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Opposition urged to review NAP briefing boycott decision

Updated March 22, 2019

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Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is seen in this file photo.— AFP/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is seen in this file photo.— AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday reaffirmed the government’s commitment to firmly deal with terrorism and asked the opposition parties to review their decision to boycott a briefing for the parliamentary leaders on progress made to attain objectives of the National Action Plan (NAP) for countering terrorism.

“Is it not the responsibility of the entire national leadership to sit together and deliberate on the difficult situation? I understand their political expediencies, but I’ll respectfully request them (the opposition parties) to review their decision. We are ready to discuss everything. One step at a time. Let us make a beginning,” Mr Qureshi said at a press conference at the Foreign Office.

He reminded the opposition about the latest escalation with India and the continuing challenges, particularly on the diplomatic front where India and its allies were planning to sponsor “a new resolution”. He did not elaborate the expected resolution, but it is apparently being planned in response to failure of the latest bid for the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a global terrorist. China had last week maintained its technical hold on the listing issue when it was raised at the UNSC Sanctions Committee.

Mr Qureshi recalled that the NAP enjoyed a “national consensus” and that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif had initially responded positively to the initiative of a briefing for parliamentary leaders. However, he regretted, they later changed their position.

Referring to PPP protest outside NAB offices, minister warns of firm action against lawbreakers

The minister said he had received written replies from the PPP and PML-N leaders in which they had declined to attend the briefing.

He said the opposition leaders wanted the entire parliament to be taken into confidence and not just the leaders of parliamentary parties. “We don’t have any objection to that, but we want to move in stages and first brief the leaders of the parties, who will convey the message to members of their parties before the discussion on the matter is initiated in the parliament,” he said.

Responding to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s criticism of what he sees as the government being soft on proscribed organisations, Mr Qureshi said he understood his “concerns”, but the matter preceded the PTI government’s six months in office. “We are just starting. We have clarity in our mind about tackling this issue,” he said and recalled the failure of the PPP and PML-N governments to address the issue.

The foreign minister criticised India for failing to mention that Muslims were victims of the Christchurch attacks and that two mosques had been targeted in its condemnation of the incident. “This shows their double standards,” he said.

He also lashed out at India for the acquittal of four Hindu extremists accused of involvement in Samjhauta Express bombing in which 44 Pakistanis had lost their lives. He said Swami Aseemanand, the principal accused, was acquitted despite having confessed to his role in the terrorist attack.

On the other hand, Mr Qureshi said, Delhi pointed fingers at Pakistan over the Pulwama attack without any proof and investigation, but luckily no one in the international community accepted its narrative. He, however, renewed Pakistan government’s offer to sincerely investigate the Pulwama attack.

MoUs on investment

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile Industry, Production and Investment Abdul Razzaq Dawood, speaking on this occasion, said about four memorandums of understanding on $900 million investment would be signed during the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, which started on Thursday. He said improved economic ties with Malaysia would provide an opening for Pakistani businessmen in South East Asia.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was also present at the press conference, took the opportunity to hit out at Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari. He said both Maryam Nawaz and the PPP leader were on ‘save the dad’ (Abbu Bachao) campaign to protect their fathers from accountability. He said the accountability process would continue despite opposition tactics.

Talking about the PPP protest outside National Accountability Bureau offices when Asif Zardari and his son went there in connection with the investigation in three graft cases, the minister said Mr Bhutto-Zardari was a national leader and should behave as such. He regretted the clash between police and PPP workers outside the NAB offices and said that police had demonstrated restraint.

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi, separately speaking at a press conference, made it clear that no one could be allowed to resort to violence for political gains.

He declared that firm action would be taken against those violating the law, irrespective of their status, as nobody was above the law. ‘‘No one will be allowed to blackmail the state. Whosoever will act against the law, the state would take action,” he said.

Iftikhar A. Khan has also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019