Behind closed doors: Govt, opposition agree to leave resolution pending

Published: March 29, 2012

“The US and Pakistan Army conveyed a message to the government that, if they fail to get approval of a unanimous resolution from the joint session, then the continuation of Nato supply via Afghan transit trade should be continued covertly,” sources in PPP told The Express Tribune. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

LAHORE: 

The opposition fears the political backlash; the government is unwilling to take blame by itself.

The recommendations of a parliamentary panel have become a veritable hot potato.

Well-placed sources in both the government and opposition have told The Express Tribune that the matter will be effectively abandoned following hectic negotiations between key political players. At best, the matter will be left pending for the time being.

The debate on the recommendations on foreign policy in general and ties with the US in particular yet to begin in earnest in the joint session, despite the passage of over a week since they were first presented by their architect, Senator Raza Rabbani. The future of the endeavour looked bleak to begin with.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has attached conditions – far-fetched ones – for its support on an eventual resolution on the matter.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has hastily distanced itself from the matter. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked out of Tuesday’s sitting, saying they were more concerned about domestic policy, referring to the fresh violence in Karachi, rather than foreign policy.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) are left alone on the matter. However, neither is willing to take the brunt of the public blame for a perceived capitulation before US-led international forces in the wake of the reopening of Nato supply routes through Pakistan. Given the sensitivity of the matter, the government wants any eventual resolution to be unanimous so that any fallout is shared.

With unanimity out of the question given the opposition’s stance, there is a frantic move to abort the endeavour that will result in the reopening of Nato supply routes.

The opposition’s stand was that, with this effectively being election year, the political hit will be too much for the parties to take, according to various off-the-record interviews conducted by The Express Tribune. Not even the military is willing to take a stand on the matter – having conveniently placed the sensitive matter in the hands of Parliament.

The government is said to have agreed with this stand.

According to sources privy to negotiations between the opposition and the government, the agreement between the two is to “continue the status quo” – that is, continuing Nato supply under the cover of Afghan Transit Trade. According to well-placed sources, a large chunk of the supply has already been started covertly in this manner.

“The United States and Pakistan Army conveyed a message to the government that, if they fail to get approval of a unanimous resolution from the joint session, then the continuation of Nato supply via Afghan transit trade should be continued covertly,” sources in PPP told The Express Tribune.

And that seems to be good enough for now.

According to the rules of procedure, after the end of a debate, the speaker puts the resolution to the house for a vote. However, the rules also say that the speaker can put a vote in pending for an indefinite period of time on the advice of the leader of the house, i.e. the prime minister. The joint session can then be prorogued, and the vote can be taken up later at any time during the life of the current National Assembly. The resolution would, however, lapse once the lower house of Parliament completes its term.

On the other hand, ties with the US need to be brought back on track. The effort in this regard is already on. President Asif Ali Zardari has met US special representative Marc Grossman in Dushanbe, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met US President Barack Obama in Seoul. On Wednesday, the US military hierarchy flew in to Islamabad for meetings with Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Meanwhile, sources in Islamabad have already confirmed upcoming visits by various high-level US officials, which may culminate in a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next month.

On its part, the PML-N, for all its opposition, does not want to antagonise the US.

Sources in the party told The Express Tribune that Nawaz Sharif presided over a meeting in Raiwind on Tuesday to discuss how the PML-N would tackle the matter in Parliament. In the meeting, according to sources, it was decided that the Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, will try to not deliver a speech during the debate – given that his speech will be taken as party policy by the US and allied countries.

When contacted, PML Deputy Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal said that it was a fact that powerful stakeholders wanted to get a resolution passed unanimously instead of by simple majority. However, he expressed ignorance about a deal between the opposition and government.  He added that relations between Pakistan and US should be transparent and any covert pacts between the two countries are counterproductive, and regretted that, according to reports, the US, the government and the army had already reached an understanding on reopening supply routes.

Iqbal also pointed out that the government had already failed to implement earlier resolutions.

When The Express Tribune approached PPP Central Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, he was quick to point out that the recommendations were not by the PPP but by a multi-party parliamentary panel. He also said that it was mandate of the house whether it reject, proposed amendments or accepted a resolution – but added that the government would like to have the resolution passed unanimously, and would not pass it by simple majority. In the same breath, he added: “Let’s see what stance the house adopts over the draft.”

Asked about the continuation of Nato supplies through Pak-Afghan trade, he replied that no one can stop the routes of landlocked countries under international law. Asked again, whether Nato supply was being transported in the guide of transit trade, he repeated his earlier statement – and ended the call.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Concerned
    Mar 29, 2012 - 6:57AM

    Spineless and shameless. The whole lot of them!

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  • Neighbour
    Mar 29, 2012 - 7:08AM

    So it seems like Pakistan will continue to let NATO supply Vegetables and Fruits, as admitted previously by an Honorable minister.

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  • Mar 29, 2012 - 7:32AM

    Classic example of “Samjhota Express”.. So PPP / ANP / PML-N / JUI / MQM / PML-Q have a consensus on continuation of NATO Supplies in the garb of Afghan Transit Trade.
    Even Maulana {the fiercest Jewish-Lobby opponent :)} is on-board in this. hmmm. So it proves that Imran Khan is the agent of Jewish-Lobby. :)
    So they down 3 birds in a single shot:
    1) Uncle Sam Happy 2) Samjhota Express Happy 3) Pakistani nation fooled.
    No wonder this nation is sick of all its (so-called) LEADERS. [sic]

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  • Harry Stone
    Mar 29, 2012 - 7:33AM

    So what is PAK going to do? You wanted this debate and circus and now you have it.

    Why not just say NO to the US/NATO and get on with making PAK a better nation.

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  • Thoughtful
    Mar 29, 2012 - 8:14AM

    This leaves the decision making once again to the Army.

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  • jibran
    Mar 29, 2012 - 8:31AM

    @Concerned:
    Including the generals, who have brought us to this point on the first place by blowing the whole thing out of proportion. The key culprit behind this mess stands retired now playing golf. But we are now left with the pieces to collect.

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  • JA
    Mar 29, 2012 - 8:45AM

    Shameless definitely

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    Mar 29, 2012 - 8:55AM

    I would hate to be a owner/driver on one of these trucks

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  • Mar 29, 2012 - 9:44AM

    ‘thoughful’ I agree with your expression; at the same time ‘politicians’ tends to live in a state of ‘ day dreaming’ and do nothing; God save us.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 29, 2012 - 9:46AM

    How do you describe leaders of a country who behave in such a spineless, hypocritical manner???? Islamic leaders from the Land of the (Im) Pure!!!!!

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  • Syed Farrukh Hussain Shah
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:00AM

    it was expected, everyone i.e government, opposition and army will have got their share from america,,,they are using salalah like incidents to raise their price…and compromised as soon as they got their price….

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  • YeHCheez
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:17AM

    So now it’s upto the DPC to decide?

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  • gp65
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:31AM

    @Concerned: “Spineless and shameless. The whole lot of them!”

    You realize it is your sipaheslar that you are describing thus.

    Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Mar 29, 2012 - 10:46AM

    It is simple. Both on government and opposition benches will not come out with consensus approach due to the fall-out they will get from the people so it is better for the Army Chief to come out and explain the nation about pros and cons on this thorny issue. Firing from the shoulders of the parliamentarians will not work. Master keys are only with the General and not elsewhere.

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  • Cautious
    Mar 29, 2012 - 11:22AM

    If your govt had any real leaders the military wouldn’t be running foreign policy let alone turn over foreign policy decisions to Parliament.

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  • daredevil
    Mar 29, 2012 - 11:34AM

    Is it a coincidence that as soon as the parliament started taking up the debate on ties with the US, killings started in Karachi and now today in Balochitan. Who’s next in line?

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  • Muddassir
    Mar 29, 2012 - 3:54PM

    Do they have any leadership traits…shameless cowards!

    and then we say that army runs our foreign policy…

    Good move by Keyani that he exposed these incompetent class of politicians

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  • Hadi Ansari
    Mar 29, 2012 - 8:50PM

    The big question is that as a nation do we have spine?For every move that goes bad and incidents like Salala and Davis that happen without any justification the entire nation becomes emotional.Each one of us including those who matter react in a manner as if we are a strong and most progressive nation of the planet.We loose sight of the ground reality.
    If the answer is ,Yes we have spine to withstand the shocks,then one must go through casually some economical,social and military facts.
    What do we have economically———————- near to Greece.
    What do we have socially. ———————- disintegrated fabrics.
    Militarilly we have. ———————-vast Borders,sea,and Airspace to defend.
    Having analysed the above I feel that the time has come for the politicians and the nation as a whole to grow and become aware of the weekness and how dangerously we are dependant on US/NATO.
    It is indeed very sad and unacceptable behaviour of political parties on the issue.Deliberate delay in decision making is not proper answer.

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  • Nasir
    Mar 30, 2012 - 2:10AM

    Unfortunately, the political lot including religious political parties and armed forces all in Pakistan are fooling with the masses (general public) there. If anyone would stand and ask NATO sure we can grant you access but for public opinion in favor of granting us access to you we need something in return to show the public.

    We could ask for immediate assistance in energy, economy building such as levying taxes on NATO supply lines and with this money we can improve our economy. Unfortunately, all big wigs in Pakistan such as politicians either ruling coalition parties or opposition parties along with religiouspolitical parties such as JUI, Jamaat e Islami etc and Armed Forces of Pakistan are involved in corrupt practices and want to pull each others leg or shift the blame on each other. No one is thinking to solve Pakistan’s public problems and none of them are sincere in doing so.
    Such is the case of our incompetent leaders!!

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