Nawaz barred FO from speaking against India, says diplomat

Updated Mar 17 2020

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Former FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam says the policy did not benefit the country. — AFP/File
Former FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam says the policy did not benefit the country. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Former spokesperson for the Foreign Office Tasneem Aslam claimed on Sunday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had barred the FO from commenting against India and its spy Kulbhushan Jadhav. The spy is presently in Pakistan’s custody.

“Nawaz Sharif did not want to say anything against India and Jadhav through the Foreign Office,” she claimed during an interview with a YouTube channel being run by an Islamabad-based journalist, Isa Naqvi.

Ms Aslam worked as Foreign Office spokesperson twice — first from 2005 to 2007 during the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf and then during the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government between 2013 and 2017.

Asked if Mr Sharif’s instruction benefited the country, she said: “It did not benefit the country but I do not know whether it benefited his [Nawaz’s] own interests or not.”

Ms Aslam said Mr Sharif had business interests in India and he did not meet leaders of India-held Kashmir’s political party Hurriyat Conferences when he visited India as the prime minister. “Usually, every prime minister of Pakistan meets Hurriyat leaders but Nawaz Sharif did not meet them when he visited India.”

Mr Sharif had visited India in 2014.

Ms Aslam said even in his speech at the United Nations summit Mr Sharif did not talk about India and Jadhav but on the Kashmir issue.

PML-N rejects remarks

When contacted, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the comments by a retired FO official bore no resemblance to reality. “It is a false and biased expression of an individual’s views, based on her personal predilections.”

She said Mr Sharif had taken a very sincere initiative for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute when he in 1998 invited the then former Indian prime minister to Pakistan. It was that diplomatic initiative that led to the Lahore Accord that contained in it the roadmap for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, she added.

“Again, it was Mian Sahab who refused to accede to the entreaties of world powers while rejecting their economic offers and insisting on carrying out six nuclear tests not only to restore strategic parity with India, but to demonstrate the invincibility of Pakistan’s non conventional assets,” she said.

“The principled manner in which he dealt with the issue of Pakistan’s relations with its eastern neighbour is well documented.”

The PML-N spokeswoman said the former prime minister’s address to the UN General Assembly in 2016 contained the most forceful references ever to the issue of Kashmir and the most powerful condemnation of the atrocities and brutalities of the Indian occupation forces.

“Finally, it was Mian Sahab who was critical of the proposal made by a Pakistan’s military dictator to India to abandon the UN Security Council Resolutions that sanctify the righteousness of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir,” the PML-N leader said.

“In the face of these established and well known facts, no credence need be attached to the frivolous and baseless comments of the retired official of the Foreign Office. The facts speak for themselves,” she added.

She said Mr Sharif had been in national politics for over three decades and during this period he had dozens of occasions to deal with Indian leaders. “Facts and reality are a matter of record,” she added.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2020