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GOVERNMENT ministers, leaders of opposition parties and common Pakistanis spoke with one voice on Tuesday against violation of the country’s airspace by Indian aircraft. (Clockwise from top) Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses a press conference as Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Finance Minister Asad Umar look on; people shout slogans against India during a demonstration in Peshawar; and, opposition leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Ahsan Iqbal leave the parliament after asserting on the floor of the house that the nation was united in the face of aggression.—Agencies
GOVERNMENT ministers, leaders of opposition parties and common Pakistanis spoke with one voice on Tuesday against violation of the country’s airspace by Indian aircraft. (Clockwise from top) Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addresses a press conference as Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Finance Minister Asad Umar look on; people shout slogans against India during a demonstration in Peshawar; and, opposition leaders Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Ahsan Iqbal leave the parliament after asserting on the floor of the house that the nation was united in the face of aggression.—Agencies

ISLAMABAD: After days of bickering in the National Assembly, the treasury and opposition members on Tuesday displayed a rare unity in denouncing violation of the Line of Control (LoC) by India and extending their fullest support to the country’s armed forces.

Although a majority of the members from both sides of the aisle in their speeches kept on repeating that they would not do political point-scoring in the prevailing situation when the country was in a state of war, a few members even used the occasion to indirectly hit out at each other’s leadership.

Speaking in the Senate, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the government on the demand of the opposition had agreed to convene a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday.

He further said that after a meeting of the National Command Authority on Wednesday (today), the parliamentary leaders and heads of the parties would also be given an in-camera briefing on the situation.

Joint session of parliament tomorrow

The minister also told the National Assembly that either Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi or Defence Minister Pervez Khattak would soon come to the house to brief the members about the incident and the decisions taken at a high-level security meeting which was in progress under Prime Minister Imran Khan at that time. However, none of the two ministers came to the house during the proceedings which continued for nearly five hours.

At the outset of the sitting, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Syed Khurshid Shah said that Prime Minister Imran Khan should himself come to the house to give proof that the decisions would be made by the parliament. He also suggested that a meeting of all political leaders, including those not represented in parliament, should also be called immediately to take them into confidence over the situation.

“India is not a weak country and it can take more similar actions,” Mr Shah warned. “If needed, the opposition parties will be at the borders with the armed forces. Pakistan has the ability to dictate India,” he said.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former foreign minister Khawaja Asif urged all the parties to “put on a united front” in the face of India’s intrusion saying that “our country, our sovereignty, our integrity are under threat”.

He said it was the need of the hour that they should show solidarity with the army. He said it was a time when the political parties should “suspend their differences for some time”.

Mr Asif slammed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for inviting Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as a ‘guest of honour’ in its meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi next month and termed it an “insult” of the country. He suggested that Pakistan should boycott the OIC meeting.

“It is an insult that our enemy is being invited as a ‘guest of honour’ by a country friendly to us at a time when Kashmiris are facing bloodshed. It has not happened in the last 45 years,” he asserted.

Former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq also asked the government to raise this issue with the OIC, saying that the group had “no power to invite India without seeking the consent of member states”.

Another ex-speaker Fakhar Imam said time had come when the country should decide if it wanted “to live with honour or otherwise”. He said an appropriate action should have been taken when the US Seals had carried out an operation in Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden. But then, he said, they had certain limitations.

Ijaz Shah of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said they were discussing a very sensitive issue without receiving any briefing from the government. He said there was a difference between “violation and intrusion” as India had already committed some 1,000 violations of the LoC since Narendra Modi came to power. He said that Pakistan should not fall in the trap of the Indian prime minister who wanted to create war hysteria for domestic political gains and they should not make his plan successful.

PML-N leader and former defence minister Khurram Dastagir said last time the Indian aircraft had entered Pakistan’s territory in 1971. He said Pakistan could not afford more intrusions. He regretted that no one from the government had come to brief them as to what had actually happened in Balakot as the Indian media was making huge claims.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza condemned the violation of LoC in dead of the night and said India was taking not only the region but the whole world towards instability. She said India was creating war hysteria due to upcoming elections in that country.

She said that India was doing this out of frustration because of the successful foreign policy of the present government. She said even the leaders from India-held Kashmir, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were now stating that the Kashmir movement was indigenous.

Reading out a written statement, Speaker Asad Qaiser said the Parliament of Pakistan had expressed its complete solidarity with the brave armed forces by standing like a rock with them, rising above political, personal and ideological differences. He said the parliament wanted to make it loud and clear that every inch of the motherland would be defended till the last breath.

He said the cowardly attack by Indian air force in the dead of the night on February 26 had exposed the aggressive designs of India which was facing internal chaos and had damaged prospects of hope for permanent peace in the region.

He said Pakistani nation desired peace, calm and progress in the region but as a custodian of National Assembly, which was collective voice of the nation, wanted to say that any external aggression would be met with an iron hand and every Pakistani completely stood for defence of the country.

He said the international community should immediately take notice of the worsening situation in South Asia and take stock of the precarious conditions of innocent and oppressed Kashmiris.

Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the strategies to deal with the sensitive matters should be devised by the parliament. She regretted that the parliament had been made a debating society. She recalled that during the previous government of the PPP, they had convened joint sittings of parliament after the Abbottabad incident and the attack by the US on Salala check-post. She said when parliament took a decision to block Nato supplies no one could exert pressure on the country since it was the decision of the parliament.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2019