PPP questions ‘haste’ in decision to free Indian pilot

Updated March 02, 2019

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“Has India agreed to hold talks?” asks Senator Sherry Rehman. — AP/File
“Has India agreed to hold talks?” asks Senator Sherry Rehman. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) on Friday questioned the ‘haste’ in the decision to release the captured Indian pilot and asked if any terms had been decided behind the scenes for it.

Taking part in the discussion in the Senate on the tension between Pakistan and India, PPP parliamentary leader in the house Sherry Rehman said it had to be seen what message was coming from the other side. “Has India agreed to hold talks?” she asked.

Ms Rehman said she was not opposed to the release of the Indian pilot, but sought to know what Pakistan had asked for in return. She said social media suggested they (India) had given no quarter. “If we have not asked for anything, it is an immature diplomatic move”.

She pointed out that India had violated Pakis­tan’s airspace twice and as such it was an aggressor.

She said the United States was an ally of India and asking Pakistan to take action against terrorists. She said Pakistan had gain­ed a moral high ground but the Indian media’s attitude appeared to be childish.

550m gallons of polluted water flowing into sea in Karachi daily, minister tells Senate

Senator Rehman said that Indian response to the release of the pilot was inappropriate. “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending repeated telephone calls of PM Imran Khan,” she said, asking how the decision to release the pilot had been taken overnight. “And what India gave in response to that gesture…India should at least give a response to the PM’s calls.”

Taking part in the debate, former chairman of the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, referred to an article published in an international newspaper suggesting that Israel had a role to play in the heightened tension between India and Pakistan. He said the military and economic nexus of India was growing.

Besides the Indian prime minister’s campaign to win the elections, the US wanted to make India regional policeman in an attempt to contain China, Senator Rabbani said.

“The Pulwama incident should not be seen in isolation,” he said. “It is true that Modi’s election campaign is behind this escalation, but there are other factors as well.”

Describing the factors, he said that Indian intelligence agency — Research and Analysis Wing — had aided and abetted incidents of terrorism in Pakistan and then came India’s increasing violations of the Line of Control. “Then India avoided participating in the Saarc conference saying it cannot come in the shadow of terrorism,” Mr Rabbani said.

India had been propagating that Pakistan had terrorists’ havens, talking about violation of the Indus Waters Treaty and making efforts to get Pakistan placed on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force, he said. “And then it [India] says it can talk only on terrorism and not on Kashmir issue.”

“By seeing all these developments in juxtaposition, the lukewarm response of the US and other countries and the new strategic shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy, this all would have to be seen whether international forces are bent upon getting the supremacy of India accepted to some extent to make it policeman of the region,” he said.

Mr Rabbani said it had to be seen if attempts were being made to strengthen Indian dream of becoming a regional policeman and force Pakistan to “do more”.

Another PPP Senator, Rehman Malik, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had played a good card by taking the decision to release the Indian pilot. “We have shown courtesy,” he said.

Modi should have also shown courtesy of attending PM Khan’s phone call, he said and termed the gesture undiplomatic.

Mr Malik said the drama of the Pulwama attack had been staged by India under a well thought-out plan. He said there was a need to finalise a policy on Pakis­tan’s response in case aggression was imposed on it.

Talking about his ordeal, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Kamran Michael, who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Feb 8 in connection with a corruption case, said he was detained without any concrete evidence against him. “When NAB produced me before the court to get physical remand, the court refused to accept the bureau’s request and termed me a ‘so-called accused’.” He said the court even remarked that the judicial remand could not be given in a reference that had already been filed. He said he was arrested in a corruption reference that did not even include his name.

“Don’t give NAB the free hand to arrest lawmakers,” he said and requested the chair to refer his matter to the Senate’s law committee for a hearing.

PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi said the anti-corruption watch dog was not above the parliament and it should inform the house about the allegations against Mr Michael. NAB should be questioned why it arrested the senator — a formal federal minister — and the matter should be referred to the committee, he said.

Another party colleague of Mr Michael, Senator Saleem Zia, said neither the lawmaker’s name was included in any case nor was he part of any investigation.

Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi told the session that 550 million gallons chemical-infested polluted water was flowing into the sea in Karachi every day.

In addition, up to 7,000 tonnes of solid waste was being thrown in the ocean on a daily basis, he added.

He said only a single water treatment plant having the capacity of 70m gallons per day was working in Karachi and more treatment plants should be installed on the sites where water fell into the sea.

“You cannot even dip a finger in the water where people used to swim in the past,” Mr Zaidi said. He warned that if the situation persisted, foreign vessels would refuse to come to Karachi port.

The minister said he had requested the city mayor to look into the situation.

He said around 300 houses had been constructed on encroached land along the sea shore.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2019