Employing all possible tools of the method, associated with accomplished professors of the art of diplomacy, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi spoke for 50 minutes in the Senate Wednesday evening. Afghanistan was the topic and he apparently felt too good about the agreement that the US Government had signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, after many months of tedious negotiations.

Only in the culminating moments of his speech, he finally felt the need of reminding us that Pakistan had not been a participant of those negotiations. It merely ”facilitated” the two sides to sit together and find means of establishing the lasting peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan is also not a “guarantor” of the final agreement. Yet, the foreign minister sounded too optimistic while anticipating a flood of “peace dividends” of the Doha Accord, although with repeated caveats that “too many spoilers” continue to have the power and influence to sabotage it.

At the outset of his speech, he was almost explicit while spinning the story that Pakistan’s “consistent position” on Afghanistan eventually persuaded the US to start negotiations with the Taliban. Suggesting this, he conveniently forgot that with the advent of Obama Administration way back in 2008, the American politicians, media and think tanks had begun vigorously questioning the logic of waging war in Afghanistan. The US “establishment” thought otherwise. It rather forced President Obama for a massive “surge” of American presence in Afghanistan, which failed to produce the desired results.

From day one of reaching the White House in 2017, President Donald Trump had been itching to get out of Afghanistan. He often derided his generals and diplomats, through his tweets and before media, for wasting time and resources in “an endless war” in Afghanistan. He had made up his mind to get out of that country, come what may, before facing another election in November this year. Pakistan, for sure, actively helped him to execute the plan. How to go about it should now be his headache and the Taliban should equally share the burden of delivering, whatever had been promised in Doha.

Foreign Minister of Pakistan did not require explaining and defending the so-called confidence building promises, which the two sides have made to each other in Doha. He should also have refrained from showing satisfaction over the promise, which the US had made to the Taliban for getting them out of the UN-enforced sanctions and the list of “global terrorists.”

Senator Asif Kirmani of the PML-N is a laidback senator. He, however, was the first to take the floor from the opposition side, when Qureshi finished his speech. Without being loud and rude, he demolished the feel-good mood, which the foreign minister had tried to generate by delivering a longwinded lecture regarding Afghanistan.

Shah Mehmud Qureshi had tried hard, for example, to make us believe that after possibly smooth completion of the process, set by the Doha Accord, India would hardly have any role to play in Afghanistan. The US has finally realized that India’s overactive presence in that country continues to deepen security concerns for Pakistan. Kirmani had to remind him that only last month the US President had gone to India. At the end of his visit, “strategic agreements” were also signed on. In one of these agreements, Pakistan was asked to deny “safe havens to terrorists” on its soil. India was also “thanked” for presumably playing a “positive role” regarding Afghanistan.

A big number of opposition senators were keen to critically react to Qureshi’s lecture-sounding speech. The sitting had to be adjourned for prayers, though and I rushed back to home to meet the deadline for this columns. There indeed were so many questions that the foreign minister’s speech had triggered. One could only hope that the opposition senators had the time to put them appropriately.

I seriously believe that Wednesday’s sitting should have exclusively focused on Afghanistan. Sadiq Sanjrani, the chairman, preferred “legislative business” at the outset of it, however. Doing so, he obviously tried to undo the damage that hawks from both sides had caused to the Senate’s image during its brief sitting of Tuesday. After nonstop shouting at each other, these hawks reached too close to physical scuffles. Security staff was summoned SOS to keep them apart. Sanjrani was adamant to “go by the book” the day after.

His preference for delivering on the legislative agenda helped a smooth passage of the Zainab Alert Bill. As the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Senate, the youthful Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, had diligently been working to prepare an effective and comprehensive law, which prescribes harsh punishment for crimes committed against children. For the first time in our history, serious reprimand, even jail, is also recommended for the police officers showing leniency in fast registering the case of heinous crime against children.

Instead of appreciating the same, Maulanas of the religious right joined hands to delay the passage of this law by ferociously demanding that people found to have committed the heinous crime against a child must be “hanged in public.” Nothing short of it was their persistent demand, which was also supported by a PML-N Senator, Javed Abbassi. The Chairman Senate was in no mood to waste time in trivial point scoring. With the firm but polite management, he facilitated the quick passage of the proposed law.

Heading to the election of 2018, the PML-N government almost succumbed to mob fury, ignited by a definite group of “the religious parties.” The said government was, wrongly, accused of “deliberately deleting clauses” from certain forms, which Pakistani Muslims, wanting to contest elections, need to submit with an affidavit, asserting and reiterating the faith in finality of prophet hood with our Prophet (PBUH).

With the clear intent of getting even, the PML-N senators were now accusing the PTI government for allegedly deleting “similar questions,” you need to commit the answers to, in forms required to be filled before proceeding for HAJJ.

Noor-ul-Haq, the minister of religious affairs, furnished a comprehensive and satisfactory answer. Yet the PML-N senators forced the Chairman to send the matter to a special committee for deep probing. Pressing their demand, they also delivered passionate speeches, loaded with allegations having the potential of igniting the mob fury for another time. One could only wish that the PML-N senators had shown a large heart after listening to a credible-looking story that the minister of religious affairs had told with all the necessary details.