ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday told the Senate the government would give importance to the public opinion and public representatives in advancing Pakistan’s relations with the United States of America.

“Pakistan desires to turn its bilateral relations with the United States towards improvement,” Qureshi told the upper house in response to explanation sought by PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani on the recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The foreign minister went on to say that the US secretary of state is expected to visit Pakistan on September 5 and the opinion of people and their elected representatives will be kept in view while taking forward relations with Washington.

He reiterated the handout of the US State Department regarding the telephonic conversation was contrary to the facts whereas the press release issued by Pakistan on the conversation was based on facts.

“The conversation between Imran Khan and Pompeo was cordial and constructive in nature,” the minister said and added since national security and foreign policies are interlinked, unison on them was imperative.

“Given the challenges faced by the country, unity will give strength to our voice,” he asserted and assured the upper house that guidance will be taken from the Parliament in formulation of foreign policy.

Finance Minister Asad Umar informed the Senate that Pakistan has not so far decided to take a bailout package from International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that consultations on economic situation are continuing and the final decision will be made after taking the Parliament on board.

About National Finance Commission Award, the finance minister said it is a constitutional obligation and he has already directed the finance secretary to initiate the process for the new NFC Award which he hoped will be announced at the earliest.

Earlier, the house held discussion regarding the continuous display of abusive and blasphemous material against Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Internet.

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz suggested formation of a committee to discuss the way as to how the matter could effectively be raised at the international forums.

Several other members said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority should take concrete steps to block such websites as are attacking the personality of the holy prophet.

They said: “Being Muslims, it is our collective responsibility to ensure the sanctity of the holy prophet. The FIA should locate the persons involved in uploading of profane contents on the Internet.”

The members also strongly condemned the blasphemous cartoons competition in Netherlands. They said this is not freedom of expression but a detestable act to hurt the sentiments of Muslims.

They said the holy prophet gave the message of peace and those trying to desecrate his personality are terrorists and are bound to bite the dust. They said the Muslim rulers should meet their responsibility and sever economic and diplomatic ties with Netherlands.

Winding up the discussion on the blasphemous material, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Senate that he has made a request through a letter to the OIC secretary general to take action on the issue. He said he has also written six letters to the OIC foreign ministers on this sensitive issue, apprising them of the sentiments of the Pakistani nation on the matter.

The foreign minister said he will also take up the matter with the Council of OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting during his visit to the United States next month.

He said the issue of blasphemous contents has also been raised with United Nations Secretary General and the UN Human Rights Commission.

On a point of order, Senior PPP leader Sherry Rehman appreciated the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in yesterday’s proceedings of the house. She said the promise made by the government to ensure good governance is also laudable. The government should fulfill the promises that it made to the people during the electioneering, she added.

Earlier, during the question hour, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari categorically stated the new government will strongly and firmly take up the water issue with India. She said India has not withdrawn from Indus Water Treaty and is bound to abide by its provisions. Mazari regretted the previous governments resorted to the policy of appeasement and did not take up the issue of water effectively with India. She said India constructed dams in violation of Indus Water Treaty and Pakistan did not take up the matter with the World Bank. She said the incumbent government will force the Indian side to adhere to the treaty.

Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) will be completed during the tenure of the present government. He said this is an important energy project and a company has been constituted to oversee its construction.

 

Pakistan keen to improve ties with US: Qureshi