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Senators denounced Donald Trump statement against Pakistan

24 August, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Senators on Wednesday denounced US President Donald Trump’s statement against Pakistan, with many urging that the US ambassador be summoned to the Foreign Office and served a demarche.

They also expressed dissatisfaction with Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan’s statement at the outset of debate on the Indian prime minister’s recent visit to the US, where he signed agreements for the purchase of unmanned drones and nuclear submarines.

“It was more of an apology [to America],” remarked Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani.

Lawmakers from across the aisle also called for revisiting the terms of Pakistan’s engagement with the US, and clearly telling it that Islamabad had the option to deny it use of its territory and airspace.

“Trump must realise that we hail the legacy of Vietnam and Cambodia. If he wants Pakistan to become a graveyard for US troops, let him do so,” Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani observed.

When Mr Dastgir told him that the foreign minister would be travelling to the US, Mr Rabbani said the visit should have been cancelled after Mr Trump’s remarks. “It will send a clear message,” he said, as members thumped their desks.

In his opening statement, the defence minister said Pakistan had taken note of Mr Trump’s statement.

“No country in the world has done more than Pakistan to counter the menace of terrorism. No country in the world has suffered more than Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism, often perpetrated from outside our borders. It is therefore disappointing that the US policy statement ignores the enormous sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation in this effort,” he said.

He said Pakistan had been and would continue to be a part of global counterterrorism efforts. The US and Pakistan had been close allies in the fight against terrorism, which was a common threat for all nations, he said.

As a matter of policy, Pakistan does not allow its territory to be used against any country. Instead of relying on the false narrative of safe havens, the US needs to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism. The threat to peace and security cannot be isolated from the complex interplay of geopolitics, the continued existence of festering disputes and the pursuit of hegemonic policies. The non-resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remained the primary obstacle to peace and stability in the region, he said.

The defence minister said there was no exclusive military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. Military action over the last 17 years had not brought peace to Afghanistan, and it was unlikely to do so in the future.

He said that only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and politically-negotiated solution could lead to a sustainable peace, and Pakistan was committed to working with the international community towards the common objective of defeating the forces of terrorism and promoting peace and stability in South Asia.

During the discussion, Senator Abdul Qayyum claimed that a conspiracy was being hatched against ‘nuclear Pakistan’, saying: “They want to deprive us of our nuclear weapons”.

Commenting on America’s recently-revised Afghanistan and South Asia policy, retired Gen Qayyum noted that the US must learn from history and avoid using brute force to resolve an intricate political issue.

He said encouraging Indian involvement in Afghanistan would compound the issue, as India is involved in fomenting militancy in Pakistan. “We reject the policy of victimising Pakistan for the US’ own failures and the Afghan government’s incompetence,” he said.

He suggested a regional approach involving all stakeholders, including the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said Mr Trump was wrong to point fingers at Pakistan, but urged the government to also look inward, asking whether the time had come to abandon the failed policy of selective treatment of militant groups.

Mr Babar deplored that the US was blaming Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan, but added that at the same time we must revisit the policy of nurturing some militants to advance our security and foreign policy agendas in the region, he said.

He said point seven of the National Action Plan was that “defunct outfits will not be allowed to operate under other names”, which had not been acted upon. Worse still, instead of taking action, recently-banned militant outfits were allowed to reassemble and launch themselves as a political party, he said.

Blocking the UN move to impose sanctions against the head of a banned militant outfit does raise questions, he said.

“When bin Laden was found hiding in Abbottabad and a Pakistani passport and identity card was recovered from Mullah Mansour Akhtar, questions asked about such issues in parliament went unanswered, while banned outfits struted around as charity organisations.”

Senator Nehal Hashmi said the US ambassador had committed contempt of parliament by holding a meeting with the chief of army staff, and asked in what capacity he had met with the army chief when parliament and a democratic government are in place. “They want to create divisions,” he remarked.

Senator Usman Kakar claimed that the ‘good Taliban-bad Taliban’ policy continued to prevail, adding that foreign policy should be framed by parliament, but everything was in the hands of the establishment. Jehanzeb Jamaldini agreed that foreign policy should be under democratic forces.

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