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January 25, 2020

Senate asks PM Imran to explain ‘U-turn’ on Kashmir

Top Story

January 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Friday asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to explain on his government’s apparent U-turn on the Kashmir issue, as during a recent meeting with US President Donald Trump he said Afghanistan was his first priority and not Kashmir, ‘perhaps to match Trump’s priority’. The opposition senators took the prime minister and his government to task for putting behind the Kashmir issue and also asked if the government was stepping back from its CPEC commitments.

Deputy Chairman Salim Mandviwalla asked Leader of the House to see if Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would be round to come to the House and issue a policy statement and clarify the points the opposition had raised.

On a point of public importance, PPP parliamentary leader in the House, Senator Sherry Rehman was the first to refer to prime minister’s meeting with Trump in Davos and said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Donald Trump but on an important international forum he clearly said his first priority was Afghanistan, not Kashmir. Has the government taken a U-turn on Kashmir? Should the pain and anguish of Kashmir not feature first in that scale of priorities?”

Senator Sherry, who served previously as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, said unless it was one of our prime minister’s usual slip of tongue moments, it indicated a major shift in terms of our foreign policy, yet Parliament had not been informed about it.

“Instead of keeping Parliament away from the making and unpacking of crucial policies, the prime minister should share priorities and knowledge with Parliament because it has the right to know as well as the right to make a policy. The PPP has always respected the parliament’s right to decide because we believe in its supremacy,” she noted.

“Now that President Trump has again insisted on mediating between India and Pakistan, we ask what terms of reference our side offered for such a critical discussion. My issue or question is not with the US administration but from our own government as to what such discussions lead to, and what do they convey. After the government’s celebrations on President Trump’s earlier offer of mediation, we saw no movement on any issue, because it seems we are only interested in headlines. This was followed by India’s arbitrary annexation of Occupied Kashmir,” she contended.

Senator Sherry emphasized, “We want to know what happened to solidarity with Kashmir? Does anyone remember what happened to Fridays for Kashmir solidarity? Where did that go? What has emerged in its place? Our political parties have roots in Kashmir and we are asked questions about what we are doing. I certainly hope there has not been a shift in our policy towards Kashmir but it is clear that there is absolutely no transparency on the discussions that take place with any of the global leadership and what exactly our ask for a just peace in Kashmir is squared with his generous and frequent offers for mediation”.

The National Party Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo drew the House attention towards the statement by US Principal Deputy Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, who, he said claimed that all the Chinese companies working in Pakistan were corrupt and blacklisted.

“What we think of our country? Do we own this country? We have fought others wars on our soil and this brought us to the present state of affairs. Are not we again repeating that?”

Minister for Communications alleged kickbacks were involved in Multan-Sukkur motorway and then Advisor on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood called for a fresh look on the agreements signed with China regarding power generation and this obviously hurt them,” he noted.

And, he continued shifting from Saudi Arabia to the US and when prime minister returned with his entourage he was garlanded and accorded rousing reception at the airport and that Trump had become Pakistan’s supporter and turned against India.

Senator Bizenjo noted that then, Alice Wells came to Pakistan and issued a statement that CPEC project was anti-Pakistan.

“Foreign Minister should tell us what is our stance on the statements by US and Chinese, as US has adopted same stance, which our ministers had about CPEC. Are really rolling back CPEC and when US diplomat issued latest statement and Chinese ambassador responded it. It was felt, as if we don’t exist,” he remarked.

PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed fully endorsed what Senator Bizenjo said and noted that it was the Pakistan-China strategic relationship, which irked the US while the balance of economic and political power had shifted.

He pointed out that CPEC was just one component of the strategic relationship between the two nations. He noted that Alice Wells had given such statement on Chinese companies for the second time. He also regretted that initially PTI government ministers had given irresponsible statements, which she had quoted as well previously.

Senator Mushahid clarified that not World Bank, but the US had its own list of blacklisted companies. He called her statements factually incorrect and a very blatant interference in Pakistan’s affairs and asked had Pakistan ever questioned about the nature of US-India relationship and the arms agreement between the two.

He recalled how US had once blacklisted Modi for seven years from 2006 to 2013 and he was not able to get a visa to put his foot on American soil and Britain had followed suit. Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz categorically denied Kashmir had been back-burnered or ignored or any paradigm shift had taken place with regards to China.

He said the government followed policy of engagement, having good relations with other countries, with focus on national interests. He added it was unfair to say Pakistan had a shift in its relations with China and cited Prime Minister’s categorical statement on Pak-China relations.