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PPP senator Sherry steps up criticism of govt – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Senate, Sherry Rehman has said that, “Risks to Pakistan arise not just from a region in turmoil as well as global transitions that pose challenges, but also from the existing government’s refusal to democratize policy-making and inability to forge unity in Parliament at a time of growing challenges to the country.

Responding to questions about government policy on amnesty to certain groups, she said foreign and security policy, which only really works in bedrock of national unity, is now routinely subject to unilateral and clashing pronouncements by cabinet members which expose the country to questions at home and biting criticism at international forums. It is also made weaker by a lack of multilateral consensus and irrational messaging.”

“While one minister suggests that the TTP are hand-in-glove with terrorist groups nurtured in India against Pakistan, another says we can perhaps disarm and rehabilitate them if they renounce violence. The PM himself discloses existential, and what appear to be half-baked, changes in Pakistan’s policy on a foreign TV channel, instead of in Parliament. What political solutions he wishes to undertake with what they call the “good Taliban” need to be clarified, as do the questions that arise from the mass sacrifice Pakistani soldiers and civilians have made in unprecedented numbers while we fought terrorist groups to the tune of 80,000 lives? What constitutes criminality in this mindset and what about the extremist ideologies that such groups are advancing,” she questioned.

Rehman said, “They are already impacting the controversial decisions of a PM who says laws like those penalizing domestic violence against women, and forced marriages of juveniles must be “re-examined” by groups that have weaponised religion to advance their political ambitions. These and other statements have unleashed a storm of questions in the country, where the Muslim world’s first and twice-elected prime minister, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was martyred at the hands of terrorist groups whom she challenged at her last jalsa for removing the flag of Pakistan from its soil; the questions and pain from the families of the children martyred in the APS massacre are equally strong, equally valid. None of them have addressed.” She asked: “Why should we accept this?”

She said nobody knows except a small coterie about what terms of engagement are being forged with any country that impacts Pakistan. While we are told that Pakistan should not be forced into any arising global bloc, nobody has addressed how we are to navigate both the stresses arising out of the Asia-Pacific region, or the broader global order where Pakistan has commitments and exposure. Nobody has been taken on board about either the terms of engagement with the United States, with its vast influence on the IMF, multilateral agencies and even FATF, where Pakistan has been sitting on the grey list for 5 years despite passing a forest of legislation to supposedly meet compliance for clearance.

She said if geo-strategic alignments and their politics are now driving multilateral policy towards Pakistan, then Parliament needs to know about it inside parliament, with the entire attendant nuance that limits our space internationally and financially, and not from press talks. One closed-door National Security Committee session is clearly not enough to address either the pace and scale of events challenging Pakistan, and in that too despite the sensitive nature of the subjects, the PM was conspicuously absent.

Rehman said: “No loyal Pakistani will quietly accept the derailment of democracy, embodied in parliament, nor will they surrender their constitutional right to question sensitive terms of engagement with any non-state group or country. There is now little confidence on this cabinet to negotiate terms with any actor international or local, because clearly they are unable to manage a balance that is acceptable, let alone favourable to the Pakistani people”.

She saidL “The PPP used joint sessions of parliament to build strategic knowledge for parliament and then seek permission for a consensual course of action via representative committees of parliament. The messaging was clearly against violent extremism, kinetic actions against avowed terrorists, while other policies of deweaponisation or dialogue were not offered to groups with publicly stated aims against the state of Pakistan with no time-limit or end-state goals, but arose from such a process which were taken seriously both by Pakistan as well as the rest of the world.”

Senator Sherry Rehman concluded by saying, “This current government only uses joint sessions to bulldoze bills it cannot legitimately pass or answer questions about. History has taught us painful lessons about unilateral decisions taken in covert haste. We do not have the capacity, either economic or otherwise to absorb foreign policy disunity, non-disclosure or the derailment of democracy. All of these may well form a perfect storm to polarise and imperil the country. It is time the danger-signs yielded change”.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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