Opposition assails foreign policy
By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD, May 18: There were more brickbats than bouquets for the governmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s foreign policy at the start of a two-day debate in the Senate on Thursday, the main focus being on PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s alliance in the so-called US-led war against terrorism.
The opposition claimed that the policy was not independent and Islamabad did not get enough returns for aligning with the United States after 9/11, but the government said it was on the right track and never compromised on matters of national or Islamic interest.
Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, who was present during the evening sitting where seven opposition and four opposition senators spoke, will wind up the debate on Friday.
Senator Raza Rabbani of the PeopleĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Party Parliamentarians opened the debate saying a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“directionlessĂ˘â‚¬Âť foreign policy, for the first time in PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s history, had made both of its western and eastern borders insecure, compromised the national stand on Kashmir, endangered its nuclear programme and failed to get a similar civilian nuclear cooperation deal from the United States as offered to India.
He accused the government of failing to adequately address KabulĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s concerns about cross-border terrorism and said: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Afghanistan, which was being seen as a strategic depth, has now become a strategic threat.Ă˘â‚¬Âť
About the Kashmir dispute, he said a righteous cause of peopleĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s struggle for their right to self-determination had been reduced to Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“a matter pertaining to cross-border terrorismĂ˘â‚¬Âť.
He also said there were Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“serious apprehensions based on various indicatorsĂ˘â‚¬Âť that there was going to be a turnaround in PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s policy about Iran in the context of efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear programme.
In between more opposition attacks, mainly from the PPP and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, Pakistan Muslim League secretary-general Mushahid Hussain Syed and Education Minister Javed Ashraf came out strongly in support of the governmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s foreign policy.
Mr Mushahid said President Pervez Musharraf had taken wise decisions after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and said the present policy safeguarded national interests and also reflected the national sentiment.
Rejecting opposition charges that Pakistan was following American dictates, he said Pakistan took independent decisions by not sending troops to Iran, not voting against Iran on the question of its nuclear dispute, on the question of blasphemous cartoons published in Europe and the recognition of the Hamas government.
He had a swipe at the United States, saying it was facing problems in Afghanistan because of its own change of focus to Iraq and that its nuclear deal with New Delhi could be aimed at containing China and make India Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“policeman in the regionĂ˘â‚¬Âť. (TRUE??)
Mr Syed said absence of any foreign policy programme in the Charter of Democracy signed by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif showed the opposition had no different vision on the subject.
But Mr Rabbani questioned the PMLĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s leaderĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s assertion, saying the opposition had a vision quite different from what he called the governmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s policy to toe Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Western imperialismĂ˘â‚¬Âť but the charter had been deliberately confined to democratic institutions within the country.
Mr Ashraf, a former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, said Pakistan had changed policy on Afghanistan because the Taliban government had ignored its advice how to conduct itself after the 9/11 events. He said Pakistan was Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“in a very good shapeĂ˘â‚¬Âť in the matter of foreign policy and was never so welcome in the comity of nations as now.
PPPĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Sardar Latif Khosa said Pakistan had suffered under all military regimes and added: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Time has come to have an independent foreign policy under civilian rule,Ă˘â‚¬Âť he said.
MMAĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Prof Mohammad Ibrahim urged the government to withdraw from what he called Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“a war against the UmmahĂ˘â‚¬Âť.
Former law minister Khalid Ranjha of the PML said PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s position in the Islamic world was much better now than ever before while Islamabad was also having good relations with both China and the United States and seeking a peaceful resolution of disputes with
MMAĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Liaqat Bungalzai said PakistanĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s role was being reduced to that of any small little known African country under an international conspiracy.
Abdul Rahim Mandokhel of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said it was because of a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“double-faced policyĂ˘â‚¬Âť of the government that 80,000 troops deployed on the Afghan border to fight militants had failed to accomplish a jobs that could be done by just 5,000.