The treasury benches in the Punjab Assembly refused on Tuesday to vote for an opposition resolution condemning US drone strikes in Pakistan, with Law Minister Rana Sanaullah describing it as needless when the National Assembly had already expressed a similar position.
The session resumed on Tuesday, which was a private members’ day, at 11.30am with Rana Iqbal Khan in the speaker’s chair. Three resolutions were presented in the house for a vote. Two were passed unanimously, while the third, on drone strikes, was left pending for Wednesday (today).
The resolution was tabled by Mian Aslam Iqbal of the PTI. He demanded an end to drone strikes in the country. “The house terms drone attacks as against fundamental human rights and the country’s sovereignty, independence and stability, and severely condemns them,” reads the resolution.
It stated that the drone attacks were being done “on fake assessments and unclear information” in violation of international law. The federal government must inform the US government that drone attacks are unacceptable. The US should start a new relationship with Pakistan based on equality and respect by stopping drone attacks immediately, it said.
Law Minister Rana Sanuallah opposed the resolution. He said the federal government’s stance on drone strikes was clear. The National Assembly had earlier passed resolutions against drone attacks. On June 5, after being elected prime minister, Sharif had stood in the National Assembly and condemned drone strikes and demanded that the United States cease them. In his address to the nation on Monday night, the prime minister had reiterated his opposition to drone attacks. The federal government had raised the issue with US Foreign Secretary John Kerry when he visited Pakistan, and recently convinced UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to voice his objection to drone attacks. With the government’s position clear, the resolution was unnecessary and should be disposed of, Sanaullah said.
Iqbal responded that he was alarmed that the government was opposing the resolution. He said that drone attacks had caused increased terrorist attacks in Pakistan and were thus counterproductive. They also killed innocent people alongside alleged terrorists, he added. A total of 565 militants had been killed in around 400 drone strikes in Pakistan, alongside 2,324 non-combatants including 646 children and women.
The government should launch an international campaign to put pressure on the United States to stop drone strikes, he said, adding that surveys showed that almost all countries allied with the US were against the use of drones. The prime minister should also raise the matter during his address at the United Nations next month.
The PTI MPA said no one and no place was safe from terrorists. The PTI believed that ending drone attacks would reduce the incidence of terrorism. He said if the US could talk peace with the Taliban, so could Pakistan. He said 40,000 Pakistanis had died in terrorist attacks.
He said that the resolution did not criticise any party so he failed to understand why the PML-N was not supporting it. He said that the PA resolution would only strengthen the federal government’s position.
Dr Waseem Akhtar of Jamaat-i-Islami demanded that the government shoot down US drones, as Iran had done.
Sanaullah said that the federal government had already raised the matter at the international level and the UN. He said that since the JI and the PTI were in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they could instruct the Pakistan Army to shoot down drones.
Speaker Rana Iqbal tried to defuse the situation, but Sanaullah continued his speech, provoking Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodul Rasheed into making a statement. Rasheed said that if the PML-N did not vote for the resolution, it would be seen as supporting drone strikes.
Sanaullah said that the federal government was trying to develop a consensus on national security issues including drone attacks. He said that the draft of the resolution should at least be amended so that it stated that the house supported the federal government’s efforts to end drone attacks.
The speaker intervened and called for the resolution to be left pending till Wednesday.
Sheikh Alauddin of the PML-N moved a resolution calling for a tax amnesty scheme to be introduced, allowing untaxed assets to be brought into the tax net at a two per cent penalty. He said that such a scheme would increase investment and employment. He said that the International Monetary Fund opposed it.
The opposition has called an ‘all-parties conference’ for Wednesday to devise a strategy to oppose the Local Government Bill 2013, which was presented on Monday
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2013.