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ISLAMABAD: The Parlia­mentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Tuesday called for long-term planning on foreign policy issues and addressing internal weaknesses to improve the country’s image at the international level.

The committee met to discuss the United States’ new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, the national response, and the strategy for dealing with challenges on the external front. The parliamentary body met in-camera for a little less than four hours with National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq in the chair.

Through separate resolutions both houses of parliament had earlier rejected President Donald Trump’s policy statement. The Natio­nal Assembly had even called for reviewing cooperation with the US on Afghanistan.

The National Security Committee, which is the top body for civil-military coordination on foreign policy and security issues, is separately leading a policy review process, which would take into account the recommendations of the recently held envoys’ conference and the suggestions from parliament.

“A new paradigm” would emerge “keeping in view our relations and conditions and after making necessary adjustments, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had said to media on Thursday at the conclusion of the envoys’ conference.

Talking to journalists after the PCNS meeting, Mr Sadiq said there was consensus that a long-term policy needed to be formulated after taking all stakeholders into confidence.

The members, he said, were of the unanimous opinion that ‘weak areas’ within the country needed to be tackled. He did not elaborate which ‘weak areas’ were of concern to the legislators.

The new US policy has accused Pakistan of not fully uprooting terrorist sanctuaries from its soil and selectively targeting the terrorists. The allegation is not new as such and has long been a major irritant in relations not only with the US, but also with Afghanistan.

Mr Sadiq said the committee comprising parliamentary leaders gave several recommendations about ties with the US. He, however, avoided commenting on the suggestions of the committee members.

“The committee was divided. Some wanted an aggressive response, while others were in favour of keeping the door open for negotiations,” he said, adding that the issue would ultimately have to be resolved through dialogue.

The members were also interested in knowing about the outcome of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s outreach to the countries in the region.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017

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