ISLAMABAD: Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir on Monday said Pakistan’s vigilant and highly-trained armed forces will continue to protect and defend the land, sea and air borders of the country.
Making a policy statement during a National Assembly session, the minister informed the house that Indian forces had committed more than 1,300 ceasefire violations in 2017 at the Line of Control (LoC) which resulted in 52 deaths and injuries to 175 persons.
The NA held a discussion on foreign and defence policies of the government while leaving the legislative business unattended due to a lack of quorum. The deputy speaker presided over the sitting in the absence of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. However, Leader of the Opposition was present in the sitting.
The defence minister said that Pakistan has paid a huge price in the war against terrorism and has successfully cleared its territory of the terrorists. “We have cleared safe havens of terrorists from the country and Afghan war could not be fought on Pakistani soil. Despite provocations, Pakistan would continue to act as a responsible nuclear state and would continue with the policy of full spectrum deterrence,” he added.
Commenting on the recent LoC violations, the minister said: “Just today, our four valiant soldiers embraced martyrdom in unprovoked firing by Indian forces. The nation salutes to these martyrs and prays Almighty Allah to grant fortitude to their families.”
Dastgir said that the Indian government had accelerated Pakistan-bashing as a highly militarised and belligerent neighbour. The case of spy Kulbushan Jadhav was proof of the Indian efforts for unrest in other countries, he added.
He said the government would meet with vigour and commitment the growing challenges to Pakistan’s security and towards maintaining strategic stability in the region.
Commenting on the situation concerning to Afghanistan, Dastgir said Pakistan considered Afghanistan as a sovereign neighbour which shared abiding bonds of history, trade and culture. He said Pakistan respected sovereignty of Afghanistan and wished to see it prosper as a democratic state, but Pakistan would like this courtesy to be reciprocated.
The minister said that United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for last 16 years but failed to achieve the targets while adding that Pakistan should not be made a scapegoat for the US failures in the region. He said the way forward for Pak-US relations should not be through threats, notices and suspension of support.
He said that Pakistan had suffered a huge loss in the war against terrorism as an ally to the United States. Pakistan had to face economic loss and damage to lives and property of the citizens.
The suffering has been immense and painful and it is unfair by the US to blame Pakistan when it had not been able to pacify the situation in Afghanistan.
He said around 43 per cent of Afghanistan region was beyond the control of its government but Pakistan [still] respects the sovereignty of Afghanistan as a neighbouring country.
Commenting on the Pakistan and China relations, he said both countries have agreed to play their role in a peaceful Afghanistan, adding Gwadar Port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are a proof of their high economic cooperation.
PPP’s Naveed Qamar, commenting on the policy statement, said the statement lacks clarity, without having any stiff response. “There is a need to take it seriously.”
PTI leader Dr Shireen Mazari said that there was no clarity in the policy statement; rather, it further confused the situation. “There was no word about Indian army chief’s recent statement,” said Mazari, mentioning that Pakistan’s claim about halting intelligence sharing has also been denied.
“The government needs to clarify its actual policy,” said and criticised for not implementing on resolution’s to block air routes. “Why the government is afraid of blocking air routes,” she said as she mentioned different statements from the GHQ [Pakistan Army] and the Foreign Office. Pakistan, she said, needs to take care of its sovereignty.
JUI-F’s chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman, on his turn, criticised the foreign policy to deal with issues of [such] important nature. Fazl said country’s foreign policy is facing isolation. “There is need to make parliament supreme,” he said mentioning that it was a lenient response (policy statement) which lacks solid approach.
About FATA reforms, he said that there was a need to give a democratic right to FATA members. Decisions should be made from parliament, he said.
PkMAP chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that there was a need to take all including Sindhi, Balochi and Punjabi for making foreign policy contours. About former PM, he said some institutions were blocking the way of Nawaz Sharif.
The house did not take up the COMSATS University Islamabad Bill, 2017, the Federal Employees Benevolent Fund and Group Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and the Marine Insurance Bill, 2017.
The minister of state for interior presented the Biannual Report of the Activities of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as required under Section 53 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.
The minister for parliamentary affairs presented the reports on the Pilot Projects of Biometric Verification Machines (BVMs) and Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in by-elections of the constituencies (NA-120 Lahore-III and NA-4 Peshawar-IV) as required under the Elections Act, 2017.