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NA asks US to stop drone raids; session ends on sour note

December 21, 2013


— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government pushed through an opposition-less National Assembly a resolution on Friday calling for an immediate halt to deadly US drone strikes in tribal areas but ignored a similar demand by some allies about a military action there before ending a 16-day session on a sour note.

The one-sentence resolution, moved by the minister for Kashmir affairs and Gilgit and Baltistan, Birjees Tahir, came midway through a troubled sitting that lost more than an hour due to lack of quorum, as the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — continued their boycott of the house for a third day running to protest against the use of what they regarded as an offensive word by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

The resolution appreciated what it called efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government for the inclusion of a portion about the remotely-piloted aircraft in a comprehensive resolution on protecting human rights passed by the UN General Assembly on Wednesday — asking countries using these weapons to comply with international law — and called upon the United States to “immediately end drone strikes in Pakistan, which are against international law”.

Lawmakers of some smaller opposition parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the PTI-allied Jamaat-i-Islami and Qaumi Watan Party of a former interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, also voted for the resolution before Chaudhry Nisar praised them for not walking out and “realising their responsibilities” as he one again rejected the demand by the PPP and PTI to withdraw the Urdu word “tamasha” (fun) he used in a speech in the house on Wednesday to describe a PTI campaign in and out of parliament for thumb verification of voters in four key National Assembly constituencies in Punjab won by the PML-N in the May 11 general elections.

ADAMANT RIVALS: Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the PML-N had expressed his hope in the house on Thursday that “the situation will be better” on Friday, the last day of the session which began on Dec 5, after the government named a committee of three ministers to persuade the two parties to end their boycott.

But that did not happen, apparently because the opposition parties insisted on the withdrawal of the contentious word by the minister who, in turn refused to do that.

Chaudhry Nisar, who had taken the plea on Wednesday that he had used the word “tamasha” only about PTI’s activities outside, rather than inside, the house, seemed making a shift on Friday, apparently in view of a dismissed opposition demand for playing the tape of his speech, insisting that he had used a “parliamentary word”.

“It is the first time in Pakistan’s history that they insist on withdrawing a parliamentary word,” he said and claimed that the same word had been used in previous assemblies “hundreds of times”.

“Tomorrow they will demand withdrawal of a whole speech,” he remarked.

NORTH WAZIRISTAN CLASHES: Chaudhry Nisar nor any other minister responded to two apparently sentimental speeches by two lawmakers of government-allied groups complaining of civilians being killed by the military and bodies lying in streets and homes unburied in the latest fare-up in the troubled North Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas after a reported attack by Taliban militants on an army checkpost.

The army said on Thursday that 33 militants and one soldier were killed in two days of clashes after the militants attacked a roadside checkpost at Khajori in Mirali sub-division of North Waziristan.

But Maulvi Jamal Din of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, who condemned the militant attack, said “many innocent people” of the local population were being killed in the retaliatory army action, and demanded a halt to the operation and lifting of a curfew imposed there to allow burial of bodies.

The deputy speaker called the issue “very important” that he said merited a “serious notice” of the government, before a government-allied independent member from Fata, Nazir Khan, said “bombing is continuing even today” and demanded compensation for damages caused and those killed, who he said included people from the nearby Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Meanwhile, Mr Sherpao, whose Qaumi Watan Party left the PTI-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last month, was seen apparently warmly hugging four Jamaat members of the house who have not joined their PTI allies in the protest boycott, prompting some speculation about possible future political alliances in that province.