ISLAMABAD - The opposition parties in the Senate have called for civilian supremacy on the foreign policy of the country asking the incumbent government to end random multiplicity in policy formulation and retrieve the ground lost by the civilians to the security establishment over the past decades.
Opening the debate on the motion on foreign policy of the government with particular reference to the situation likely to emerge after elections in India and Afghanistan, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar called for civilian supremacy on the foreign policy of the country. Senator Mian Raza Rabbani is the mover of the motion and it is likely that Prime Minister's Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs would conclude the debate next Monday.
Farhatullah said the government should end random multiplicity in foreign policy formulation and stressed the need for retrieving the ground lost by the civilians to the security establishment over the past decades.
"A serious rethink of policy formulation is needed in the light of realities emerging as a result of political transition taking place in Pakistan's neighbourhood in the last one year including China, Iran and now in Afghanistan and India," Babar said.
He also said that Article 40 of the Constitution laid the basis of foreign policy formulation. Reading out Article 40, he said: "If we have to adhere to it, then we must break alleged links with any Afghan insurgents and stop the ability of Afghan fighters to seek refuge in Pakistan."
A stable and democratic civilian government leading the foreign policy formulation as against the security establishment leading it without being accountable would be welcomed by all parties, he said.
He said that the multiplicity in policy making was too obvious. "Whereas the PM kept the portfolio of foreign minister with himself, there was an advisor and a special assistant but interior minister and chief minister Punjab are articulating independently foreign policy issues without reference to the foreign office," he explained. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif even went as far as signing a joint declaration with the CM of Indian Punjab. While there is no issue with promoting people to people contacts it should have been done by Foreign Office and not by CM otherwise it will encourage different organs of state to pursue their own agendas, he said.
Farhatullah said that although the government has stated many times that Pakistan will not take side in the Syrian civil war and troops and weapons will not be sent to the aid of rebels there were lingering suspicion that non-state actors were being encouraged to move to Syria and Middle East with weapons and armaments. In this connection, he also recalled, how a former head of a security agency had publicly claimed clandestinely shipping weapons to Bosnia in violation of the UN ban earning him the ire of the US.
"In a TV talk show last night, the finance minister in reply to a question had stated that if people went to Bahrain and Syria then it should be seen an employee-employer relationship and had nothing to do with the government," he surprised.
He warned against taking the employee-employer relationship too far to such an extent that Pakistan is sucked into another Afghanistan, this time in the Middle East
"The foreign policy must be formulated by civilian government, Parliament and civil structured Foreign Office after taking input from the military establishment," he said adding that there is confusion in the foreign policy and this needed to be removed.
Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik said that militants were going to Syria from Pakistan via Turkey and questioned how they get visas. He sought in-camera briefing from the government on the foreign and security policies.
Hasil Bazenjo of National Party said, "Iran is going to become among the seven growing economies of the world and we should be careful about our relations with Iran." Afrasiab Khattak of ANP said many changes had emerged in the region within one year as elections were held in Iran and Afghanistan and India was going through this process. "Our relations are bad with China, Iran, Afghanistan and India on different reasons," he claimed adding that Pakistan should dissociate itself from the so-called Jehadi Project. He said Taliban had lost their war after people of Afghanistan took part in the presidential election. "We should change our strategic depth policy."
He claimed that militants were going from Pakistan to Syria and their employment was being done in Qatar and asked for a civilian control over foreign policy formulation.