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Parliament should monitor national security, foreign policy

Top Story

October 8, 2016

Senate asks govt to adopt sustainable India, Kashmir policy; approves 22-point guidlines of Committe of the Whole; recommends establishment of Public Diplomacy Office at Foreign Office; highlighting fault-lines in India's alienated Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits and growing Maoist insurgency; restoration and expansion of bilateral and Kashmir-related CBMs; firm stand on Indus Water Treaty

ISLAMABAD: The Senate has asked the government to constitute a parliamentary committee to monitor the foreign policy and national security affairs that should include the chairs of committees of both houses on defence and foreign affairs as well as representatives of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and intelligence.

The Upper House has impressed upon the need that the soil of Pakistan should not be allowed to be used by violent non-state actors. The views have been expressed in policy guidelines chalked out in view of the latest situation developing between Pakistan and India.

The Committee of the Whole that adopted 22 guidelines worth considering had its marathon meeting here under the Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has also suggested that Pakistan should re-establish a Public Diplomacy Office at the Foreign Office. This will function as the Foreign Office’s public diplomacy and soft power office and an inter-ministerial space for projecting cultural, economic and trade outputs.

The Senate on Friday adopted the report of the committee, recommending for revival of back channel talks with India and bilateral confidence-building measures and related to Kashmir issue.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq presented the report in the Senate. While greeting the House on preparing a report of extremely useful guidelines within a short period time, Raza Rabbani hoped the government would benefit from these and also form the National Security Committee of the Parliament at the earliest.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan noted the report was very important in the context of Pakistan’s isolation and failure of foreign policy while India was following an aggressive policy undermining Pakistan.

Zafarul Haq said the report would help the government cope with the challenges and that a copy of it should be sent to the National Assembly.The comprehensive guidelines have asked the government to hire international lobbyists and strategic communication firms and reactivate Pakistani community living abroad to change the global narrative.

The House has proposedour Kashmir narrative should be: - a) Violation of UN Charter chapter 1 article 1 and 2 by India which guarantees rights to self-determination. b) Violation of international declaration of human rights in Kashmir by the Indian forces with highest population to soldiers ratio 1:5. c) Violation of Geneva Convention where prisoners and wounded have certain fundamental rights. d) Indian violations along our eastern border will force Pakistan to pull troops employed to fight war on terror. e) That the large number of marginalised youth in Jammu and Kashmir can be vulnerable to the incitement of extremist forces and trigger huge challenges for regional and global stability. 

The Senate in the shape of Whole Committee has pointed out that India's own fault-lines in their alienated Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits as well as the growing Maoist insurgency be highlighted. In this context, services of two official think tanks, whose principal task is to study India, the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), can be attached to the relevant committees of the Parliament. Modi and his RSS ideology of Hindutva should be targeted. The Senate has also asked for comprehensive outreach to those segments of Indian public opinion which are opposed to Modi's extremism and his anti-Pakistan policies including political parties, media, civil society organisations and human rights groups. It impressed the need to counter India’s initiatives to demoralise/isolate Pakistan particularly amongst neighbours of Pakistan, Saarc members and members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) are imperative. The efforts to cultivate Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Iran and the Central Asian Republics plus Russia need to be redoubled, for which parliamentarians and parliamentary committees can play a pivotal role. 

The Senate urged that Pakistan should continue to support all initiatives taken for peace and stability in the region. The nuclear neighbours should exercise serious caution and restraint when faced with provocation. The Upper House asked the government to develop an institutionalised consultative mechanism; seeking policy guidelines from the joint sitting of the Parliament as the national security committee may be re-constituted in consultation with the Parliament. It has recommended that there should be a non-episodic role/engagement of the OIC in the Kashmir issue. There is need to also work towards bringing about a climate in which both Pakistan and India can implement politically difficult decisions to build mutual trust and confidence leading towards an honourable and amicable settlement of Jammu and Kashmir as well as peace and stability and the welfare of all people. 

The House has reminded that keeping in view the need, efficacy and usefulness of back channel talks between Pakistan and India it should be restored. The bilateral and Jammu and Kashmir-related CBMs need to be restored and expanded. The committee also emphasised the need to respect the agreed mechanisms for the maintenance of peace along the LoC by strong political leadership in both countries. The House has proposed that an international conference on Kashmir should be organised, supported and amplified. A loud and clear message shall be sent all across the world that Pakistan is fighting the largest inland war against terrorism and violent extremism and there is no room for non-state actors. 

The Senate has advised the government to take a firm stance on the Indus Water Treaty and highlight India’s credibility in this regard if it unilaterally abrogates its international treaty obligations. The House is of the view that given the constant nature of continual emerging situations it would be appropriate to appoint a full-time foreign minister and a media coordination committee (MCC) should also be constituted including selected journalists plus representatives of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Information, Parliament and intelligence to prepare fact sheets and a counter-propaganda campaign against India and to design and promote a media strategy for continually highlighting the Kashmiri freedom struggle. It has asked that there should be periodical/regular special briefings for the Foreign Media and the social media should also be utilized for publicizing Jammu and Kashmir issue. There is need to highlight the Indian intervention in Pakistan and in this context the arrest of serving Indian Navy Commander Kulbhushan Yadav should have been and should be raised at various important international forums along with the human rights violations in Indian Held Kashmir.

During the Senate sitting of 253rd session, Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini moved a motion regarding “the present state of relations between Pakistan and India”. The House extensively discussed the matter and considering the importance and gravity of the matter decided to refer the same to the Committee of the Whole already constituted on a motion moved by the leader of the House “to prepare policy guidelines in the light of emerging regional realities”. The Committee of the Whole held an in-camera meeting on September 29 to seek briefing from the government on the situation between Pakistan and India. 

During the course of in-camera briefings Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Defence, along with Secretary Defence and Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs, briefed the committee on the latest situation between Pakistan and India and steps being taken by the government in this regard. The briefings were followed by an extensive questions and answers session. 

The committee took serious note of grave human rights violations in the IHK and recent incidents of LoC violations committed by India. After detailed and extensive deliberations, the chairman Senate constituted a drafting committee, comprising of senators Mushahid Hussain, Sherry Rehman, Sirajul Haq, Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Ilyas Bilour, Abdul Qayyum, Nuzhat Sadiq, Nauman Wazir, Farhatullah Babar, Salahuddin Tirmizi, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah and Muhammad Mohsin Khan to prepare draft policy guidelines and bring the same before the Committee of Whole.

According to the document, the Senate condemns the brutalities committed by India against the innocent people of Kashmir and violations of human rights; urges the international community to play effective role for implementation of United Nations resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir asking for a plebiscite in the disputed region; recognises that the issue of Kashmir cannot be resolved without granting the legitimate right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir; calls upon the government of Pakistan to raise the blatant interference of India in various parts of Pakistan, especially in Balochistan and terrorist financing at all international forums; regrets the stand taken by Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka by not participating in the Saarc Summit in Islamabad and calls upon the government to adopt a proactive policy to engage with these countries; appreciates the position taken by China, Turkey, Iran, Russia, OIC and the UN Human Rights Commission; calls for setting up an international fact finding commission to investigate the ‘Uri incident’ and human rights violations in the IHK; reaffirms that Simla Agreement recognises the positions of both sides on Jammu and Kashmir; takes note of the continuous attempts made by India to disturb the Indus Water Treaty and use of water as a weapon by the Modi government.