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Friday July 19, 2024

Pakistan hopes US Congress will help fortify bilateral ties

US Foreign Affairs subcommittee is preparing hearing on Pakistan’s election and future of Pakistan-US relationship

By Mariana Baabar
March 15, 2024
A general view of US Congress. — AFP/File
A general view of US Congress. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif settles in and the Foreign Office has a new foreign minister, Pakistan, while commenting on future bilateral relations with the United States, “hopes that the US Congress will continue its supportive role in strengthening Pakistan-US ties and developing avenues of mutually beneficial cooperation”.

The issue of the US Foreign Affairs subcommittee preparing a hearing on Pakistan’s election and the future of Pakistan-US relationship, with Donald Lu also to testify, came up during the weekly briefing.

“We are aware of the notification and the hearing of the subcommittee that is scheduled for the 20th of March. Pakistan values its close relationship with the United States and believes in constructive engagement on all matters. And we respect the prerogative of legislative bodies to discuss and debate international issues. We sincerely hope that their deliberations contribute to promoting positive dynamics in bilateral ties based on mutual respect and understanding. We, therefore, hope the US Congress will continue its supportive role in strengthening Pakistan-US ties and developing avenues of mutually beneficial cooperation,” explained the spokeswoman at the Foreign Office.

When asked to comment on the prime minister’s comments at the floor of the House in which he said that Pakistan is not part of any greater game and would like to have cordial relations with its neighbours and wants to repair its relations with America, the spokeswoman said she would not like to second guess his statement.

“I can basically repeat what we have said in the past: the main pillar of our foreign policy is to have good relations with all countries. And we have said that it is important that international law must hold supreme and countries must resolve their differences through peaceful means. Similarly, we have said that Asia-Pacific should be a region of peace and not of any contestation and rivalry. Thirdly, we have said that these blocs and camps are unproductive and unhelpful in settlement of disputes and in promotion of peace in the region. So, Pakistan has a consistent position with respect to that and the prime minister basically reiterated Pakistan’s position,” she added.

The decision of the PTI to write to the European Union to disrupt the GSP Plus status to Pakistan because of alleged human rights violations was shrugged aside by the spokeswoman and she emphasised the close ties that Pakistan continues to enjoy with the EU. “Pakistan has close multidimensional ties with the European Union and GSP Plus is an important pillar of our bilateral relations. It is pivotal for Pakistan’s trade, and it is a successful framework for development and mutually beneficial cooperation between Pakistan and the European Union.”

In this regard only last week, the ninth round of Pakistan-EU political dialogue took place where both sides agreed to continue and strengthen cooperation in various domains including GSP Plus. “So, we are confident that going forward, Pakistan and European Union will continue to work together in the framework of GSP Plus,” she added.

On queries related to the present situation inside Gaza, the spokeswoman condemned in the strongest possible terms the recent Israeli decision regarding construction of 3,500 new settlement units in occupied West Bank. “The Israeli action violates international law, international humanitarian laws and relevant resolutions of the United Nations and OIC. It would further undermine the prospects of an independent, sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state,” she said.

In this regard, Pakistan called on the United Nations Security Council to bring an end to these crimes of the occupation authorities against the people of Palestine and to fulfil its responsibilities under the UN Charter to bring an end to the sufferings of the Palestinian people.

With strong reaction from within India itself mostly by Muslims on “certain news pursuant to the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019”, the spokeswoman said Pakistan has taken note of the ugly debate that is currently taking place in India with regard to Muslims, minorities and immigrants. “Evidently, the legislation and relevant rules are discriminatory in nature as they differentiate amongst people on the basis of their faith. As you’re aware on 16th of December 2019, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a resolution criticising the law, where it termed it against international norms of equality and non-discrimination and international human rights law,” she said.

These regulations and laws are premised on a false assumption that minorities are being persecuted in Muslim countries of the region and the facade of India being a safe haven for minorities. “The rising wave of Hindutva under the BJP government has led to rapid political, economic and social victimisation of Muslims and other religious and social minorities, including Dalits. The discriminatory steps further expose the sinister agenda of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra. We believe that Indian authorities will be well advised to stop pre-choreographed targeting and systematic marginalisation of minorities inside India,” she pointed out.

She reminded the media that recently, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs urged corrective actions to protect human rights and attacks against minorities in the run-up to India’s national elections. “In the same vein, you may have seen the statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in which he termed the Act and the regulations fundamentally discriminatory in nature and in breach of international obligations of India. With that, we urge India to take action to protect its own minorities, especially Muslims, who are in a very difficult situation because of the rising Hindutva in India and the threat that it poses to Indian society and to the region at large,” she added.

Turning to Iran, she appreciated the Iranian authorities for taking prompt action in the retrieval of three Pakistanis, who were kidnapped by criminal gangs. “And we have been in close coordination with Iranian authorities to ensure protection and safe passage of Pakistani Zaereen through Iran. As far as assertions (by the media that there may be other cases), we are not aware of such cases and when such cases are brought to our notice, we will definitely work with Iranian authorities and we are confident in their abilities to retrieve Pakistani nationals and to fight against these criminal gangs,” she added.