ISLAMABAD -  Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said Pakistan was not dependent on any foreign aid to run its affairs.

Speaking at the meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs here, Asif said Pakistan wanted good ties with all the countries including the United States and India on the basis of equality.

His words came as Pakistan and the United States struggle to overcome differences and amid an escalation in Pak-India tension.

Asif said Pakistan would not bow to any country’s pressure to change its policies, adding Islamabad was fighting the terrorists in its own interest.

“Our fight will continue. We want to establish peace in the country and be part of a peace process around the world,” he was quoted as saying by an official who attended the meeting.

Asif said combined efforts were needed to build Pakistan’s image amid diplomatic challenges.

He said despite all difficulties, “we have endeavoured to address the problems.”

“The parliament is supreme and we will ensure its supremacy. We will move forward keeping in view the guidelines and inputs of the elected representatives,” he added.

Asif said Pakistan and Afghanistan could successfully fight the war against terror through cooperation.

An official statement said the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs discussed in detail the matters of hunting of birds by Arab princes in Sindh and Balochistan moved by senators Karim Ahmed Khawaja and Jehanzeb Jamaldini respectively.

The committee was given briefings on the issue by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, secretary (Forests), Government of Balochistan and secretary (Forests and Wildlife), Government of Sindh.

The meeting was held with Senator Nuzhat Sadiq in the chair, and was attended among others by senators Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Momin Khan Afridi, Tahir Hussain Mashhadi and Khawaja Mohammed Asif.

The committee was told that a number of standard operating procedures had been prepared time and again but their implementation remained an issue.

Provincial representatives told the meeting that the number of birds was depleting due to unaccounted for hunting as well as environmental situation.

The provincial governments demanded that foreign affairs ministry should convey the requests from foreign dignitaries and all terms and conditions should be identified by the provincial authorities.

It was suggested that fixing an amount of money as fee and deputing a wildlife officer at the campsite should be made a compulsory condition for issuing of licenses.

Foreign Affairs ministry said the decision-making power was already with the provincial governments after the 18th Amendment, and the role of the foreign office was merely of recommendation.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had already rejected the ministry’s recommendations and no hunting had taken place there for the last two years.

The committee was told that encouraging trophy hunting instead of regular hunting was a way to increase wildlife population.

The foreign secretary told the meeting that Munabao-Khokhrapar agreement between Pakistan and India was regularly renewed and the railway service was operational. 

The agreement was renewed every three years and it was signed on January 31, 2018 for the next three years, she said.

Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja recommended increasing the frequency of train movement and making it a safe journey, while also working towards using this border for trade between the two countries on the pattern of Wagah border.

The committee was given details of budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its expenditures.

Regarding proposed Public-Sector Development Programme of the ministry, Janjua said a plan of having a convention centre in Islamabad was underway, which was conceived in 2015.

The proposed Margallah International Convention Centre, she said, would be used to hold international conferences, meetings as well as for accommodation of visiting dignitaries.

The ministry has not requested any releases for this project this year, which will be planned by the Foreign Office and executed by the Capital Development Authority, she added.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs was held at Parliament House, Islamabad under the chairmanship of Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar.

The Public-Sector Development Programme (PSDP 2018-2019) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the “Ratification of International Treaties Bill, 2013 (Private Member, Bill) moved by Dr Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari” were the two main agenda items.

The PSDP (2018-2019) comprised one item, endorsement of the committee regarding Feasibility Study (PC-II) costing Rs100 million related to the Margallah International Convention Centre having facility for holding big international conferences in Islamabad.

The committee chairman directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give a comprehensive briefing in the next meeting scheduled for February 16.

Under the rule 222, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, the proposed Private Bill “Ratification of International Treaties Bill, 2013 (Private Member, Bill) moved by Dr Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari” was presented for voting.

The proposed bill was rejected by the majority, however, one member abstained.

The members who attended the meeting were: Sahibzada Mohammed Nazeer Sultan, Mohammad Khan Daha, Chaudhry Salman Hanif Khan, Dr Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari and Naeema Kishwar Khan.

Senior officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Cabinet Division also attended the meeting.



 Shafqat Ali