Parliamentary committee's next meeting on US allegations to include military leadership

Updated January 04, 2018

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National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq presides over a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.─DawnNews
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq presides over a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.─DawnNews

During a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security ─ convened on Thursday to discuss the allegations levelled by the United States against Islamabad ─ leaders decided to hold another session next week and extend invitations of attendance to the military leadership and defence institutions.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq presided over today's meeting which was called after US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of basing its relationship with the US on “nothing but lies and deceit”.

"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Trump had written in his tweet.

During today's meeting, the opposition had demanded that another session of the committee be called and an invitation be extended to the military leadership to attend.

Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah suggested that officials from the ministry of finance should also be invited to attend the next session.

"The next session should review the military and financial situation in the country," he said. "We cannot make decisions based on emotions but will have to give thought to the situation."

The next meeting of the committee is expected to be held on January 11.

Read more: A measured response

Earlier, as the session had begun, the NA speaker said that the meeting's focus will remain on matters concerning national security.

"National security is a matter of the country's survival. There is a need for unity on this issue," Sadiq added.

After Sadiq's remarks, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir briefed the committee on Trump's statements from the past week.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed and National Security Advisers Nasser Janjua were also present during the session.

All parliamentary parties were represented at the committee's meeting. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Shah Mehmood Qureshi, PPP's Sherry Rehman and former law minister Zahid Hamid were also in attendance.

'We must consider the larger picture'

After the committee's meeting concluded, PTI's Qureshi addressed the media and pointed out that the pressure that Washington is exerting on Pakistan will have implications on the entire region.

"We have to look at the situation in the Middle East, at relations between the US and Iran, and the border that Pakistan shares with Iran," he said. "We have to consider these things as they are part of the larger picture upon which our response must be formulated."

Qureshi added that Pakistan will have to see if Washington takes further action, what such action may entail and what the country's response to it will be.

"[Trump's statement] is of an unusual nature. We have to take it seriously," he said calling on the country to unite.

Referring to Washington's decision to cut military aid to Pakistan, Qureshi said that a solution to economic assistance can be found. He added that the figures put forward by Washington differ from the reality and that, during the fight against terror, Pakistan has taken up expenditures that the US is yet to reimburse.

"We don't make decisions about the future based on economic assistance," the PTI leader added.

'US owes Pakistan $9bn'

Also on Thursday, Dastagir said that, after 16 years of fighting terror, the US owed Pakistan $23 billion. He added that, of this amount, Pakistan has been paid $14bn and an amount of $9bn is pending.

The defence minister noted that there was a significant difference between the nature of talks held in Islamabad over the past months with diplomatic leaders from Washington, and the statements made by Trump on January 1.

He said that no threats were levelled against Pakistan during talks with American leaders. "The leaders spoke about engagement and trust building. Here [in Trump's statement], we see threats and contempt."

Dastagir said that it is necessary at this time to undertake a holistic review of the situation at hand.

Worsening relations

The US president's tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Washington and Islamabad since Trump announced his administration's latest national security strategy.

During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its 'obligation' to help America "because it receives massive payments" from Washington every year.

Read more: US-Pakistan relations hit a new low in 2017

"We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help," the US president had said.

A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take 'unilateral steps' in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.

Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan's Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has "put Pakistan on notice" in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.

Earlier this week, the White House confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, a move seen as the first step to implementing Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.