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Unprovoked statements by Indian leadership against Pakistan posed serious threat to peace: Khawaja Asif

27 January, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday told Upper House of parliament that unprovoked hostile statements by Indian leadership against Pakistan posed a serious threat to peace and tranquility of the region.

The Indian involvement in sabotage and terrorist activities in Pakistan was a well-established fact, he said, adding that the arrest and confessional statement of Commander Jhadav, a serving Indian naval officer apprehended by the law enforcement agencies, had vindicated Pakistan’s stance. However, the minister said, Pakistan strongly believed that continued, comprehensive and result-oriented engagement between two countries was important for peace and prosperity in the region and beyond.

Kh Asif said that Pakistan was pursuing a policy of good relations with all the countries of the region, adding, “We have consistently strived to maintain close, cordial and mutually supportive relationship with our neighboring countries.”

The minister also gave an overview of Pakistan’s relations with the countries of the region along with the steps taken by the present government to improve the bilateral relations with the regional countries.

With India, he said, Pakistan wanted resolution of all outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. This policy had been consistently reiterated during high-level engagements as well as other official interactions, he said. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s positive overtures had not been reciprocated by the Indian side, he added.

Meanwhile, the government came under severe criticism for exempting a Chinese company from sales tax and federal excise duty through an SRO which the House declared contrary to the rules as well as violation of the Supreme Court judgment.

Opposition senators Murtaza Wahab, Nauman Wazir, Kamil Ali Agha, Saleem Mandviwalla and Ilyas Bilour drew the attention of the House through a calling attention notice towards the undue favour. Wahab pointed out that concession was granted to the China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) through an SRO on January 23, 2018, by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) without getting approval from the federal cabinet.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani referred the matter to the relevant committee of the House for holding probe and reporting back in the next session in February. He expressed annoyance after State Minister for Finance Rana Afzal accepted that the SRO was first of its kind which was issued after a summary moved by the Ministry of Communications was approved by the ECC. This promoted Rabbani to cite constitutional provisions that clearly state that the ECC decisions in such matters had no importance as it was the federal cabinet which could give a decision regarding tax exemption to a company.

The chair questioned how a summary can be moved in violation of the law, adding there was clear-cut judgment of the Supreme Court barring any such concession through SROs.

Senators Ilyas Bilour and Nauman Wazir termed the move far more dangerous than the East India Company, saying if such concessions to Chinese companies continued, the local industry would come to a standstill. However, Ahsan Iqbal defended the concessions, saying that it was sought for Multan-Sukkur motorway project under the CPEC.

He further said that China was providing the cheapest loan at the rate of two percent and such attempts to compare it with the East India Company were nothing but a negative propaganda against a friendly country.

The senators also expressed concerns over the arrest of more than 180 Baloch and Pashtun students from the Punjab University after a clash with Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT), a student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. The matter was raised by Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) parliamentary leader Usman Kakar who termed IJT as a ‘terrorist’ organisation and also sought action against the group. He said that the students of the IJT, who have established monopoly in the education institutions of Punjab, attacked Baloch and Pashtun students in Punjab University on January 22.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan sought an action against the IJT, saying that PPP stands by Baloch and Pashtun students. He offered his party’s all possible assistance in this regard and warned that the move can transform into a nationalist movement if the government of Punjab does not take steps immediately.

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