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Marriage issue being exploited to hit Sino-Pak ties: Qureshi

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“We’re also aware that some elements are trying to poison the Pakistan-China relationship through this issue," says FM. — APP/File
“We’re also aware that some elements are trying to poison the Pakistan-China relationship through this issue," says FM. — APP/File

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Wednesday the matter of the marriages involving Chinese people was being exploited (by some elements) even though action in this regard was taken.

“It’s a sensitive matter and we’re also aware that some elements are trying to poison the Pakistan-China relationship through this issue,” he told a press conference. “We have talked to the Chinese foreign office and the issue will be resolved mutually without affecting mutual ties.”

The minister addressed a wide range of issues at the press conference. The issue of south Punjab province, however, dominated the event.

He said the creation of south Punjab province needed a two-third majority, and all parliamentary parties, including the PML-N, would be contacted to forge a consensus.

“We are moving forward to fulfill the promise we made in the election regarding the establishment of the province. The PPP’s response is positive. Budget for south Punjab will be allocated in the next fiscal year. South Punjab’s sub-secretariat will be made functional in July,” he said.

He said that to fulfill the promise, the PTI tabled a bill for the creation of (south Punjab) province in the National Assembly two days back which has been passed with a majority.

“The National Assembly speaker will forward the bill a committee. The claim of former prime minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi is false that the bill tabled by the PTI is illegal and unconstitutional. Our bill is legal that’s why the speaker is going to forward it to the committee. The bill tabled by the PML-N is also with the bill committee where a final decision will be taken,” he said.

He praised PPP parliamentary leader Khurshid Shah for supporting the bill.

“The PPP responded positively when I contacted them and they are with us for the creation of south Punjab province. In past, the PPP could not succeed to create the province because of the lack of two-third majority. Further discussions will be held in a meeting with Khurshid Shah, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Syed Naved Qamar. We will also inform the PML-N that the creation of the province will strengthen the federation .” “Now, the speaker has got power to constitute a special committee over the bill which after consultation over the constitutional amendment will try to create consensus and we are hopeful of a breakthrough over it,” he said.

He said the province would become a reality after amendments to the constitution’s articles 51, 59, 106, 198 and 218.

“The province will be consist of three division - Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. The province will have its representation in the Senate of Pakistan as well,” he said.

He said the south Punjab provincial assembly will be of 120 members, of which 95 will be elected through a direct election. The province will have its own high court and chief justice and its principle seat will be at Multan while Bahawalpur bench will work under the principle seat of Multan.

“After the creation of the south Punjab province, the seats of the Punjab Assembly will be 251,” he said.

He said that the creation of the province will bring prosperity and development in the area.

About PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema’s opposition to the issue, the foreign minister said that that Mr Cheema is our friend; however, the creation of the south Punjab province is the part of PTI’s manifesto and Mr Cheema also is aware of the PTI manifesto. About the amnesty scheme, the minister dubbed it an asset declaration scheme, and not the tax amnesty scheme.

“The purpose of the scheme is not to generate revenue but to document the economy; however, it will also help the government to improve tax base. An opportunity is being offered to the people to declare their assets by paying only four percent value of the assets to be declared while the people who want to hold their properties abroad could also avail the scheme by paying additional two present tax,” he said.

He said that the purpose of the scheme is to get the assets legalized even if they were outside of the country by paying tax.

“However, the people who remained in power or held public office in the last 10 years, including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, will not be able to benefit from this scheme,” he said.

He also denied that the security of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Fazalur Rehman was ever withdrawn. He said the security of leaders was regularised.Commenting on a picture where the followers of Mr Rehman are seen with automatic weapons, he said it was a wrong act as it was state’s responsibility to provide protection to every citizen.

He said that Pakistan would accept its citizens being deported from the US after a thorough investigation.

He said that the people of India have right to elect the people of their choice; however whoever will be elected will be elected with a small margin.

He said that Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project could not be executed due to restrictions and lack of funds.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019