ISLAMABAD               -         The opposition Friday asked Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to give a policy statement in the Senate on the regional and Middle East situation following the escalation of tension between US and Iran over the killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US air strike.

After the opposition raised the issue, Leader of the House Shibli Faraz read out a brief statement received from Foreign Office and said, “We are monitoring the international reactions to the incident and also in the process of internal consultation to prepare and issue a measured response to the incident.” It would be “shared with the Senate as soon as it is finalized,” he added. He also informed the house that Qureshi was travelling and not in the town.

However, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani in his remarks said the foreign minister should show up in the house on Monday to take it into confidence on the situation.

According to a late-night development, it was decided that the Senate will meet on coming Monday and the government would table the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the house in the coming week.

Earlier, the Senate was scheduled to meet today (Saturday) and the government was to table the bill to pave the way to give a three-year extension to Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, opening the debate on the issue, said that the killing of Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has escalated tensions between US and Iran and has developed a war-like situation in the Middle East and the entire region. “The situation will not only affect the national security of Pakistan but also the security of the region,” he said adding that the tense situation would also disturb the oil supply in the region.

Rabbani demanded of the foreign minister to give a statement and take the house into confidence as to what were the repercussion of the escalation of tension between the two arch rivals and what was the stance of Pakistan on this? He reminded that Pakistan has changed its strategic link—a reference of Pakistan’s decision to pull out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit—and asked that the house should be informed where the country stood now?

Leader of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq endorsed the PPP stalwart and said that the circumstances demanded that Qureshi should hear to the stance of the house and also give a policy statement on it.

Parliamentary Leader of PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that the country was facing a crisis-like situation and everyone was questioning in the country about the PTI government’s foreign policy.

She mentioned the protests that have erupted in India and the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir and added that now another worst situation has arisen after the killing of Iranian military commander.

Senator Sherry tried to explain that all these developments demanded from Pakistan’s foreign policy to take bold stance. She highlighted that Pakistan could further face another economic crisis because of escalation of tensions between US and Iran as Pakistan was completely an oil importing country. She said that there was an ambiguity that where Pakistan stood with regard to its relations with China and US. She said that the seriousness of the government to solve this situation could be gauged from the fact that no a single minister was sitting in the house.

Her party colleague and senior PPP leader Senator A. Rehman Malik in his speech said that Pakistan was passing through testing times and they needed unity over the national issues.

He stressed that today if an airstrike was held in Iraq, tomorrow Pakistan could be challenged and threatened and questioned what measures the government has been taking to avert such situation. “We should be vigilant at both eastern and western borders and we cannot expect any positivity from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.” He claimed that it was the PPP government that gave the country ‘Drone Technology’ enabling it to counter and stop any drone attack from outside.

Senator Malik said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hurling threats against Pakistan at all possible fronts and in such a situation the government has to predict the situation and to frame a counter-strategy while taking the opposition into confidence. . He said that PM Modi has the anti-Pakistan mindset and suffering from war hysteria which has to be exposed before the world and countered at all fronts. 

“The Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC) and working boundary are continuously targeting civilian populations with artillery fire and automatic weapons, which is highly condemnable and sheer violation of international human rights and the UN laws,” he said

Senator Malik urged the government to call All Parties Conference (APC) and joint sitting of parliament to discuss all national issues and formulate a “National Action Plan on Kashmir and Foreign Policy” and to also make a strategy on country’s sick economy.

The house also discussed the annual report of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) for the year 2017 that was earlier tabled by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari. A number of lawmakers taking part in the debate demanded justice for a 10-year-old madrassa student who was allegedly sexually assaulted many times by his own teacher in district Mansehra of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa .They also urged the need to make NCSW more effective and for strengthening laws protecting rights of women.

The chairman Senate also directed the secretary Establishment Division to produce suspension notification of a bureaucrat working with the KP government by Monday for allegedly insulting and giving life threats to Senator Aurangzeb Khan, a lawmaker from erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). If the bureaucrat has threatened the lawmaker for life, inspector general of police KP is directed to register a case against him,” the chair ruled.