Govt, opposition united on Kashmir, divided on domestic issues

August 08, 2019

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Former president Asif Ali Zardari addresses a joint session of the parliament on Wednesday.—Online
Former president Asif Ali Zardari addresses a joint session of the parliament on Wednesday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: The treasury and opposition members on the concluding day of the two-day special joint sitting of parliament on Wednesday were unanimous in condemning India over its recent act of ending special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, but they continued hitting out at each other over the country’s internal political situation.

The joint sitting of parliament concluded with the unanimous passage of a three-page resolution, drafted after a lengthy behind-the-scenes consultative process, denouncing the Indian move. The joint session also witnessed a number of emotional speeches, mostly from federal ministers.

The highlights of the day-long proceedings were speeches by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif, former president Asif Ali Zardari, federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Senator Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). The proceedings were not attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif.

Joint sitting of parliament adopts a resolution condemning Indian move

The house also witnessed a verbal clash between Fawad Chaudhry and PML-N’s Senator Mushahidullah Khan and the former even attempted to advance towards the latter for a possible physical assault, but was prevented by other ministers.

The clash between the two started when Mr Chaudhry passed some remarks which could not be heard in the galleries when Mr Khan was about to start his speech. Mr Khan shouted “shut up” a number of times when Mr Chaudhry continued to utter some remarks despite warnings by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani who was presiding over the sitting at that time in the absence of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

In his speech, Senator Raza Rabbani, in the presence of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who had rushed back to the country from Saudi Arabia where he had gone to perform Haj, declared the country’s foreign policy a total failure, citing the absence of parliament’s role in policy making as the main reason.

Mr Rabbani said that since 1947, parliament had been kept away from policy making, particularly in the matters related to the foreign affairs and the national security.

Mr Rabbani, who had also served as the Senate chairman, rejected the committee constituted by the prime minister on the Kashmir situation, and regretted that only the foreign minister was an elected representative in the committee.

“We reject this committee. It should be replaced by a parliamentary committee,” the PPP leader suggested.

He said that the foreign minister had on record stated on Tuesday that the National Security Committee (NSC) was not aware that India would take such a step within 24 hours.

“This raises many questions one amongst them being that it is reported in the press that in February, two days after the Pulwama attack, the Indian national security adviser had told his American counterpart about the doing away with the special status of Kashmir. He again mentioned it in Bangkok,” he added.

“This raises a fundamental question that if the US was aware of the Indian move then did it take Pakistan into confidence when the prime minister visited Washington?” Mr Rabbani asked.

He said there was a nexus between Washington, New Delhi and Tel Aviv and its basic aim was to contain China and Iran. He warned that India would create a Gaza-like strip along the Line of Control (LoC) and there would be an influx of refugees and Pakistan would be kept engaged.

He called for drawing Pakistan away from the role of a “client state”, rebuilding Pakistan’s credibility in the corridors of world powers, refusing to accept India as the policeman of the region and stopping the realignment of foreign policy to Washington.

Usman Kakar of the PkMAP criticised members, including Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, for stating that Pakistan should not play a role in the peace process with Afghanistan after the Indian move. He said that banners of Akhand Bharat had been found hanging in Islamabad’s Red Zone area, adding that had these banners been found in Balochistan or Waziristan, the whole nation and the media would have declared people of those areas traitors and anti-state.

PML-N’s Khwaja Asif called for ending the policy of appeasement of India. He said the prime minister in his speech gave parliamentarians a lecture on history but he had learnt nothing from history. He said the prime minister had explained in detail the narrative of the RSS, asking was he not aware of it when he made a statement in April that Narendra Modi’s re-election would help resolve the Kashmir issue?

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry called for snapping diplomatic ties with India, saying that when New Delhi was not ready to hold talks then what was its high commissioner doing in Islamabad.

Former president Asif Zardari said that Pakistan was suffering because of its internal policies.

“Does India not know that we have a tailor-made democracy? Does India not know that our economy is weak? he asked.

“The entire world is watching us. By providing details of CPEC to IMF, Pakistan has insulted China and that is why it is not supporting us,” Mr Zardari said. He predicted that India would soon be disintegrated.

Mr Zardari said that had he been in power, he would have gone to Russia, China, the UAE and Iran to seek their support.

PML-N’s Mushahid Hussain termed Indian action the most significant development for South Asia since 1971, saying it had changed the geography of the region.

He said that Pakistan had been caught by surprise, although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had publicly announced his intentions in his party’s manifesto.

“We were taken in by Trump’s mediation offer; actually it was a decoy and deception, as the US knew beforehand about Indian moves, otherwise Trump would have condemned it,” he said.

He also called for withdrawing Pakistan’s high commissioner from New Delhi and sending the Indian HC back home immediately and declaring a ‘diplomatic emergency’ for the next 100 days.

Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said he could foresee worsening situation along the Line of Control in the next three to six months. He said that India had effectively ended the Simla agreement and the LoC was no more in existence.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019