chop off the hand which tries to take away the devolution process,” he warned.
INVESTIGATION BILL: The Investigation for Fair Trial Bill, already passed by the National Assembly, is most likely to sail through the Senate on Wednesday when the house meets at 10.30am. The bill is the only significant business on agenda of the house for Wednesday.