ISLAMABAD -  An opposition senator on Tuesday alleged that Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was only reiterating the narrative of former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf when it comes to action against militants and dismantling jihadi infrastructure.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar, while taking part in a debate in the Senate on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Pakistan and the foreign minister’s foreign policy statement given in the Upper House last week, said that he was shocked to see that Asif’s narrative of dismantling the jihadi network was the same as that of Musharraf.

Asif would wind up the debate today (Wednesday).

“The way forward for Pakistan is to dismantle the jihadi infrastructure of the 80s, break away from the narrative of Gen (retd) Musharraf and a civilian foreign policy formulation instead of viewing it from the perspective of the security establishment alone,” PPP senator said.

Babar said that Musharraf used to confront foreign interlocutors by asking them to give him phone numbers and addresses of Afghan Taliban including former Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was hiding in Pakistan so that he could go after them. 

“Khawaja Asif also informed the Senate that the visiting US Secretary of State had been asked to furnish addresses of the wanted Taliban leaders for taking action,” he said adding that Musharraf’s policy of denial continues.

“Do not deceive others by asking them to give identity numbers of militants.”

Last week, Asif told the Senate that the US had handed over a list of 75 most wanted militants to Pakistan seeking action against them.

Babar said that many had welcomed recent statements of Asif and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to “put our own house in order” and asked why there was not a hint about it in his address.

“Is it that Khawaja Asif is not fully in charge of the foreign policy formulation? he asked

He advised Asif to simply pursue an investigation into the identity card and passport issued to Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor Akhtar “to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together”.

The PPP senator said that because of this disastrous foreign policy, Pakistan was losing a great deal.

“Last week, President Ashraf Ghani banned Pakistani trucks from entering Afghanistan also warning that Pakistan will not be able to trade with central Asian states if Afghanistan was denied the transit trade. The annual bilateral trade between the two countries has plummeted from 2.7 billion dollars to less than 1.5 billion dollars. With the new trade route of Chahbahar, Kabul’s dependence on Pakistan has further dwindled. Pakhtuns on both sides of the border are the victims and the country is losing but no one seemed to care,” he said.

Babar said that there were contradictions in the foreign policy of Pakistan. “On the one hand, we deny safe sanctuaries and on the other, we say that we do not want to bring Afghan war to our territory. If there indeed are no sanctuaries how will the war enter Pakistan,” he asked emphasizing that the civilian component in the foreign policy should be enhanced and not diminished at all.

Other lawmakers taking part in the debate said that Pakistan would not tolerate the US intentions of giving India the role of a “policeman” in the region. They also condemned the US for having their links with the extremist elements of India and Israel.  Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil said that the policy of Pakistan was now clear that it would neither become proxy nor support any militant group. “So there are (now) chances to improve relations with Afghanistan,” she said.

Jalil said that the US only wanted to sell its weapons throughout the world. She said that Tillerson talked with the top civilian and military brass in Pakistan in a friendly atmosphere but he talked about giving a role of the “policemen” to India for the region soon he landed in New Dehli. She said that this role for India would not be acceptable for Pakistan.

PPP Senator Taj Haider said that the US has relations with the extremist elements of India and Israel. He said that fencing the border with Afghanistan would not work and Pakistan would have to remove such walls to improve relations with the neighbouring country.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Usman Kakar alleged that Pakistan always remained a proxy of the US and still it is an ally of the US in Saudi Arabia-led military alliance against Yemen. He said that Pakistan’s differences with the US were not on religion but on the issue of Afghanistan.  He also advised the government to improve its relations with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Saud Majeed said that Pakistan was trying to keep the house in order. Senator Saleem Zia said that Tillerson’s statement in India that the US was concerned about the stability of Pakistan’s civilian government was the most non-diplomatic statement. “The US has no business to say this,” he said.

Separately, the entire opposition staged a walkout from the House during the question-hour session for ignoring the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) saying the counter-terrorism body was fast becoming a post office due to non-allocation of funds.

Some three opposition senators also accused State Minister of Interior Talal Chaudhry of lying on the floor of the House and providing misleading information regarding the performance of Nacta.