ISLAMABAD: A federal minister sought on Monday to draw world attention to the dangers of nuclear rivalry between Pakistan and India as lawmakers in the National Assembly, across party lines, blamed India for the recent spate of cross-border clashes along the disputed Jammu and Kashmir.
But the Minister for States and Frontier Regions, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, stressed that he was not making a threat after he said countries possessing nuclear capability would “not keep it merely in cold storage” but could use it “in time of need”.
However, he promised a “matching response” to what he called India’s “aggressive policy” while opening the debate on a motion moved by Kashmir Affairs Minister Chaudhry Birjees Tahir over what was described as indiscriminate Indian firing and shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the Jammu and Kashmir and what is called working boundary between Indian-held Jammu and Pakistan’s Sialkot and Narowal districts.
The series of clashes, which have so far claimed more than 20 civilian lives, 13 on the Pakistani side, since early this month, have been some of the most serious violations of a 2003 ceasefire between the two sides.
Mr Baloch, who said he had served along the LoC for seven years while in the army, accused India of seeking to complicate matters and incite Pakistan, but said this “serious situation” could not be mtade an excuse for war.
“One thing that the entire world should realise that we both are nuclear powers,” he said of India and Pakistan, adding that “we have kept our (nuclear) capability with utmost responsibility”.
But he warned India not to “remain in the misunderstanding” that Pakistan would treat New Delhi’s “aggressive policy” with total silence.
“If any countries possess any capability for their defence, they don’t keep it only in cold storage,” he said, adding: “This capability can be used in time of need.”
However, while saying this should not be taken as a threat, Mr Baloch said: “We will not let our unarmed people become target (of Indian forces) any longer.”
Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid described his constituency’s Pasrur area of Sialkot district as one of the hardest hit by Indian shelling, which, he said fell up to 5km inside the Pakistan territory.
Assuring support to the armed forces in meeting the challenge, Asif Hasnain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Azra Fazal Pechuho of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari, praised what they called a government policy of restraint against provocations, which the PPP member said reflected a “confrontation mode” against Pakistan of the present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India.
Khusro Bakhtiar, a back-bencher of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, said the BJP was likely to continue this “orchestrated” policy until the next state assembly elections in Indian-held Kashmir after benefiting from it in some other recent state elections.
SALUTE TO MALALA: Earlier, the house unanimously adopted a government-moved resolution congratulating Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai on sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with an Indian campaigner against child trafficking and labour, Kailash Satyarthi, and saluting the Swat valley girl’s “struggle and sacrifice for the cause of girls’ education”.
But while other lawmakers enthusiastically cheered the resolution by desk-thumping, some members of the opposition Jamaat-i-Islami, sat unmoved in their seats, seeming unwilling to share what the resolution called the “great pride” of the house in the worldwide acknowledgement of Malala’s achievement.
But there was no “no” vote as the resolution was put to the house and was declared by Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as adopted unanimously.
SIT-INS IGNORED: Unexpectedly, the house ignored the protest ‘dharnas’ of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
Both the National Assembly and the Senate, separately and then in a joint session, have been debating ‘dharnas’ until they went into a recess on Sept 19.
But on the opening day of the new National Assembly session on Monday, no lawmaker from either side of the house, talked of the ‘dharnas’, nor of the pending resignations sent by at least 30 PTI members of the house to the speaker.
A PTI ally, Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, appeared in the house for a while and tried to raise the issue of a one-month ban imposed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority on anchor Mubashir Lucman of the private ARY television network from appearing in any programme. But the speaker gave him a short shrift.
Published in Dawn, October 21st , 2014