ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said on Wednesday that the Swiss ambassador should be asked to leave because the latter’s country was allowing its soil to be used for terrorism in Pakistan.
The remarks came after Law Minister Zahid Hamid, on behalf of the foreign minister, made a statement in the house about a ‘Free Balochistan’ poster campaign being run by a designated terrorist organisation — the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) — in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr Rabbani said the Foreign Office should take some serious steps and convey its reservations to the Swiss government in the strongest possible terms because “terrorism was being exported to Pakistan from Swiss soil”.
Law minister says India behind ‘Free Balochistan’ campaign in Geneva
He asked the Foreign Office to expel the Swiss envoy from Pakistan, amidst thumping of desks by members from both sides of the aisle. What was happening in Geneva was a clear violation of the international law and the UN charter, he observed.
Zahid Hamid informed the Senate that Pakistan’s mission in Geneva had observed last week that posters titled “Free Baluchistan” had been displayed in well-frequented areas of Geneva, sponsored by “Baluchistan House”. These included paper and digital posters as well as banners posted on public transport vehicles. The Baluchistan House is said to be an affiliate of the BLA.
“The display of such publicity material is a serious violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and of international law and the UN charter. In view of the connections which India maintains with Baloch separatist leaders, and the fact that a large amount of money has been spent, it is obvious that India is behind this campaign,” he said, adding that use of Swiss soil by terrorists and foreign-sponsored secessionists for nefarious designs against Pakistan was totally unacceptable.
The law minister said the Swiss government had been asked to be alert about the presence of BLA terrorists or elements linked with such terrorists in Geneva. He said that in his second communication with the Swiss authorities he had asked them to immediately remove the posters and banners from public places and transport vehicles and prevent such recurrence in future.
“This year’s poster campaign by the Baloch dissident elements is being conducted by the affiliates of a declared terrorist organisation. According to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, states are obligated to not support terrorists or their affiliates, associates or abettors. Allowing this campaign and use of Swiss land is not only an attack on Pakistan’s territorial integrity, but also a violation of the international law, UN charter and Security Council resolutions. As a country that hosts the UN headquarters it is Switzerland’s duty to ensure that nothing against the international law and UN charter is conducted on its territory,” he remarked.
He pointed out that this was not the first time that such a thing had happened in Geneva. In March, a Pakistani Christian Association had placed banners in Geneva against the “violation of Christians’ rights in Pakistan”. An ordinary NGO could not have the means to do this, he said, adding that the matter had been raised with the Swiss authorities who said there was freedom of expression in the country and this was not in violation of the Swiss law.
Mr Hamid said this time as well the Swiss authorities were taking no steps to get the posters removed.
At this, Mr Rabbani said: “They are doing nothing. What are you doing? How can they allow use of their soil for exporting terrorism to Pakistan?”
Malpractices in CAA department
Setting a precedent in the country’s parliamentary history, the Senate chairman decided that the entire house would take up the issue of breach of privilege arising out of an apparently misleading reply to the question about implementation of the recommendations of a board of inquiry into malpractices in the Aero Medical Department of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last year.
Speaking on his motion, Senator Farhatullah Babar waved a copy of the CAA’s letter on the subject conveying approval of its director general to certain actions to be taken in the light of recommendations of the board of inquiry.
He said that instead of taking action, incomplete replies were furnished to the house. It appeared to be a case of cover-up, protecting some individuals and misleading the house, he said and demanded that the matter be referred to the privileges committee.
Mr Rabbani placed the matter before the house and sought opinion of the members on whether it should be sent to the committee or dealt with by the house itself. After ascertaining the sense of the house, he referred the matter to the privileges committee and said the house would take a decision on it after the committee examined the witnesses and the record in two weeks. “I find that prima facie there is a breach of privilege,” he said and ordered that notices be issued to the Aviation Division secretary and the CAA director general.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad informed the house that according to the reply received, an officer found guilty of approving forged bills had been issued a show-cause notice, but the punishment awarded to him was merely a censure. Mr Rabbani and some members noted that this was not mere negligence, but a clear criminal act.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017