WASHINGTON: The Balochistan resolution presented in the US Congress on Friday is not a piece of legislation and will have no legal force even if it is adopted, although this seems unlikely.
As Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the lawmaker behind the effort, stated in his press release, it’s a concurrent resolution submitted in the US House of Representatives.
According to a Congressional bills glossary, published by the US Government Printing Office, a concurrent resolution is a legislative proposal that “requires the approval of both the House and the Senate in the same language but does not require the signature of the President and does not have the force of law”.
Concurrent resolutions generally are used to express the sentiments of both the houses, such as conveying congratulations to another country on the anniversary of its independence.
A concurrent resolution is also used for housekeeping functions such as authorising the printing of congressional documents.
A concurrent resolution, however, can be used to express the sense, or opinion, of Congress on matters of foreign and domestic policy but to do so it requires the approval of both houses. The resolution on Balochistan is unlikely to have this approval because so far it has only been moved in the House.
Even in the House, it only has one mover, Mr Rohrabacher, and two co-signers. So far no other lawmaker has backed this resolution.
Yet, as Ambassador Sherry Rehman pointed out, it can do much harm to already strained relations between the United States and Pakistan.
“This kind of resolution, even though it’s moved by one congressman and supported by two others, strains the people-to-people relationship between the two nations,” she told Dawn.
The ambassador noted that the US administration had clearly distanced itself from the move, and no US newspaper or TV channel had taken it up.
Ambassador Rehman, who had a series of meetings with senior State Department officials soon after the resolution was moved, said the US administration had assured her that “it is certainly not government policy to challenge Pakistan’s territorial integrity”.
US officials pointed out that it was “one among thousands of resolutions of this nature moved in the US Congress, and is likely not to gather support on the Hill”.
“Yet, it reduces space for moderate discourse which is so essential to policymaking. It also becomes very different to change the narrative when such episodes recur in quick succession,” Amb Rehman said.
An official US Statement also made a similar point, saying that “the US policy has nothing to do with the resolution tabled in the US House of Representatives on Balochistan province”.
The statement noted that the US respected Pakistan’s sovereignty and considered Balochistan “an internal matter of the country”.
The United States, however, supported human rights across the world, the statement added.
On Friday, US state department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the US has no intentions to interfere in internal affairs of Pakistan.
In a separate statement, the Pakistan Embassy took “serious notice” of the resolution, saying: “We reject this ill-informed move and the Congressman’s misplaced concern on Balochistan, which is a part of the Pakistani Federation.”
The embassy pointed out that Balochistan had a directly elected provincial assembly and had due representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan. “The resolution seeks to cast doubt on the territorial integrity of a member of the United Nations and a friend of the United States, and is totally unacceptable,” the embassy said.
The embassy also said that Amb Rehman has met more than a dozen senior US legislators on this issue who also assured her that they too considered Balochistan Pakistan’s internal matter and were not going to endorse Congressman Rohrabacher’s move.
Meanwhile, Christine Fair, one of the witnesses who appeared before Mr Rohrabacher’s panel last week to speak about human rights situation in Balochistan, told a journalist, Eddie Walsh, that she believed the hearing was a “political stunt”.
Ms Fair told Mr Walsh that her “political stunt” comment was prompted by a call from a staff member of Mr Rohrabacher’s panel. Ms Fair had contacted him to solicit guidance for her upcoming testimony. In the course of their conversation, the staffer explained “we want to stick it to the Pakistanis”.
“Based upon that brief phone conversation, I concluded that it wasn’t about human rights. Rather, it seemed that the people behind this hearing were pandering to diaspora politics just to tick off the Pakistanis at a time when the United States is trying to repair its tattered relationship with Pakistan”.