ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties criticised the government in the National Assembly on Monday for not coming up with a clear stance on the situation arising out in the region because of the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran and called for a parliamentary briefing on the issue.
Speaking on a point of order soon after the question hour, Dr Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said that opposition parties were expecting a briefing by the government on the “serious conflict” between Saudi Arabia and Iran on Monday, but it appeared that the rulers were not worried about the situation at all.
“Muslim countries are on the verge of war and the government has adopted an irresponsible attitude,” she regretted.
Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Ahmed Shah termed the situation “alarming” for the whole region as well as Muslim countries and said Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz should have suspended all his activities and come to parliament to explain the official stance.
“Muslim countries are on the verge of war and the government has adopted an irresponsible attitude,” says PTI leader Shireen Mazari
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Shaikh said the government would give an official statement only after carefully examining the matter which was very “sensitive” in nature. “We need a little time. The government will come up with its statement after seriously reviewing the situation.”
PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi invited the attention of Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to the empty treasury benches, saying the low attendance demonstrated the government’s seriousness about the issue as well as parliament.
Mr Qureshi, who was foreign minister in the last PPP government, said at least the government should have informed them if it had established any contact with Saudi Arabia or Iran.
He said the opposition did not want to do political point-scoring on this sensitive issue.
The PTI leader said that people of Pakistan had religious affiliation with Saudi Arabia and they also considered Iran a brother country. He said a sizeable number of people belonging to the Shia community lived in Pakistan which was already facing “sectarian conflict”.
Mr Qureshi was of the view that Pakistan was in a position to play a role in defusing the situation in the Middle East. The government should arrange a briefing by the adviser on foreign affairs on Tuesday.
Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said Pakistan should play the role of a “mediator” instead of becoming a party to the conflict.
He criticised the government for not appointing a fully-fledged foreign minister, saying the adviser on foreign affairs was unable to play an active role due to his old age.
The MQM legislator said the government had not taken parliament into confidence on its decision to become a part of the 34-nation military alliance to fight terror. He said Pakistan should not participate in “proxy wars” for others.
Mr Siddiqui asked the government to declare an emergency, suspend all other work in parliament and discuss the situation which could become dangerous for the Muslim world and the region.
Jamaat-i-Islami’s parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah said the government should immediately send delegations to Iran and Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have visited Riyadh and Tehran, instead of going to Sri Lanka.
Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, who took the floor to give a policy statement on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, said the government was carefully watching and monitoring the situation in the Middle East. He said Pakistan had always played its role for Muslim unity.
He said Islamabad wanted to play a “positive role” to end the conflict between the two Muslim countries.
“The situation is still evolving and we are trying to pacify it. We do not want to take any step which can affect the situation,” Mr Iqbal said, adding that the adviser on foreign affairs would soon brief the house on the issue.
Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2016