War of words in Senate over ‘plan to conditionally abandon nuclear deterrence’

Published June 24, 2021
The Senate on Wednesday witnessed a war of words between the treasury and the opposition members over the ‘plan to conditionally give up nuclear deterrence’.— APP/File
The Senate on Wednesday witnessed a war of words between the treasury and the opposition members over the ‘plan to conditionally give up nuclear deterrence’.— APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday witnessed a war of words between the treasury and the opposition members over the ‘plan to conditionally give up nuclear deterrence’.

As Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan sought the House’s nod to take up for consideration at once the Pakistan arms amendment bill seeking to empower the federal government to delegate powers to issue licences of prohibited and non-prohibited bore to any authority or officer subordinate to it, PPP stalwart and former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said though the scope of the bill was restricted to the federal capital, it sets out a principle.

“Why should we allow the citizens to bear arms when there is a rise in the incidence of terrorism in the country, particularly Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a growing trend of intolerance is being witnessed,” he asked.

Senator Rabbani said the arms policy had made it a little difficult as prohibited bore arms licences under it were issued by the Prime Minister’s House.

Senate passes bill allowing delegation of powers for arms licences’ issuance

“Now it will be under control of a section officer or a deputy secretary at the most,” he remarked.

He warned against the unwise issuance of arms licences and noted that not the common man, but the ruling elite, which was afraid of itself, would get the arms licences.

He also criticised the government for what he called duality of standards, saying that on one hand it was going to open up prohibited and non-prohibited weapons, while on the other was leaving hints that the country’s nuclear programme would be rolled back.

Mr Rabbani referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he reportedly said Pakistan would do away with its nuclear weapons once the Kashmir issue was resolved.

“The country’s nuclear programme is not linked with the Kashmir issue. It is linked with India’s hegemonic designs and US attempts to make it region’s policeman” he asserted.

Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Wasim in his retort said former president Asif Ali Zardari in an interview with Hindustan Times in 2008 had raised the slogan of ‘no first nuclear strike’.

He said during his interview he had quoted Benazir Bhutto as saying that “in every Indian there is a Pakistani and in every Pakistani there is an Indian. I don’t feel any threat from the Indians”.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his comprehensive response, has made it clear that the country’s nuclear programme was defensive in nature and served as a deterrent. He said the prime minister had not only talked about Kashmir, but also about “the time when we start to live like civilised people”.

He said it was a comprehensive response to Hindutwa mentality and hegemonic designs.

Dr Shahzad Wasim said Pakistan would not hold talks with India until it reversed the unilateral actions taken on August 5 and afterwards.

The House later passed the Pakistan Arms Amendment Bill.

In her budget speech, PPP Parliamentary Leader in the Senate Senator Sherry Rehman also referred to the prime minister’s interview and wondered how he could say that there would be no need of a nuclear deterrent once the Kashmir issue was solved.

“We cannot believe this is our nuclear policy. SZAB put his life on stake for the nuclear weapons programme despite tremendous pressure from the international community,” Ms Rehman said.

She said Pakistan was facing a foreign policy inflection point and was at the threshold of an economic emergency.

“Yet instead of a healing, post-pandemic budget, we are given elaborate narratives, constructed to lead the failing government into election survival instead of saving the country,” she remarked.

She noted that events in Afghanistan were outpacing statecraft. The US has war fatigue, and their forces are exiting faster than planned.

No real peace deal has worked out with all Afghan parties as the Taliban are advancing and they may well impose a military solution.

As American forces exit Afghanistan, what plans has Pakistan made to protect itself? Should there not be a joint session of Parliament to discuss the possible outcomes and contain collateral fallout.? Violence is escalating next door, and we are still waiting for clarity. We cannot afford to become collateral damage again,” she added.

Senator Mohsin Aziz of the PTI, while taking part in the budget discussion, accused the previous rulers of looting the national exchequer and amassing wealth far beyond their known sources of income.

About Prime Minister Khan’s recent interview in which he used words ‘absolutely not’ when asked would Pakistan provide bases to the US for operations in Afghanistan, Senator Aziz said in contrast during Musharraf era, 13-14 drone attacks took place, 340 during PPP rule, 61 during PML-N’s government and none during PTI’s tenure.

PML-N Senator Afnanullah Khan questioned that if there were angels in the government, why had the Transparency International in its report said corruption had increased in Pakistan?

He also defended the policy of capacity payments to power producing companies and asked the government to bring investment without it, adding that had there been no investment in power sector, there would have been extremely serious energy crisis in the country.

The Senate also passed a resolution condemning the Indian government’s grossly illegal actions against the oppressed people of IIOJK on and after August 5, 2019.

The House called for enabling the people of Kashmir to exercise their inalienable right of self-determination in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council; reversion to the pre-August 5, 2019 status of IIOJK by ending the annexation; immediate release of all political prisoners in IIOJK; immediate cessation of attempts to change the demographic balance in IIOJK by trying to convert the majority into minority; and salutes the Kashmiri people valiant resistant to oppression and their heroic struggle and sacrifices.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2021

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