ISLAMABAD: The government has been asked to explain if there are any conditions restricting the use of F-16 fighter jets amid reports that the US is investigating if Pakistan ‘misused’ American-made F-16s during a recent aerial engagement with India.
“What is the use of the F-16 jets if they cannot be used for self-defence?” former chairman of the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said during the proceedings of the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, asking the government to explain if any conditions were attached to the use of F-16s.
He recalled the remarks made by former vice chief of air staff Air Marshal Shahid Latif, who had signed the agreement of purchase of latest 18 F-16 Block-52 from Washington in 2008, that no India-specific condition was attached in this defence deal.
Pakistan had stated that no F-16s were used in the operation, though it had not specified what military equipment was involved.
FIR to be registered over killing of Pakistani prisoner in Indian jail, Senate told
Mr Rabbani lashed out at India for its war hysteria and intrusions into Pakistan and said that “message they are taking from Israel is that you can violate international border and international law while looking for so-called terrorists”. He said the same was done by Israel against Arab countries.
He said the government needed to reassess and re-evaluate the foreign policy of Pakistan. “The recent shift in foreign policy alignment doesn’t seem to have borne fruit as the Abu Dhabi Declaration of the OIC in its 50 points does not talk about Indian aggression against Pakistan. The resolutions that were passed with reference to Indian terrorism in Kashmir were sponsored by Pakistan”.
Senator Rabbani said there might have been a flurry of activity in foreign capitals, including Washington, for de-escalation of the tension between Pakistan and India, but at the end of the day it was an activity full of sound and fury signifying nothing. “Despite Pakistan being a victim of Indian aggression, the emphasis was for us to do more,” he regretted.
The PPP stalwart advised the government to constitute a joint committee of parliament to look into the emerging situation in the region and form a policy. “The situation is dangerous,” he warned.
He said that it was also condemnable that India, which termed itself a leader of human rights, had handed over the “decapitated” body of a Pakistani prisoner to Pakistan. “We should tell the world what the leader of human rights is doing,” he said.
Mr Rabbani said the designs of India and its strategic partners, the US and Israel, were long term and dangerous in the region and the parliament should look into this matter and take a step.
Senator retired Gen Abdul Qayyum of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said there was no restriction on the use of F-16 jets. “We had given hard cash to purchase these aircraft,” he remarked.
He said that Pakistan should appeal to the United Nations Security Council to summon an emergency meeting as Indian aggression had become a threat to world peace. He said that under Article 94 of the UN charter, its secretary general could convene a meeting of the Security Council when world peace was in danger.
PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman assailed the government for its “failure” to raise the issue of Indian violation at international forums and said there was a compete silence from the government side.
Winding up the debate, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said he was unaware whether any agreement existed between Pakistan and the US regarding F-16s. “I will inform the house soon if such a deal exists.”
He said the India submarine intruded into Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone up to 90 nautical miles and the intrusion was foiled. “We are carrying out surveillance and if it is detected in Pakistan’s waters again, we will take action,” he said.
Case to be registered against India
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari told the house that according to the Foreign Office, Pakistan was going to register a case against the jail superintendent for killing Pakistani prisoner Shakirullah, who was allegedly beaten to death by other inmates at India’s Jaipur Central Jail.
“Pakistan has also sent a complaint to the International Committee of the Red Cross,” she added. She said that the government would pay compensation to the family of the victim if parliament passed a resolution. “I have proposed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to revive the joint judicial committee comprising retired judges of Pakistan and India to examine living conditions of prisoners languishing in both countries,” she said.
The committee has been dysfunctional since 2013.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2019