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Govt unclear about foreign policy: opp senators

18 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Opposition senators on Tuesday claimed that the government was not clear about foreign policy, and said that if estranged Iran-US relations were put on track, it would result in "closing of Pakistan's door as a strategic geo-political partner to the US".

Continuing debate over a motion moved by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani about foreign policy, drone attacks and other issues, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) said that it was unclear as to who was in charge of country's foreign policy.

"The government has made things complicated to the extent that it seems there are five informal foreign ministers looking after the Foreign Affairs Ministry," he said.

Although the portfolio of foreign minister is with the prime minister, Ishaq Dar is acting as de-facto foreign minister as he is seen negotiating on issues at the international level, the senator added.

The third informal foreign minister, he said, was Sartaj Aziz adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, and the fourth is Tariq Fatimi special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs while fifth informal foreign minister is Shahbaz Sharif chief minister Punjab.

"This reflects how confused our government is about foreign policy... it can be judged from the recent cancellation of Abdul Basit and Salman Bashir's appointments who were earlier tipped for different assignments and then told to hold on when they were given farewells," Mushahid said.

He said that the formal position of Pakistani government is still not known on a bilateral agreement between US and Afghanistan which says that 10,000 to 20,000 US troops would stay in Afghanistan after 2014.

Referring to media reports, he said that in a bid to contain China, the US is also contemplating to deploy its air force before troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan in the region, which is a clear indication of a new emerging cold war between US and China.

"The national security and foreign policy should be above party line and all these things need to be tackled with great care as withdrawal of thousands of US troops is the biggest logistic exercise, which needs to be closely observed," he maintained.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo said Pakistan is bearing the brunt of its foreign policy, which might drag the country towards isolation if "we fail to put a clear foreign policy in place".

He regretted that after the disintegration of USSR, "we went after the US without learning anything from the past mistakes".

US drones are "non-issue and the biggest challenge for the country is the proxy war which has made the lives of people miserable", he added.

He said the government is taking pride in achieving GSP Plus status without realising the fact that unless there is a peace and end to energy crisis, competing in the EU market would be an uphill task.

If Pakistan wants to be at par with developed countries, he added, it must take South East Asian countries onboard.

"To achieve this India and Pakistan need to bury the hatchet and settle their differences to reduce poverty and ease tensions in the region as both the neighbours are equally poor," he added.

He warned that if US finds out a new route with the help of Iran as ice between the two has started thawing, Pakistan would be isolated and lose its strategic importance.

Senator Rehman Malik said that some countries are busy promoting proxy war in Pakistan to achieve their vested interests.

Senator Abbas Khan Afridi said that whatever Pakistan did was meant to pocket dollars but it is "high time to be united or else isolation would become our fate".

He said the US is trying to mend fences with Iran and if it succeeds in doing so, Pakistan would have no option but to regret in isolation.


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