A day after it was ignored, debate on proposals for reconfiguration of foreign policy showed up in Parliament on Tuesday – but momentarily.
Stiff resistance marked Tuesday’s proceedings of the joint session of Parliament where a belligerent opposition briefly voiced its first concerns before once again deferring debate on the matter.
The government, however, attempted to assuage the opposition’s concerns, saying it will not take any unilateral decisions in this regard.
The recommendations were drafted by an all-party, bicameral parliamentary panel in the wake of worsening relations between Pakistan and the United States.
“I assure [you] that whatever resolution is passed by this house would not be the decision of mere treasury benches,” said Senator Raza Rabbani, head of Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS), which prepared the recommendations.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan pointed out the opposition’s objections, clause by clause. “These recommendations are not enforceable,” Nisar said, highlighting clauses referring to drone attacks, private security contractors and foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan, overt or covert operations, and use of airbases by a foreign country.
Nisar also questioned the implementation of Parliament’s decisions.
Pointing out a clause that called for bringing to justice those responsible for the Salala attack, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, Nisar said the US has denied taking any action in this regard.
“What would be the worth of parliament if we pass these recommendations,” he said.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of the eponymous faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, also launched a tirade on the matter.
“I warn [the government], if you pass any such resolution unilaterally, we will not let you implement it,” he said.
Linking the resumption of Nato supply route to an apology from the US is the easy way out, he said, adding that the US would do whatever it takes to serve its purpose.
Responding to the oppositions’ objections, Senator Rabbani said these recommendations were not given by the government but by an all-party parliamentary panel.
“The government would not have blocked the Nato supply, [and] got Shamsi airbase vacated if it wanted to satisfy the US,” he said.
On implementation of previous parliamentary resolutions, Rabbani said he had reports of the foreign, defence and interior ministries and can share them with the house.
The opposition was not the only one that criticised the panel, though.
Senator Farhatullah Babar of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party said that the proceedings of the PCNS were “unwisely wrapped under a cloak of secrecy.”
“By doing so, the committee deprived itself of the wisdom of the people and civil society,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.