ISLAMABAD: Members of parliament — in both houses and on both sides of the aisle — came together to denounce former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, for what they called “maligning the country’s armed forces at the behest of anti-Pakistan elements”.

The most important remarks came from Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, who not only disassociated his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from the former ambassador, but even dubbed his recent article “an act of treason”.

“We should not give importance to people who commit treason while sitting abroad, despite being sons of the soil,” Mr Shah said after chairman of the foreign affairs committee, Awais Leghari of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), raised the matter in the assembly.

Mr Shah said that Mr Haqqani’s claim came at a time when efforts were afoot to isolate Pakistan at the international level.


Khurshid Shah terms ex-envoy’s article ‘act of treason’; opposition walks out over minister’s insinuations about slain PPP leader


He was of the view that Mr Haqqani had written this column to seek the attention of the new US administration and, therefore, “this person should not be given any importance”.

Mr Shah said the PPP government had replaced Mr Haqqani with Sherry Rehman as the ambassador in Washington when they realised that his appointment was no longer beneficial to the country.

Mr Leghari said that Mr Haqqani had stabbed the country in the back only to seek employment with the backing of some anti-Pakistan forces.

Mr Leghari said that at a time when even US generals were praising Pakistan’s efforts in the war against terrorism, the country’s former envoy was claiming that Islamabad was not committed to the fight against terrorists. He called on the PPP to rebut Mr Haqqani’s claim with full force.

Arif Alvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Sheikh Salahuddin of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) also expressed concern over Mr Haqqani’s latest tirade. The MQM MNA called to make the report of the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission public, so that the nation could know facts.

Former state minister for foreign affairs Khusro Bakhtyar said the PPP must admit that Mr Haqqani was a bad choice for such a key position.

In the adjacent Senate, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar responded when the issue was raised by Nehal Hashmi of the PML-N.

Mr Hashmi sought an explanation from former president Asif Ali Zardari over Mr Haqqani’s claim regarding the issuance of visas to Americans who, according to Mr Haqqani’s article, may have proved helpful in tracing Osama bin Laden.

Mr Hashmi said that the former US ambassador had claimed that CIA had been allowed to carry out its operations in Pakistan under the previous PPP government.

“Who are people like Haqqani working for? No one can be allowed to target Pakistan’s army and agencies while sitting in the US and New Delhi,” he said.

Responding to the PML-N senator, PPP’s Farhatullah Babar said Mr Haqqani was doing all this in his personal capacity.

The PPP senator said that he was not a spokesperson for Mr Haqqani and would not say anything about him or his article. He said he would confine his remarks to the extent of the questions raised about Mr Zardari.

Mr Babar said all visas issued to US nationals under the PPP tenure were given in accordance with the laid-down procedure involving various state agencies and no irregularity whatsoever was committed.

Walkout

Earlier, PPP members staged a walkout from the National Assembly to register their protest over the remarks made by Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali about the recent attacks on PPP workers and leaders in Punjab.

Soon after Question Hour, Khurshid Shah drew the attention of the house towards the murder of PPP activist Sohail Butt in Lahore on Sunday, alleging that the slain leader had complained that he was being coerced into joining the PML-N.

Mr Shah said that PPP leader Shaukat Basra had earlier been attacked in Bahawalnagar. Terming it “state-sponsored terrorism”, Mr Shah regretted that the Punjab government had taken no action against the culprits so far and no inquiry report had been issued.

The minister from Faisalabad, however, denied that the PML-N was pressuring opponents to defect, and claimed that the attack on Mr Basra was the result of a personal enmity.

Mr Shah said that instead of assuring the opposition members that action would be taken against the culprits, the minister was terming the two incidents a result of infighting.

At this, all opposition members walked out of the house, leaving behind Nauman Shaikh to point out quorum.

The proceedings remained suspended for 20 minutes when Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi found the house lacking quorum for which the presence of minimum of 86 members of the 342-member assembly.

Some of the members also spoke on the circulation of blasphemous content on social media, calling on the interior ministry and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to take stern action against the responsible persons and the management of the social media websites.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2017

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