ISLAMABAD: Pakistan must break alleged links with any Afghan insurgents if it is to adhere to Article 40 of the Constitution, said an opposition lawmaker in the Senate on Friday.
Opposition lawmakers were expressing their views during a debate in the Senate on a motion on foreign policy moved by Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Opposition senators called for ending ‘duplicity’ in foreign policy formulation and stressed on the need to retrieve the ground lost by civilians to the security establishment over the past decades.
Senators called for a serious rethink of policy formulation in the light of realities emerging as a result of political transitions last year taking place in Pakistan’s neighbouring countries, including China and Iran, and now Afghanistan and India.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the basis of foreign policy formulation is laid out in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Reading out Article 40, he said that if we have to adhere to them we must break alleged links with any Afghan insurgents and stop the ability of Afghan fighters to seek refuge in Pakistan.
“A stable and democratic civilian government leading foreign policy formulation would be welcomed by all parties, as compared to the security establishment leading it without any accountability,” he said.
“Duplicity in policy making is too obvious. While the prime minister has kept the portfolio of the foreign minister with himself, there is an advisor and a special assistant. Besides, a federal minister and chief minister Punjab articulate independent foreign policy issues without referring to the foreign office,” he said.
“CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif even went as far as signing a joint declaration with the chief minister of Indian Punjab,” Babar added.
“While there is no issue with promoting people-to-people contacts, it should have been done by the foreign office and not by the chief minister. This will encourage different organs of the state pursuing their own agendas.”
“Although the government has said several times that Pakistan will not take sides in the Syrian civil war, suspicion has been lingering that non-state actors are being encouraged to move to Syria and the Middle East with weapons and armaments,” he added.
Babar also recalled how a former head of a security agency had publicly claimed clandestinely shipping weapons to Bosnia in violation of the UN ban, earning him the ire of the US.
He said that in a recent television talk show, the finance minister said that if people went to Bahrain and Syria then it should be seen an “employee-employer relationship” that has nothing to do with the government.
He warned against letting such ‘relationships’ run to such an extent that Pakistan is “sucked into another Afghanistan, this time in the Middle East.”
Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik also called for an urgent in-camera briefing by the government on security and foreign policy.
Senator Afrasaib Khattak said the security situation in the neighbouring Afghanistan is fragile and Pakistan has to quickly frame its policy keeping in view fluid developments in the region.
Senator Hasil Bizenjo cautioned the government over activities of elements hostile to Pakistan trying to disturb relations with Iran. “Iran has a great role in the region therefore Pakistan must maintain good ties with the country,” he said.