–Parliamentary Committee on National Security vow no compromise on country’s honour, to invite military leadership in next meeting
–Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif says country needs to revisit US policy, says Washington still owes Islamabad $9bn in CSF
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has said that Pakistan should revisit its policy towards the United States (US) as the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which met in the federal capital on Thursday to deliberate over the recent statements made by US President Donald Trump, expressed the resolve not to make any compromise on the dignity and honour of the country.
The committee expressed unity on national security and decided to hold another session next week and extend invitations of attendance to the military leadership and defence institutions.
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq presided over Thursday’s meeting which was called after US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of basing its relationship with the US on “nothing but lies and deceit”.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump had said in his tweet.
The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman and former law minister Zahid Hamid. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed and National Security Advisers Nasser Janjua were also present during the session.
During Thursday’s meeting, the opposition members demanded that another session of the committee be called and an invitation should be extended to the military leadership to attend. Syed Khursheed Shah suggested that officials from the ministry of finance should also be invited to attend the next session.
“The next session should review the military and financial situation in the country,” he said. “We cannot make decisions based on emotions but will have to give thought to the situation.”
The next meeting of the committee is expected to be held on January 11.
Earlier, as the session began, the NA speaker said that the meeting’s focus will remain on matters concerning national security. “National security is a matter of the country’s survival. There is a need for unity on this issue,” he added.
After the speaker’s remarks, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir briefed the committee on Trump’s statements from the past week.
NO COMPROMISE ON DIGNITY:
Briefing the committee, FM Asif said that Trump is talking in the language of India, adding that Pakistan’s security forces have given tremendous sacrifices in the war against terror and that there will not be any compromise on country’s dignity.
He said that the US is making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failure in the war in Afghanistan. The minister also stated that the country’s civil and military leadership is on the same page over the issue.
He went on to say that US’ claims of having given Pakistan $33 billion in aid are ‘hollow and imprecise’.
Later, briefing the participants of the meeting, the defence minister said that after 16 years of fighting the war on terror, the US owed Pakistan $23 billion. He added that, of this amount, Pakistan has been paid $14bn and an amount of $9bn is pending.
The defence minister noted that there was a significant difference between the nature of talks held in Islamabad over the past months with diplomatic leaders from Washington and the statements made by Trump on January 1.
He said that no threats were levelled against Pakistan during talks with American leaders. “The leaders spoke about engagement and trust building. Here in Trump’s statement, we see threats and contempt.”
Dastagir said that it is necessary at this time to undertake a holistic review of the situation at hand.
‘ENTIRE REGION WILL SUFFER’:
Speaking to media after the committee’s meeting concluded, PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi pointed out that the pressure that Washington is exerting on Pakistan will have implications on the entire region.
“We have to look at the situation in the Middle East, at relations between the US and Iran, and the border that Pakistan shares with Iran,” he said. “We have to consider these things as they are part of the larger picture upon which our response must be formulated.”
He added that Pakistan will have to see if Washington takes further action, what such action may entail and what the country’s response to it will be?
“[Trump’s statement] is of an unusual nature. We have to take it seriously,” he said calling on the country to unite.
Referring to Washington’s decision to cut military aid to Pakistan, Qureshi said that a solution to economic assistance can be found. He added that the figures put forward by Washington differ from the reality and that, during the fight against terror, Pakistan has taken up expenditures that the US is yet to reimburse.
“We don’t make decisions about the future based on economic assistance,” the PTI leader added.
Earlier, the NSC expressed its disappointment over Trump’s anti-Pakistan statement but decided not to take measures in haste in reply to US accusations.
The committee stated that the country is undeterred in its resolve for establishing peace in Pakistan and has fought the war on terror with unflinching resolve. The statement further added that during visits by US officials, it was decided to move forward with mutual trust and cooperation, which would also lead to stability in Afghanistan.
The US president’s tweet had come in the aftermath of an increasingly terse back-and-forth between Islamabad and Washington since Trump announced his administration’s latest national security strategy.
During the announcement, the US president had been quick to remind Pakistan of its ‘obligation’ to help America “because it receives massive payments” from Washington every year.
“We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help,” the US president had said.
A Pentagon report to the US Congress, released to the media on Dec 17, had said Washington would also take ‘unilateral steps’ in areas of divergence with Pakistan while expanding cooperation between the two countries where their interests converge.
Subsequently, US Vice President Mike Pence had, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase on Dec 22, warned that Trump has “put Pakistan on notice” in what was the harshest US warning to Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war over 16 years ago.
Earlier this week, the White House confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, a move seen as the first step to implementing Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.