ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has temporarily suspended talks with the US as well as official bilateral visits in protest against President Donald Trump’s speech in which he censured Islamabad while proposing a new policy on Afghanistan.
This was stated by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif during an in-camera session in Senate on Monday, knowledgeable sources told The Express Tribune.
The Upper House was converted into a Committee of the Whole House for a thorough private discussion on proposals being formulated by a House panel to suggest to the government policy guidelines after the contours of the new US policy on Afghanistan were delineated by President Trump in his speech last week.
The sources quoted Asif as saying that as an immediate reaction, he postponed his first visit to Washington as foreign minister last week. Similarly, US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Well’s tour had also been postponed, he added.
Although Pakistan did not officially suspend bilateral visits or talks, postponement of the two high-profile visits is being viewed as a significant development.
Among steps being formulated by a committee of senators, the panel would ask the government to fully implement the National Action Plan devised in 2014 after the APS attack.
The sources said that Senate would also recommend the government to devise a bilateral mechanism with Afghanistan allowing both sides to verify allegations levelled against each other.
The foreign minister maintained that the new US policy envisioned no military role for India and it would be limited to economic assistance in Afghanistan.
Senators doubted his statement, insisting that India was already using Afghanistan’s soil to destabilise Pakistan.
Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua informed the House that a three-day meeting of all Pakistan’s ambassadors had been convened, scheduled to begin on September 5. She said a strategy would be chalked out after consultations with the envoys.
The Committee of the Whole House will continue its deliberations on Tuesday (today) and finalise its suggestions which would be adopted by the Senate as a resolution on Wednesday.
During the regular Senate session, Chairman Raza Rabbani said that school textbooks taught students more merits of dictatorship than democracy.
This interesting observation was made when the House was discussing how to create awareness among masses about the Constitution and laws.
“Textbooks in Sindh and Punjab compared both [dictatorship and democracy] and present 11 merits of dictatorship and eight of democracy,” Rabbani remarked.
Minister of State for Education Balighur Rehman informed the House that a decision taken in 2006 calling for revising the curriculum was yet to be fully implemented.
“The curriculum for classes between 1 and 5 has been revised. We are in the process of revising it for classes between 6 and 12,” he said.
The new curriculum would propound concepts of citizenship, global citizenship, ethics, morality, rule of law, he said.
“Democracy will be the most important pillar of the new curriculum,” he maintained, but did not give any specific timeline for the completion of the project dating back more than a decade.
Balighur Rehman said recommendations of the National Curriculum Committee would be shared with provinces, enabling them to incorporate them in their curriculum.
Law Minister Zahid Hamid said the government had developed a website and an android application for making all laws available to the public. Similar websites had already been created by provinces, he added.
At the same time, he said, the government was working on a project to translate all laws in Urdu in line with the Supreme Court’s directions.
The chairman Senate wondered what the government would do if issues arose on interpretation of laws on being translated into Urdu.
The law minister said in such a situation, the English version would prevail.
However, the chairman Senate was not satisfied and said that would create confusion even in courts.
He reminded that in a newspaper interview, General Ziaul Haq had ridiculed the Constitution. Gen Zia, he said, termed the Constitution a “mere 15-page document that I can tear at will and all politicians will follow me wagging their tails”.
Citing another military dictator who, he said, avoided appearing in court trying him under Article 6 recently, had claimed that Constitution could be abrogated if the country faced threats.
“It is therefore absolutely necessary that courses on Constitution and constitutionalism and human rights are taught in military academies,” he said.
A resolution moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar to preserve the culture and heritage of the people of Kalash in Chitral and for the inclusion of the area among UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was also passed unanimously when the Law Minister Hamid Zahid said that he did not oppose it.