Senate condemns Najaf attack

Published August 25, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Aug 24: The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning the attack on the holy city of Najaf by US forces and called upon them to restrain their action on holy shrines throughout Iraq.

"The Senate of Pakistan condemns the action of the occupying forces in Najaf Ashraf and calls upon them to restrain their action on holy shrines," said the resolution read out by leader of the Democratic Alliance Raza Rabbani at the conclusion of a debate on "the current situation in Iraq and its implications for peace in the region."

The resolution also called for 'cessation of hostilities throughout Iraq'. Earlier, taking part in the debate, senators from both sides termed the US attack on Iraq 'unjustified and immoral' and called for immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from the country. MMA Senator Azizullah Satakzai asked the government to announce its support to the people of Iraq who were offering resistance to US forces.

People's Party Parliamentarians' Farhatullah Babar said the government deliberately kept its policy on Iraq ambiguous because policy-makers wanted to exploit the situation and turn Pakistan into another Iraq to prolong their stay in power.

The PPP senator regretted that neither the foreign office, nor the cabinet, or parliament were being considered on matters of national importance, and all important decisions were being taken by an individual with the sole purpose of advancing his personal political agenda.

Mr Babar then gave a litany of events to drive home the point that how the rulers had turned the country into another Iraq. "When raids were being carried out and sacred places in Baghdad were being attacked, mosques in Pakistan were also raided," he said.

The opposition senator said it was alleged in Iraq that terrorists were hiding in shrines and holy places in Najaf. At the same time, it was officially alleged by Islamabad that terrorists were hiding in the federal capital's central mosque, Lal Masjid.

He said in Iraq the interim government was powerless and someone else was calling the shots. The same was the case in Pakistan where crucial policies were being made by an individual without consulting parliament or the civil government, he said.

Referring to the foreign minister's assurance that foreign policy decisions were being taken in national interest, the PPP senator said he had serious reservations about what the rulers thought was in national interest.

Mr Babar demanded that the government should clearly demand the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Muttahida Qaumi Movement senator Allama Abbas Kumaili said the US was targeting Muslim countries one by one.

"No Muslim country should consider itself safe from the US aggression," he said. The MQM senator said the US justified its attack on Afghanistan by saying that planners of the 9/11 incident were hiding in the country, but it failed to justify its invasion on Iraq.

He asked the Muslim world to stand up against the US aggression. "If today we remain silent on the Najaf incident, tomorrow similar attacks will be carried out on holy cities of Madina and Makkah."

He said a time had come that the government should revise its policy on Iraq. Another MQM senator Abida Saif called for holding a referendum on the issue of sending troops to Iraq.

Raza Mohammad Raza of the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party said the US invaded Iraq against the United Nations mandate. He also held religious parties of Pakistan responsible for strengthening the US hold in Muslim countries.

Senator Dr Kausar Firdaus said the Organization of Islamic Conference should play a role in resolving the Iraq problem. Others who took part in the debate included Muhim Khan Baloch, Maulana Hidayatullah, Nighat Mirza and Tanveer Khalid.

Later, senators held a discussion on price-hike and unemployment in the country. MMA senator Prof Khursheed Ahmad stressed the need for focussing on micro-economic measures so that the impact of macro-economic stability could be trickled down to the common man.

PPP senator Abdul Latif Ansari asked the government to initiate schemes to provide employment to the people. Ismael Buledi of the MMA suggested that a parliamentary committee should be formed to identify reasons for price hike and suggest steps to resolve the problem.

PPP senator Enver Baig challenged the government's claim of improvement in the economic situation, saying that every day people committed suicide due to poverty. He said last year 570 people committed suicide due to poor economic conditions, while 125 persons had already committed suicide during the last three months.

He said there had been no major foreign investment in the country in the last four years due to the poor law and order situation. He said the government had failed to control prices.

Winding up the debate on behalf of the government, Senator Akram Wali said the country was facing the problem of price hike due to the wrong policies of previous governments. He claimed that the government had put the economy on the path of stability. Later, Senate Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro prorogued the session.

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