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ISLAMABAD: Referring to the reports suggesting that the Results Transmission System of the Election Commission of Pakistan ‘never crashed’, PPP leader Sherry Rehman has called for an ‘open discussion’ on the RTS fiasco in the Senate.

Speaking during a Senate session on Tuesday, the journalist-turned-politician, who was leader of the opposition in the upper house of parliament until recently, also talked about other issues related to the recently held general elections, economy and governance.

Ms Rehman said parliament needed to play a vibrant role and thoroughly discuss significant issues in the post-controversial polls scenario, and also referred to the demand made by new Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq for formation of a parliamentary commission to probe alleged rigging in the elections.

Claiming that results of various constituencies had been changed, she stressed that solution to the problems should be found in the interest of the system.

Efforts will be made to improve ties with US during Pompeo’s coming visit, but ‘national interest will remain paramount’, says FM Qureshi

Ms Rehman also talked about the suspension of the Pakpattan district police chief following his refusal to apologise to Khawar Maneka, former husband of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi, and asked the government to explain what had actually happened, but no minister chose to respond.

Referring to the next meeting of the Financial Action Task Force scheduled for Aug 30, she said Pakistan was “faced with a threat in this matter as well”.

She questioned the government’s claims of doing away with media censorship, saying that there was no evidence of it on the ground.

“Perhaps the single most important question that needs to be resolved on an emergency basis is how the very big external financing requirement for this year will be met,” she tweeted while referring to the finance minister’s indication in the Senate that the gap was too large to be met by foreign direct investment and recourse to the International Monetary Fund was on the cards.

Earlier, Finance Minister Asad Umar termed ‘unwarranted’ the US statement warning against any “IMF bailout to Pakistan that helps China”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview last month said his country looked forward to engagement with Pakistan’s expected new prime minister Imran Khan, but there was “no rationale” for a bailout that pays off Chinese loans to Pakistan. “Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” he remarked.

Mr Umar said that no decision had been taken yet to approach the IMF, but indicated that the option was being mulled, adding that it “would not be something new if we go to the IMF as Pakistan has done it for a dozen times in the past”.

The foreign minister said the process for announcement of the National Finance Commission award would commence soon.

Time to move on

Observing that it was time to move on, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan would try to steer its bilateral relations with the US towards betterment during the coming visit of the US secretary of state to Pakistan.

Speaking in the Senate, he promised that his ministry would keep in mind the opinion of the Pakistani nation and their elected representatives in the quest for improved ties with Washington, and said national interest would remain paramount.

The US secretary of state would arrive in Islamabad on Sept 5, Mr Qureshi said.

About the telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of State Pompeo, he said the readout of the US State Department on the conversation was contrary to the facts.

Mr Pompeo had phoned the prime minister to greet him on assuming office. The controversy erupted with the readout of the conversation issued by the US State Department which claimed that “Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process”.

The foreign minister said the conversation between Prime Minister Khan and Mike Pompeo was very cordial, constructive and engaging in nature and what the US State Department claimed did not figure at all during the call.

He said he was aware that the US had stood by its press release, but “it is not true. Mistakes happen”.

Mr Qureshi said he would take guidance from parliament in formulation of Pakistan’s foreign policy. “The views of the Senate will help me in conveying my standpoint to foreign governments,” he said, adding that foreign and security policies must be above all political differences.

Mr Qureshi said the country’s relationship with the US was important and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government would like to have a constructive engagement with Washington by building on the convergences in the relationship.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2018