No back-channel talks with India, Senate told

Opposition slams arrest of PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry

Our Correspondent January 26, 2023
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar gesturing during her address at a Senate session. PHOTO: Radio Pakistan


The Senate on Thursday was informed in categorical terms that no back-channel diplomacy was presently taking place between Pakistan and India.

The session was also marred by chaos over the arrest of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, while the party's opposition leader Dr Shahzad Waseem lashed out at the Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his government.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told the House during the Question Hour that hostility coming from the neighbouring country was of a “unique nature”.

During a sitting of the upper house of parliament presided over by its Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Khar maintained that relations between the two nations were marred by a number of provocative steps by India.

Khar added that the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi being banned by India vindicated Pakistan’s viewpoint on the Gujarat massacre.

The minister continued that Islamabad was keen that its eastern and western borders remained peaceful and wanted to carry on an amicable journey.

She said despite New Delhi’s negative attitude, Islamabad would continue on the path of peace, pointing out that the tension between the two countries on the Line of Control had decreased.

She maintained that religious minorities in Pakistan enjoyed full  protection but in India, they were being treated poorly.

Khar described the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor as a positive precedent, stressing the need for such initiatives to move forward.

The minister’s remarks came days after India invited Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to attend meetings of a key regional forum that also includes Russia and China.

The meeting of chief justices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is scheduled for March while the foreign ministers will meet in May in Goa.

However, Pakistan is in no hurry to respond to the Indian invitation to attend the key regional forum’s meeting in May, as officials have termed New Delhi’s invite a “routine practice”.

As soon as the session started, PML-N Senator Asif Kirmani lashed out at his own government, drawing the chairman’s attention to the absence of ministers from the House.

Speaking on a point of order opposition leader Waseem claimed that parliament was engulfed by darkness for the last few days and the reason for that was still unknown.

He added that much had occurred following the regime change in April last year.

During the opposition leader’s speech, PPP Senator Bahramand Tangi resorted to a lot of noise and chaos.

He also had a verbal spar with PTI Senator Saifullah Abro.

Senator Tangi said he would not allow anyone else to speak.

The opposition leader pointed out that first PTI leader’s Shahbaz Gill and Azam Swati were rounded up and now it was Fawad, who had been taken into custody.

He lamented the way Fawad was produced in the court – handcuffed and his head covered with a cloth as if he was a “high-profile terrorist”.

Waseem claimed that the “partiality” of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was “pretty clear”.

He added that the whole year around the ECP maintained that it was prepared to hold polls except for the time it was actually directed to conduct them.

Waseem açcused the ECP of appointing a controversial character as the caretaker chief minister of Punjab.

Senators Palwasha Khan of the PPP and Irfan Siddiqui of the PML-N also criticised the manner in which Fawad was treated.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad demanded the immediate recovery of Khan Mohammad Marri's wife and children, who according to him were being held in a private jail in Balochistan’s Dukki area.

Senator Farooq Hamid Naek sought a ruling from the chairman over the use of a national flag on the vehicles being used by special assistants and ministers of state -- as only the ministers were entitled to do so.

Former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani told him that before 1985, nobody was allowed to install a national flag on their vehicle.

However, he added that the matter was taken up before then premier Mohammad Khan Junejo, who allowed ministers, state ministers as well as aides, who enjoyed a similar status, to have a national flag on their vehicles.

Naek insisted on the chairman’s decision on the matter, compelling Sanjrani to say that he would give his ruling on the issue on Saturday (today).

Responding to a call-attention notice, Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha said the government had a plan to improve the ongoing economic situation.

She added that the current rulers had inherited the country in a financial mess and on the brink of a default from the previous government.

She added that the government was determined to protect the poor segments of society.

Dr Pasha noted that last year’s devastating floods and international factors had also negatively impacted the functioning of the current government.

She added that all the political parties should stand united while rising above political interest to steer the country out of the current quagmire.

On the occasion, Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan informed the House about television and radio channels air programmes that helped in creating awareness among farmers.

He added that both Radio Pakistan and the PTV would be asked to broadcast more such programmes to acquaint farmers with the latest technology.

He was especially appreciative of Radio Multan’s agriculture-specific programmes.

Senator Afnanullah Khan was reprimanded by the chairman for using his cell phone to make a video clip in the House.

The session was later adjourned till Friday (today).

(With input from agencies)


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