No bases for US, no business with India: Fawad

Says Pakistan won’t restore relations with Delhi unless it restores IIOJK’s special status


Rizwan Shehzad   June 08, 2021
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry during a press briefing following a meeting of the federal cabinet, in Islamabad on June 8, 2021. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD:

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has made it clear that giving military bases to the United States for future US operations in Afghanistan is out of the question, saying that no negotiations are in progress with anyone for giving any base.

While briefing the media about the decisions taken in the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the information minister also made it abundantly clear that Pakistan won’t restore relations with India unless it restores Kashmir’s special status prior to August 5, 2019, position.

The government spokesperson’s statement regarding the US came in connection with reports claiming that the Central Intelligence Agency director recently made an unannounced visit to Islamabad to meet army and intelligence chiefs as well as US defence secretary’s frequent calls to the military chief for getting Pakistan’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.

As far as Pakistan’s policy is concerned, Fawad said that the foreign minister has already given a policy statement in Senate; saying: “We have made it clear that there is no question of giving bases to the USA in Pakistan.”

Since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power in 2018, Fawad said drone surveillance facility had also been withdrawn and all the bases were in Pakistan’s own use. “No talks are in progress with anyone for giving bases to any foreign country,” he said.

The statement on India came after the cabinet rejected Pakistan Television’s (PTV) request to allow it to enter into a contract with Indian companies for telecasting Pakistan’s upcoming cricketing series.

The cabinet rejected PTV’s exemption request from the ban in import policy order, 2020, to enter into contracts and trade with Indian companies for importing sports broadcasting rights and services.

“We can’t do business with any Indian company,” Fawad said, adding that Pakistan’s cricket series with England would not be broadcast in Pakistan because Indian companies have the rights for showing such content in South Asia.

Fawad said that Pakistan’s relations with India depend upon restoring Kashmir’s special status to the position before August 5, 2019, adding that relations can’t be restored unless India takes back its decision. “The same principle was applied while dealing with PTV’s application,” he said, adding that it was a difficult situation but the government would try to resolve the issue.

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Shocking as it may seem, the information minister while explaining how railways system would be fully modernised once the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is completed said that it was difficult to say that the government could fix the railways system in a short span of time to the point where it could say that there won’t be any accidents – apparently saying that people should travel in trains on their own risks.

Without a doubt, Fawad said, the railways system needed to be upgraded but the problem is that one can’t fix everything in railways with a magic wand within two-and-a-half years as long as planning is required to fix the railways system. He once again criticised the PML-N government for not fixing the railway tracks during its tenure, saying the party spent Rs300 billion on Orange Line Train in Lahore after borrowing money from CPEC.

Fawad added that the Orange Line Train was bearing Rs1,200 billion losses due to the shortage of passengers. “Our institutions were ruined because of the luxury policies of the PML-N and the PPP,” he said.

Regarding the incident in Ontario, resulting in the deaths of four people of a Pakistani-origin family, he said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan has conveyed to the Western countries about how Islamophobia had penetrated their societies, urging action against the same.”

He said, “Western countries point out flaws in other societies but it's about time they undergo an introspection to counter Islamophobia."

With respect to the legislation on the proposed electronic voting machines, Fawad said they were awaiting the National Assembly’s nod. “We have been inviting the opposition to deliberate on the matter to come up with a joint solution,” he maintained, adding that the government was determined to give the overseas Pakistanis the right to vote.

“The cabinet has approved appointing an independent chairman and board of directors of the First Women Bank,” Fawad said. The cabinet also decided re-recording the national anthem from analog to modern line

He informed that Tariq Malik has been appointed as the new chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority in view of his vast experience. There have been more than 60 appointments during the government’s tenure and all have been made in a transparent manner, the information minister added.

He stated that a comprehensive draft with regard to the criminal law reforms had been submitted with the premier. Regarding the Ehsaas programme, Fawad said that 91 per cent survey regarding the new disbursements under the programme were completed.

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