Joint sitting of parliament likely next week

PM hints at convening a joint session to chalk out a response to new US policy

Our Correspondent August 25, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to requisition a joint sitting of parliament in the coming week to chalk out a strategy in response to President Donald Trump’s threatening speech against Pakistan.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who attended the Senate session on Thursday, gave the indication before Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif read out a statement released after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting.

The prime minister was in the upper house to attend an in-camera briefing on an adjournment motion tabled to discuss implications of a decision by an arbitration tribunal of the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on claims filed by the Tethyan Copper Company in relation to the denial of the Reko Diq mining lease.

Chairman Raza Rabbani told the prime minister that a Senate penal was working on draft recommendations to chalk out a way forward for Pakistan in this situation.

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He said he was extending the session so that the Senate panel could complete its work. The ongoing session is due to be prorogued today (Friday).

“Once the Senate adopts the recommendations, they should be sent to the joint sitting of parliament,” Prime Minister Abbasi said, indicating that his government was considering calling the joint sitting in the coming days. However, he did not elaborate.

Earlier in the day, senators criticised the statement of the US president and said Pakistan suffered enormously in the war against terrorism but it was unfortunate that instead of acknowledging its sacrifices Pakistan was always asked to do more.

Thousands of civilians and armed forces personnel had laid down their lives, and Pakistan’s infrastructure suffered losses worth more than $150 billion since 2001, they added.

They said it was encouraging that some countries had given statements in support of Pakistan after the US president’s irresponsible remarks.

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They were of the view that US encouragement to India to have a more robust role in Afghan affairs would not be acceptable to Pakistan “as India would use the Afghan soil for sabotage activities against Pakistan”.

“The interior ministry is unaware that the moves in the UN to impose sanctions on proscribed Jaish Muhammad (JeM) leader Maulana Masood Azhar has been repeatedly blocked by China,” the written replies to questions asked by a senator revealed.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar had said that such a move in the UN had been thwarted repeatedly and asked whether the interior ministry had any role in it.

In his written reply, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal stated that his ministry had been given regular briefings by intelligence agencies on the activities of prescribed organisations, but added that the ministry was not aware of blocking of the UN moves against the JeM leader.

“It is requested that the Honourable Senator should be specific in his question in order that the same be replied in clear and categorical terms,” the written reply from Iqbal said.

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Reports of China repeatedly blocking such moves in the UN have been widely reported in the media.

Senator Babar expressed surprise that in spite of receiving regular briefings from intelligence agencies on proscribed organisations, the minister was unaware of the moves to protect the JeM chief at the platform of the UN.

“If the minster is really ignorant even after regular briefings from agencies, will he now tell us whether and what action he proposes to take after becoming aware of this highly unusual move?” he said, reminding that recently “we welcomed UN sanctions on an Afghanistan-based militant outfit”.

On the request of Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab, who answered questions on behalf of Ahsan Iqbal, the question was deferred.

Meanwhile, during a meeting of the Senate’s devolution committee, PPP Senator Sassui Palijo raised questions over the new composition of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) by the new prime minister.

“Now there are four members from Punjab, two from Sindh and one each from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” she said, adding, “This creates a sense of deprivation among smaller provinces.”

The senator from Sindh had earlier highlighted the issue in the Senate as well.


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