ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday said a major shift had occurred in the policy and thought of the US leadership in the last 11 months and now it was seeking political solution to the Afghan issue.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan had also been saying that durable peace in Afghanistan will require political settlement instead of opting for use of military force there and the same thought led to the convergence of divergent approaches,” he said while responding to the speech of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in the National Assembly.
The minister said there was a major shift in policy of those who earlier favoured search of peace in Afghanistan through the military means instead of finding a political settlement to the problem.
He said the PTI government should be appreciated for this major shift.
Qureshi informed the House that owing to the government’s effort, the Taliban had come to the negotiating table. He said they had received signals consenting to Pakistan’s role in the peace process.
He said the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani after a gap of four and a half years to Pakistan helped remove misunderstandings between the two countries.
He said the Afghan leaders hailing from five different groups were gathered in Bhurban and Lahore adding that the process of talks with the Taliban, which started in Doha was now moving forward.
He said after a gap of five years, the prime minister visited the US on an official invitation and availing himself of the opportunity he presented Pakistan’s point of view in the US Congress and at different forums creating a conducive atmosphere for the country.
He said the peace process was moving forward but there would still be many problems and to overcome them the whole nation would have to give a message of unity.
He said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan because peace in Pakistan was linked with peace in the war-torn country.
“We need to demonstrate the same unity which we showed on February 26,” he said.
The foreign minister said he had decided to brief the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on the prime minister’s US visit.
He pointed out that the Trump administration announced the South Asia strategy in August 2017 and a finger was pointed out at Pakistan for all problems in Afghanistan.
“As a result, Pakistan faced suspension of economic and security assistance,” he said.
Qureshi said the PTI government assumed power at a time when the Republicans and Democrats both criticized Pakistan despite the fact that there was severe polarization with a big gulf in the thinking of leadership of two parties.
The minister said Pakistan took a number of steps to seek peace in Afghanistan adding that the National Action Plan (NAP) was also initiated and the former Fata was brought into the political mainstream through a constitutional amendment.
He said Pakistan also undertook border fencing to improve border management and a number of security forces personnel were martyred in the process.
The minister said miscreants having safe havens in Afghanistan cross the border to undertake acts of terrorism in Pakistan.
He pointed out that it was also discussed during meetings in the United States that there were spoilers and they would always remain there. He said Pakistan wanted to take the Afghan reconciliation process to its logical end.
He said despite Pakistan’s efforts for peace, there were spoilers in Afghanistan who never wanted good relations between the two countries.
He said for the sake of reconciliation Pakistan wanted an intra-Afghan dialogue and proved its good intentions for peace process in Afghanistan, as the prime minister had convinced the Trump administration that Pakistan may play its part for this purpose.
“US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has also admitted that Pakistan is playing a constructive role for peace in Afghanistan and the peace process is moving forward,” he said.
The minister said a mechanism for APACS was established and its first meeting was held in Islamabad while five different working groups had also met to discuss areas of problems.
The minister said the martyrdom of soldiers in Waziristan showed that our armed forces had the capacity and will to spill their blood for defending the geographical and ideological frontiers of the country.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif said the terrorist attacks on armed forces in the wake of prime minister’s visit to the US should be investigated as to who is behind them.
He also demanded Speaker Asad Qaiser to issue production orders of the members arrested on various charges.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Shahbaz asked the government to expose the miscreants who were active in spoiling the Afghan peace process and attacking Pakistani soldiers after crossing the Pak-Afghan border.
He suggested that the foreign minister should take the House into confidence on the evil elements and enemies involved in attacking the Pakistani security forces resulting in martyrdom of soldiers.
“The whole nation should know the enemies wanting to spoil the peace efforts following prime minister’s visit to the United States,” he said.
Demanding issuance of production orders for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Asif Zardari, Rana Sanaullah and Khawaja Saad Rafique, he observed that it was responsibility of the chair to ensure sanctity and dignity of the House.
“It is responsibility of the chair to ensure presence of these members in the House,” he said.
Shahbaz Sharif also advised the chair to refrain from taking dictation from the prime minister to issue production orders of detained members.
The House also offered Fateha for the departed souls of soldiers and officers who laid their lives in two terror attacks in Waziristan and Balochistan.
The otherwise smooth proceedings of the House lasting less than two hours ended on a bad note due to a tiff between parliamentarians from the PPP and PTI who attempted to engage in a fisticuff.
The ugly situation was created when the PTI parliamentarians from Karachi including Alamgir Khan, Attaullah and Aslam Khan attempted to raise the Karachi-related issues after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri gave the floor to the PPP parliamentarian Abdul Qadar Patel.
The PPP member Zulfiqar Bachani signaled the PTI members to take their seats, which triggered a verbal clash between the two sides.
Charged members from the two sides attempted to approach each other but some senior parliamentarians stopped them.
In his speech, Minister for Communications Murad Saeed compared the visit of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States.
He said Nawaz Sharif travelled to the US by a special flight with family members at the cost of huge expenses but the question was that if he had succeeded in presenting Pakistan’s narrative.
“During his meeting with the US ambassadors, Yousuf Raza Gilani asked the US administration to continue drone attacks and his government will continue to stage protest in Parliament,” he said, adding that Gilani never talked about sacrifices rendered by the armed forces and civilians in the war on terror.
He said the two former prime ministers during their US visits never raised Kashmir issue and efforts of Pakistan for the world peace.
“The disqualified prime minister visited the US with families spending $4.6 lakh,” he said.
He said during his US visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan pleaded Pakistan’s case and made it clear that Pakistan was not a terrorist state rather it had been advocating for peace in the world and making efforts in this direction.
The minister said the prime minister also forcefully raised the Kashmir issue.
PPP parliamentarian Syed Khursheed Shah also regretted non-issuance of production orders of Asif Zardari, Rana Sanaullah, Shahid Khaqan and other parliamentarians saying the speaker’s office was looking towards the prime minister to seek his directions.
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