National unity needed to achieve enduring regional peace, says Qureshi


–FM says world expects Pakistan to reaffirm that we are one nation with one objective

–Shehbaz Sharif criticises govt for ‘ill-treating’ Rana Sanaullah, demands production orders for detained MNAs

–Says Irfan Siddiqui’s arrest is ‘height of oppression’


ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday stressed the need for national unity to enable the government to achieve its goal of creating enduring peace in the region.

Briefing the National Assembly on the security situation of the country, Qureshi said that while there are 100 political differences between individuals and parties, what binds them together is the country’s sovereignty, borders and ideology.

The briefing in this regard was sought by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

Referring to the country’s united stance against Indian aggression in February this year, he said such unity is the need of the hour. “The world expects Pakistan to reaffirm that we are one nation with one objective and we desire peace and stability because our own peace and stability is linked to Afghanistan’s peace and stability,” he said.

Appreciating the opposition’s suggestion of bringing this issue up for debate, he said that he had called a session of the foreign affairs committee of the House so that he can take the committee in confidence regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to the US.

Talking about Pakistan’s foreign policy in the past, he said that in 2017, the US had pinned all its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan and had suspended security and economic assistance to the country. However, a gradual change of thought has enabled Pakistan, US and allies to reach consensus on the fact that only a political solution can ensure Afghan peace, he added.

Comparing the state of Pakistan’s current foreign relations with those during the previous government, he said the administration of US President Donald Trump had in 2017 announced the South Asia strategy through which the onus of all hardships faced by Washington in Afghanistan was put on Pakistan. Security and economic assistance and even training programmes for Pakistan were suspended by the US and there was a bipartisan agreement in the US Congress against Pakistan, he said.

But there has been a “gradual change of thought” during the PTI government’s 11 months in power, with the US and its allies reaching a “convergence” with Prime Minister Imran that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict, Qureshi added.

He lauded the parliament for having devised the National Action Plan and voting to amalgamate the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan also invested heavily in border fencing as part of its efforts to secure regional peace, he observed.

The minister regretted that “elements are still present in Afghanistan who come into Pakistan to carry out attacks, and they have their own agenda”.

“This was also discussed in the US […] there are spoilers, there will always be spoilers,” he said, adding that Pakistan wanted reconciliation in Afghanistan to reach its logical conclusion.

Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran had convinced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Trump administration that if Pakistan was engaging the Afghan Taliban, it was an effort to take the peace process forward.

Besides Ghani, Pakistan had also invited representatives of all political parties and ethnic groups of the Afghan leadership, ending the impression that Pakistan “prefers a specific section [in Afghanistan]” and refuting the concept of Islamabad seeking “strategic depth” in its western neighbour, the minister added.

He termed as “positive” the statement by the Afghan Taliban that they would visit Pakistan if formally invited by the government.

It was an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s efforts that its leadership was invited to visit the US after five years, Qureshi said.

“Availing that invitation, the prime minister presented Pakistan’s point of view and stance in the US,” he said, adding that the government has attained “immense success” in turning an unfavourable atmosphere in the Pakistan-US relationship to a favourable one.


Addressing the House, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the government for ‘ill-treatment’ of MNA Rana Sanaullah.

He said that the former Punjab law minister is being kept in solitary confinement without access to a bed and chair in his cell. “He is a member of the House and has served as Punjab’s law minister for 10 year. Does he not have the right to have a proper bed in his cell?” he remarked, adding that even convicted persons are not treated in this way.

“Rana Sana’s wife, daughter and son-in-law are the only people allowed to meet him. I wanted to meet him in jail but my request was denied and when I tried to meet him in court, the government made that hard as well,” he added.

Shehbaz highlighted that many lawmakers were absent from the NA session due to the non-issuance of their production orders. “All members of the House should be present so that they can positively contribute to the workings of the parliament,” he said.

He said that he had been asked by former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had earlier been arrested in LNG case, to not ask the NA speaker for the issuance of his production orders. He further said that invisible forces had been working day and night to destabilise the country.

Shehbaz also condemned the arrest of Irfan Siddiqui, a former aide to Nawaz Sharif, questioning why he was taken into custody before being released on bail.

“Had he committed any crime? Had he stolen a goat,” he asked, terming the arrest “the height of oppression”.