ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday assured lawmakers from Sindh that the incumbent federal government respected the constitution and the law minister's remarks about invoking Article 149 in Karachi for taking over administrative control of the city were taken out of context.
"We have no intentions to mess with your [Sindh] government," the foreign minister said on the floor of the National Assembly.
"We respect the constitution, have always done so and will do so in the future too. Sindh is an integral part of Pakistan and we will not damage provincial autonomy in any manner."
However, Qureshi took a broadside at Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, accusing him of stoking up ethnic differences in response to the law minister's statement.
"Bilawal should not create an impression that there is a provincial discrimination in the country," he said.
"I say to Bilawal Bhutto, this is the start of your political career. Being the chairman of PPP does not give you the right to use the Sindh card."
The minister said it was irresponsible of the PPP chairman to speak of "Sindhudesh" and "Pakhtunistan".
"Those who spoke about Pakhtunistan were defeated and those who speak about a Sindhudesh will also face the same fate," he added.
Federal Law and Justice Minister Farogh Naseem's hint at the possible invocation of Article 149 (4) in Karachi to make it a separate administrative unit has garnered fierce opposition from across Sindh. Several politicians, writers, intellectuals and civil society activists in the southern province have termed the statement a "conspiracy" against Pakistan and demanded Naseem's resignation.
Qureshi told the house that the law minister had clarified that his remarks were misinterpreted. "This matter should come to rest now with his [Naseem] clarification."
A day earlier, Bilawal had warned that any move by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) federal government to take administrative control of Karachi may jeopardise the Federation.
"You [Centre] should consider why Bangladesh was created. If you keep acting with similar cruelty and the parties like the PPP do not stand [in the way] than tomorrow Sindhudesh, Seraikidesh and Pashtundesh can also come into being," he cautioned.
Earlier in the house, PPP's Khursheed Shah raised the issue of Naseem's remarks, describing them as a conspiracy against the Federation itself.
"The law minister's words will create unrest in Karachi. Its citizens will take to the streets. Only demanding his resignation is not enough, he should be taken to court," he maintained.
"The federal government should realise that the law minister is setting a trap for it as he belongs to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which has always wanted to separate Karachi from Sindh."
The foreign minister also mentioned the major diplomatic successes on Kashmir, adding that India is resorting to propaganda to hide its failure.
He said that four US senators wrote to President Trump and urged him to intervene in order to end atrocities in the occupied valley.
The minister added that the issue will be raised for the first time in the European Parliament on September 17 and in the UN General Assembly on September 27.
Qureshi said Imran Khan and the PTI government had effectively taken up the Kashmir issue across the world.
"As many as 58 countries during the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council endorsed Pakistan's stance on the Kashmir issue," he told the house.
The minister also clarified his remarks in an interview mentioning Jammu and Kashmir, saying that his letters written to different international bodies and his statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council had made his stance clear on the issue.
Earlier on a point of order, MNA Asad Umer drew attention towards the statement of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on the floor of the House during a previous session about people who had migrated to Pakistan from areas now in India.
He said Muslims living in areas that were part of India now had made a great contribution to the creation of Pakistan.
"Those Muslims helped the Muslim League win the elections of Central Legislative Assembly in 1946," he pointed out, adding that all 30 seats for Muslims in the legislature were won by the Muslim League.
"The Muslim League also won the majority number of seats in the provincial assemblies at that time."
Asad warned that people should not be divided on the basis of religion, ethnicity and language.
In response, Khursheed Shah said Muslims wanted an independent state and the assemblies of Sindh and Bengal had passed resolutions for the creation of Pakistan. "The people of all provinces and ethnicities are Pakistanis first," he remarked.
Shah said GM Syed was a loyal Muslim Leaguer but due to differences left the party.
"During the elections before the Partition, the Muslim League won the majority in the Sindh assembly and later its members passed a resolution in favour of Pakistan," he added.
Shah said Pakistan was a Federation and Karachi was the face of Pakistan as people from all over the country lived there.
He criticised those who were politicising the issue of garbage in Karachi.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Khawaja Asif raised the matter of the issuance of production orders of detained lawmakers.
"The production orders of Asif Ali Zardari, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Rana Sanaullah and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi should be issued," he added.
Asif warned that his party would be compelled to approach the Supreme Court if the issue of production orders was not settled by the speaker.
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