ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has sought cooperation of all regional players, including India, for the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, saying that the entire responsibility could not be placed on Pakistan alone.

“Since Indian presence is there [in Afghanistan], its cooperation is also required,” Mr Qureshi said while responding to a point of order raised by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) lawmaker Maulana Abdul Wasay on the opening day of the National Assembly’s sixth session on Monday.

Claiming to have achieved “some progress” in Afghan talks, the foreign minister disclosed that two or three meetings had been held in Qatar and the United Arab of Emirates. He said US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had earlier visited Islamabad thrice to hold consultations with Pakistan.

Mr Qureshi said although Pakistan was committed to facilitating a negotiated end to the 17-year-old Afghan war, it could not do so alone as it was a “shared responsibility” and that other regional countries, including India, Tajikistan and Iran needed to play their part.

He said US President Donald Trump had recently written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan requesting Pakistan to help and facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan. He said when Mr Khan was in the opposition, he (Khan) used to say that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict and peace in the war-torn country could only be restored through a political settlement. Today, he said, there was a convergence of opinion after more than 16 years that Afghanistan needed a political settlement through intra-Afghan dialogue and all key players, including the US, Afghanistan and the Taliban, were on board.

Qureshi welcomes JUI-F’s proposal for debate on foreign policy in parliament

About the opening of the Kartarpur border, the foreign minister expressed the hope that India would reciprocate the goodwill gesture shown by Pakistan. He said the corridor opening had created goodwill for the country at the international level.

Mr Qureshi, who faced strong reaction from his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj over his previous remarks about the Kartarpur border opening, said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unwillingly had to accept the Pakistani offer to open the border for Sikhs and they had to approve it through a resolution in their cabinet meeting.

He welcomed the JUI-F lawmaker’s proposal that the parliament should have a full-fledged debate on foreign policy.

Earlier, on a point of order, Maulana Abdul Wasay said that in response to the recent tweet by the US president against Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, the government stated that Islamabad had provided intelligence to the US about Osama bin Laden. He questioned previously the authorities used to say that the country’s security and intelligence agencies were aware neither of Osama’s presence nor the US military operation in Abbottabad. He said the latest statement of the government showed that Pakistan was not only aware of his whereabouts but also provided intelligence to the US and facilitate the OBL operation. The latest statement of the government had created doubts in the minds of the people of Pakistan, he said. Similarly, the nation was not clear if the country had fought its own war against terrorism as per claim of the previous government or it was an ‘imposed’ war as the present rulers called it, he said.

The JUI-F lawmaker said: “The parliament should be informed which policy is correct?” If the present policy was acceptable, then who was responsible for the killing of thousands of people including security personnel, civilians and politicians over the past 17 years, he asked.

Resolution

Meanwhile, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking the government to “ensure fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan”.

The resolution was read out by federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We should ensure freedom of speech, including freedom of press. We believe there is a dire need to reduce poverty and hunger in the country. Therefore, the state must ensure constitutional implementation of all obligations related to social and economic well-being of the people,” says the resolution.

“All political parties of this august house resolve to work together for prosperity, inter-faith harmony, minority rights, women empowerment, sustainable development and peace. We, both sides of the house, also resolve to strengthen democratic values, rule of law and human rights while reducing corruption, injustice and extremism in the country,” the resolution concludes.

As soon as the house passed the resolution, a lawmaker from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar took the floor and said on the one hand they were observing human rights day while on the other hand, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen had been barred from entering Balochistan. He said Mr Pashteen wanted to visit a camp set up by some activists on the issue of missing persons, but when he landed in Quetta he was informed that his entry to Balochistan had been banned for three months. “This is the state of human rights in the country,” Mr Dawar said.

He also recalled that he and another lawmaker from the tribal areas were offloaded from a Dubai-bound flight at Peshawar airport and were told that their names were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) for delivering a speech during a protest demonstration. On the one hand, he said, the law-abiding elected representatives were being barred from travelling abroad while on the other the entire state machinery had failed to bring back the person being tried under Article 6 for abrogating Pakistan’s Constitution.

Dr Mazari endorsed Mr Dawar’s point and said the government was making efforts that there should be no restriction on travel and protests within the ambit of the Constitution. She also announced that there would be some progress on the missing persons’ issue soon.

“Unnecessarily stopping someone from travelling, putting names on ECL and preventing someone from protests are wrong steps,” she said.

The minister for human rights, however, praised PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for taking notice of the restriction placed on Mr Pashteen’s entry to Karachi and directed his party-led Sindh government to remove the ban immediately.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018