Talks with US suspended in protest

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on Monday that Pakistan had suspended talks and bilateral visits with the United States as a mark of protest over the recent anti-Pakistan diatribe by US President Donald Trump.

Sources quoted the minister as telling the Senate, which converted itself into a committee prior to its regular session, that Pakistan had taken the fiery remarks seriously.

US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells was supposed to arrive here on Tuesday, while the foreign minister himself was to travel to the US last week under the previous schedule.

About the recently unveiled policy of the US president on South Asia, Mr Asif said it envisaged no military role for India in Afghanistan. According to the sources, the minister said it was rather a role of economic development. He claimed during the in-camera session of the committee that India would not be allowed to use Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan.

The remarks were surprising for many as they believed that India was already using Afghan territory for subversive activities in Pakistan. A participant in the meeting told Dawn that the members instead sought the details of the India-sponsored terror incidents in Pakistan, including the ones carried out by the under-arrest serving officer of India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The members raised questions as to what would be the mechanism to check if the enhanced Indian presence was not abused to foment terrorism in Pakistan. They also sought to know details of the unusual number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, which it is said was more than those it had in the US.

The members also asked the government to share a fact-sheet on US assistance received after 9/11, the reimbursed amount of coalition support fund (CSF) and the financial loss incurred by the country as a frontline state against the war on terror.

Foreign Secretary Teh­mina Janjua informed the house that a meeting of Pakistan’s envoys had been convened from Sept 5 to 7 to chalk out a strategy after announcement of the new US policy on South Asia.

It was decided that the Committee of the Whole will meet again Tuesday to finetune policy guidelines in the light of emerging realities and the role of the United States, developed by a six-member committee of the house. The policy guidelines will be given shape of a resolution which is most likely to be passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

Before the foreign minister made a request to declare the proceedings in camera, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani reminded him of his proposal for a joint session of parliament made in the presence of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He said that if a resolution passed separately by the Senate was sent to the National Assembly, it would be sitting in judgement on a document of the other house. He said it would also not send a good message if both the houses passed different resolutions.

The foreign minister, however, said the National Assembly might endorse the resolution passed by the Senate or slightly alter it. Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP noted that the substance and spirit would remain the same and there would be no harm in the two houses passing separate resolutions on the same subject.

During its regular session shortly after the meeting of the committee of the whole, military dictators came under fire.

Speaking on the motion on creating awareness about the Constitution, Farhatullah Babar called for compulsory teaching of the Constitution and constitutionalism in all military academies in the country.

Referring to General Zia, he said a former military dictator in a newspaper interview described the Constitution as a “mere 15-page document that I can tear at will and all the politicians will follow me wagging their tails”. Another military dictator said that the Constitution could be dispensed with if the country faced threats, he added.

He said that the Quaid after his visit to Quetta in June 1948 and meeting some senior officers had said in his conversation with them he had noticed that they did not fully grasp the value of the Constitution. The Quaid then explained to them the importance of the Constitution and the value of upholding it.

Secondly, Mr Babar said that those who subverted the Constitution and their abettors must not be allowed to escape punishment. He wondered what made it possible for the last dictator who instead to going to the court turned his car towards a hospital in Rawalpindi. He called for removing the portraits of dictators from all official premises.

A resolution moved by Mr Babar to preserve the culture and heritage of the people of Kalash in Chitral and for the inclusion of this area in the Unesco World Heritage Site was passed unanimously when Law Minister Hamid Zahid said he did not oppose it. Agencies