Iran engaged to curb militants’ cross-border movement: FM

Updated 03 May 2019

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The foreign minister said the government was ready to sit with the opposition parties to bring positive changes in the laws related to NAB. ─ DawnNewsTV/File
The foreign minister said the government was ready to sit with the opposition parties to bring positive changes in the laws related to NAB. ─ DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the National Assembly on Thursday Pakistan had positively engaged Iran to curb the cross-border movement of militants.

Pakistan had a 905-kilometre border with Iran and wanted to keep it peaceful, the foreign minister said.

Mr Qureshi said certain elements were trying to hurt the relationship between the two countries by carrying out terrorist activities in both countries. He said he had met the Iranian foreign minister four times — twice in Islamabad and one time each in Tehran and Istanbul. In these meetings, they discussed the “border challenges”.

“We have cooperated with each other, some steps have been taken. We are increasing some of our Frontier Corps regiments, we are building a headquarters in Turbat so that there is a rapid response, our helicopter surveillance near the border has increased, and we have agreed on the formation of a joint border centre and border fencing,” he said.

Some elements trying to hurt relationship with neighbouring country by carrying out terrorist activities in Pakistan and Iran, Qureshi tells NA

Responding to the opposition’s criticism on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks during his recent visit in Iran, the foreign minister said his statement had been quoted out of context.

The minister repeated his claim that the attack on the buses on the Coastal Highway in Balochistan last month had been carried out by the militants who had entered the country from Iran.

Meanwhile, the government again invited the opposition to a dialogue on changes in the controversial accountability laws after former speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq told the National Assembly session that there had been no progress on the issue for the last four months.

The offer was first made by Law Minister Farogh Naseem and later by Foreign Minister Qureshi while responding to the speeches of the PML-N leaders in which they criticised the government for allegedly using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as a tool to victimise its opponents and the Punjab government’s decision to change local government system in the province.

Both ministers, however, criticised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for not changing the laws when it was in power.

Before a brief discussion on the NAB laws and the local government system issue, the National Assembly witnessed introduction of seven government bills.

The law minister asked the opposition to give positive suggestions for bringing improvements in the accountability laws, saying the government would consider them without making an ego issue. He said the government also wanted to change the NAB laws. He was of the view that they should first agree on six or seven points and then more amendments could follow.

The law minister asked the opposition to present their objections on the draft law prepared by the government.

The foreign minister said the government was ready to sit with the opposition parties to bring positive changes in the laws related to NAB. He said the government wanted continuity in the accountability process without any victimisation.

Responding to the criticism on the move to change local bodies’ system in Punjab, Mr Qureshi said it was the prerogative of the provincial government to bring any changes in the system, asking the PML-N to raise its concerns in this regard in the Punjab Assembly. He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf wanted to give more powers and financial autonomy to local governments to address problems of the people at grass roots level.

Earlier, speaking on a point of order, the PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq said no talks were going on between the government and the opposition on the NAB laws. He alleged that the opposition had submitted its proposals some four months ago, but the government had given no response.

Mr Sadiq said the opposition was ready to hold talks with the government, but now it was not in a hurry as soon it would be the turn of the ruling party to face NAB.

He said the government would wait for NAB’s further action against the opposition members before agreeing to amend the laws.

Mr Sadiq also criticised the prime minister’s statement during his visit to Iran in which he had made a confession that Pakistan’s soil had been used for carrying out terrorism in Iran. He also expressed concern over the prime minister’s recent interview to a US newspaper in which he had reportedly said an institution had created militant groups in the country.

When Mr Qureshi said the PM’s statement had been quoted out of context, Mr Sadiq responded that he would submit the text of the statement to the speaker to make it part of the official record.

Earlier, the law minister introduced seven bills which were referred to the committees concerned by the speaker.

APP adds: The bills included the Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019, Letters of Administration and Succession Certificates Bill 2019, Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill 2019, Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Bill 2019, Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2019 and Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill 2019.

Giving key features of the bills, the law minister said the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) bill was aimed at ensuring speedy disposal of cases maximum in two years. The Legal Aid and Justice Authority Bill will extend assistance to women and children involved in criminal cases. The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill will ensure that women are not deprived of their property rights and the women ombudsperson will take notice of such cases. Under the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Bill, any person who provides information about alleged corrupt practices will be given a fixed percentage of the recovered amount as a reward.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2019