Alarm over anti-Pakistan bill moved in US Senate

Published September 30, 2021
In this February 9, 2015 photo, a State Department contractor adjusts a Pakistan national flag before a meeting between then US secretary of state John Kerry and Pakistan's erstwhile interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the sidelines of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the State Department in Washington. — Reuters/File
In this February 9, 2015 photo, a State Department contractor adjusts a Pakistan national flag before a meeting between then US secretary of state John Kerry and Pakistan's erstwhile interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on the sidelines of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the State Department in Washington. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The bill moved in the US Senate seeking to assess Pakistan’s alleged role in Afghanistan before and after the fall of Kabul to Afghan Taliban set alarm bells ringing in the upper house of parliament on Wednesday.

Raising the issue of the anti-Pakistan bill that aims to penalise and sanction different countries, Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentary leader in Senate and chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Senator Sherry Rehman said Pakistan was faced with a moment of serious peril after the hasty pullout of US forces from Afghanistan.

Referring to the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability bill moved by 22 Republican senators, Senator Rehman regretted the US left Afghanistan under a deal that it had directly made with the Taliban yet it was pressing Pakistan to take responsibility for whatever was happening in Afghanistan. “What is happening to Pakistan is actually worse than what has happened before,” she remarked.

Read: 'Unwarranted' references to Pakistan in US Senate bill inconsistent with spirit of cooperation: FO

Mentioning that the bill directly targeted Pakistan, she said it was not the US administration’s policy bill but it was important as it could gather critical mass. “It also points to a rise in toxic sentiments about Pakistan on the Hill, which many of us have worked very hard to reverse,” she observed.

US left Afghanistan after striking a direct deal with Taliban, Senate told

Noting that a smart policy was about anticipating challenges and tackling them with unity and rational response, she said that at least a beginning should be made to address the threats. Section 202 of the bill directly mentions Pakistan and calls for an “assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020.”

“They are clearly saying that the government of Pakistan has supported the Taliban but it’s disappointing to see that no one has actually put it to the parliament for shaping collective responses nor dispelled disinformation that is damaging and painful,” she added.

Senator Rehman said: “While it is important to engage with all countries with self-respect, particularly angry superpowers like the US that itself is in turmoil over its 20 years occupation of Afghanistan, what are we doing to empower our own selves? Instead of trying to unite the parliament around a bipartisan foreign policy, the parliament has never met on the Afghan transition, the humanitarian crisis there, and the response. All over the world joint meetings are being held on Afghanistan but Pakistan’s government is in a state of denial over dealing with the parliament”.

She regretted that national unity, which should be the first step in foreign policy was missing and said the PTI government was ignoring the constitution and the parliament, and was busy in their war narrative.

“If we even try to help Pakistan, we are told our leaders are corrupt. How is that helping Pakistan? Our president Zardari also wrote op eds in the Washington Post. He defended the whole of Pakistan, not just his party. Read the op eds and see how parliament was conducted to unite in moments of danger. You need to pay attention to what’s going on in the Pakistan Senate, not just the US Senate. The PM of this country needs to respect the sanctity of the parliament and come here and discuss the situation instead of playing the blame game and disrupting unity. Is this how you defend the country?” she questioned.

She said, “We are friends of Afghanistan, not spokesmen for any particular group. We should not make decisions that hurt the country. The PM mentions sacrifice. Yes, that is correct, but why make fun of that sacrifice by saying we will give amnesty to outfits like TTP that have martyred not just our twice elected PM Benazir Bhutto but also the children of Army Public School and many of our brave soldiers.”

She said serious, deliberative and informed approach was required from the government and there was a need to have a discussion on the state of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Call for POA chief’s accountability

Earlier amidst calls for resignation, dismissal and accountability of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) President Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hassan for consistently disappointing performance of athletes, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza declared that the new sports policy to be shortly announced would enshrine mechanism for governance and regulation of sports.

Under the new policy, the minister said nobody would be able to use Pakistan’s name without registration of sports associations and other bodies at the appropriate forum.

While responding to a calling attention notice of Senators Moh­sin Aziz and Mushtaq Ahmed about poor performance of Pakistani athletes at Olympics for three decades, she proposed holding of a meeting of the committee of the whole to discuss matters linked with sports.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2021

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