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Rabbani objects to Tillerson’s tone

October 25, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has termed remarks made about Pakistan by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Afghanistan “unacceptable for parliament” and asked Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif to brief the upper house of parliament on Washington’s demands.

“He [Mr Tillerson] has come here for talks, but his tone and tenor are inappropriate,” Mr Rabbani observed on Tuesday, adding that the US official seemed to be “behaving like a viceroy”.

He urged the US secretary to go through the resolution adopted by parliament on Pak-US relations.

Mr Tillerson’s statement, he said, suggested that some conditions had been set for Pakistan. The foreign minister should now brief the house on these conditions.

At one point during the Senate session, he raised the issue of across-the-board accountability and referred to a letter sent by him to the Parliamentary Committee on National Accountability Law, recommending that all state functionaries, including judges and generals, should be held accountable under one law.

Asks foreign minister to brief Senate on US demands

He said that his view remained unchanged and stressed that even if having such a law was not possible for the time being, his opinion should be mentioned in the minutes of the committee.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid said he had placed the letter before the committee. “We were making efforts to get it passed unanimously, but due to the position taken by a party it appears this would not happen,” he said.

Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party proposed replacement of the six-year-old Commission on Enforced Disappearances with a new one, and said the recovered persons should be allowed to depose in the Senate committee in confidence.

Speaking on an issue of public importance, he said that journalist Zeenat Shahzadi and rights activist Punhal Sario were released from captivity last week but were too scared to talk about their ordeal, like all those who had gone through similar experiences.

“It is the responsibility of the state to reassure these hapless people,” Mr Babar said and proposed that the human rights committee invite some of them to record their statements in camera.

The committee’s members should make a declaration on oath that they would not divulge the statements in public, he said. Such statements would add to the body of information on the matter and might allow the parliamentarians to discreetly address the increasing cases of missing persons.

While the efforts made by the Commission on Enforced Disappearances had resulted in tracing the whereabouts of a large number of missing persons, it had failed to perform two most important functions — fixing responsibility on individuals or organisations responsible for the disappearances and registering FIRs against them, he said.

The senator also called for making the report, prepared by a similar committee set up in 2010 that worked for just one year, public.

On the issue of accountability, he said that parliament had the unique opportunity to remove the glaring anomalies in the existing National Accountability Bureau law, which had been “misused for political re-engineering”.

“If this opportunity that has presented itself is lost, parliament will have no one but itself to blame.”

The Senate passed a bill aimed at providing a mechanism for public interest disclosures and protection of persons making such disclosures. The Public Interest Disclosures Bill was tabled by Law Minister Hamid, who observed that the legislation would help prevent corruption and corrupt practices.

The bill defines “disclosure” as a complaint relating to wilful misuse of power of discretion that causes substantial loss to the government or leads to a wrongful and hefty gain to a public servant or a third party, commission of or attempt to commit an offence of corruption or corrupt practices and includes an offence committed through electronic mail or device.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017