Foreign policy all about safeguarding national interest: Sartaj Aziz

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Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday informed the upper house of the parliament that safeguarding the national interest was top objective of incumbent government’s foreign policy.

Giving a policy statement in the Senate, the adviser said the opinion expressed by some US Congressmen about Pakistan did not reflect the US policy towards Pakistan. However, he said, the US Congress foreign affairs committee always held meetings on the countries, which were receiving funding from their country. The use of inappropriate language at a forum like the US Congress committee affected the committee’s image as well as the image of the speakers, he said. He said Pakistan understood that foreign assistance was an investment in bilateral relations. He said the government had changed its policy and increased dependency on trade instead of aid from foreign countries.

Aziz said there were several people in the US Congress who supported Pakistan. He said that recently an amendment to cut assistance to Pakistan was defeated in the US Congress. He said the State Department publically recognised that Pakistan made a meaningful progress on elimination of safe havens of militants and suffered huge losses in the war on terrorism. The adviser said that during his recent visit to Pakistan US Senator John McCain categorically stated that the situation in Pakistan had changed very much. He said that Pakistan was fully engaged with the US to strengthen the bilateral relations and neutralise the anti-Pakistan lobby. He said the US Congress shared US administration’s desire to bring stability in Afghanistan and it was the visible concern that there were considerable challenges in the war-torn country despite US efforts. He said this was an important area of bilateral convergence and mutual interest.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani asked Aziz to tell the US that recent remarks of US Congressmen about Pakistan were not good for US-Pakistan relations. He said that both Pakistan and the United States should respect each other’s sovereignty.

On a Point of Order, opposition leader in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan condemned the ‘honour-killing’ of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch. He said that women were more than 50 per cent of the Pakistani population; therefore, men were feeling threatened. He said that countries, which gave independence to women, made progress. He said there was a need to change the mindset otherwise the country would head to destruction. The PPP leader said that Baloch’s killer would be forgiven by the family after a few days. He asked the government to eliminate such practices by making amendments to laws. He said that women were living under pressure in Pakistan. He said there should be a conference and debate on this issue in Pakistan. He called for passage of the women’s protection law to stop such killings in Pakistan.

Taking part in the discussion on issues of public importance, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) condemned the recent poster campaign urging the army chief to take over and urging him to continue as the chief of army staff instead of retiring on completion of his constitutional tenure in November this year. He said no politician, bureaucrat or general was indispensable and added that graveyards were full of indispensable people. He said it was wrong to attribute the success of the operation against militants to an individual. He said the entire nation, all political parties, every citizen, all defence forces and law enforcement agencies and all institutions deserved acknowledgement for their will to fight the militants to the finish.

Babar said that as an institution the army had a large number of competent officers and it would be not right to place any individual above the institution. It is a disservice to the institution to say that only one man on the top was the saviour of the nation, he said.

He deplored the statement of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan that people in Pakistan would distribute sweets and welcome a military takeover. Such statements from a politician who claims to believe in the democratic process are shocking and painful to say the least, he said.

Introduced by State Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Abid Sher Ali, the House passed the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The state minister for parliamentary affairs introduced the State Life Insurance Corporation (Reorganisation and Conversion) Bill, 2016 and the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Both bills were referred to the standing committee for deliberations.

The chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan presented a report of the committee on budgetary allocations and their use by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan for the financial year 2015-16. The chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Communications presented a special report of the committee for the period June 2015 to date. Draft Code of Conduct for senators finalised by the House Business Advisory Committee was tabled in the House for information and feedback of members before operationalisation.

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