ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Wednesday told the Senate that Pakistan neither desires “any security role of India in Afghanistan” nor wants presence of militant organizations — Al-Qaeda and ISIS — in the landlocked country.

Briefing the Upper House on the February 29 peace deal between US and Taliban, the foreign minister told the house that India had always played role of a spoiler. “There were spoilers in the past and they are even today, within and outside Afghanistan, who want to get their own objectives.”

Pakistan doesn’t want that footprints of Al-Qaeda and Daesh or ISIS grow in Afghanistan because their presence would disrupt peace in the region, the minister said in a policy statement in the house.

Talking about the joint declaration issued by US and Afghan government in Kabul the same day when peace agreement was signed, and the former’s offer to the `latter to help address its misunderstandings with Pakistan, Qureshi said that Pakistan wanted to resolve all issues with Afghanistan bilaterally.

“The third force cannot find a way out for us,” he said adding that this would be a preferred option for Pakistan.

Reiterating that Pakistan was never part of the peace talks and their role “has always been and will always be” that of a facilitator, the minister said Pakistan cannot give guarantee or take responsibility to peace in Afghanistan. “This is a shared responsibility, and all (stakeholders) will have to play their role. There are many powers, interests and motives (involved),” he added. 

He said that the true test of the Afghan leadership begins now as Afghan people want peace. “Can they rise to the occasion and chart a peaceful way forward or not, only time will tell.” He added that Pakistan would not be able to bear influx of more refugees if Afghanistan witnessed instability. “If violence erupts in the neighbouring country, there will be a spillover of it in Pakistan.”

Highlighting the Pakistan’s objectives to bring peace in the war-torn country, the foreign minister argued that Pakistan wishes secure and regulated border with Afghanistan but would never want joint operations. We also wish to see safe and respectful return of Afghan refugees and want to remove a negative perception about Pakistan present in the minds of a certain faction in Afghanistan, he said adding that Pakistan would engage with such people.

“There were some forces in the past and there are present today who are sceptic about the deal,” the foreign minister said adding that some people in Afghanistan and US understand that the effort will be futile. He explained if peace prevails in Afghanistan, it has a dividend with having positive effect on Pakistan who will getting opportunities to enhance regional connectivity and restart its stalled projects with central Asian states. Similarly, landlocked countries would get trade route through Gwadar Port and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project would benefit from this.

 

The house also passed the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020, with some amendments, to move ahead for much-awaited legislation on crimes against children more than two years after the abduction, rape and murder of nine-year-old Zainab Ansari by a serial killer in Kasur district of Punjab.

Violence and riots had erupted in the country as the people had agitated over the police inaction following recovery of the dead body of the child from a heap of debris in early 2018.

The house passed the bill amid some objections raised by opposition lawmakers, especially that of Jamaat-e-Islami, over the maximum punishment of life imprisonment proposed in the one of the sections of the law and demanding to enhance it to death sentence if the crime of murder of child is committed. The bill already approved by the National Assembly in January will go back to it before becoming the law.

The house adopted the bill moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati on behalf of Human Right Minister Dr Shireen Mazari with amendments proposed by the house human rights committee. The amendments include enhancing the jurisdiction of law to the entire country, that was earlier limited to Islamabad, and proposing punishment on failure of police in registration of a child missing case within next two hours when the incident is reported with it. In case of failure, the station house officer concerned will face up to two years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs one hundred thousand, besides losing his/her job.

According to another amendment, the designated courts will complete trials relating to offences against children within three months.

Chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said under existing laws, police often refuse to register a first information report (FIR) when missing incident is reported. This leads to the wastage of crucial initial time after the child’s disappearance, he said adding that that all crimes against children including child pornography kidnapping, and abduction etc have been covered by the law.

As per the draft bill then presented in the National Assembly, the bill proposes life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for child abuse and killing with a fine of Rs1 million. The NA committee had rejected the proposal of death penalty. The minimum sentence will be 10 years.

Under the law, a helpline will be set up to report missing children while the government will establish the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) to issue an alert for a missing child.

ZARRA will coordinate all stakeholders and maintain an online database of all children reported missing or abducted with their current status.

Separately, Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri assured that house that the mandatory affidavit for Hajj applicants declaring finality of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was still there in the Hajj application form. He said that Hajj application form has been divided into two parts for the convenience of banks submitting applications and the affidavit is part of the form that is submitted with the ministry.