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Driving tanks on farmlands cannot end poverty, Nawaz tells joint session of Parliament

ISLAMABAD: A joint session of Parliament is underway in the capital today to discuss Indian aggression at the Line of Control (LoC) as well as foreign policy matters after India pledged to “isolate Pakistan”.

Read more: Hopes from joint session

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq opened the session by welcoming PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is present in the speaker gallery. PPP lawmakers greeted the announcement with applause and thumping of desks.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the first to address the lawmakers present in the assembly on the Kashmir issue.

We want peace, we are against war: PM Nawaz

The prime minister opened his speech by talking about the freedom struggle upheld by the youth of Kashmir who fight against “Indian aggression and atrocities”.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses Parliament's joint session
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses Parliament’s joint session

“World powers need to ensure that UN resolutions on Kashmir should be implemented in letter and spirit,” he said.

“We have done everything to make India come to the dialogue table, but india did not let it happen. Our efforts were thwarted over and over again. I would like to repeat our stance that we are against war. We want peace in the region. We want to resolve all outstanding disputes through dialogue.”

Touching on India’s allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in the India Uri base attack, Nawaz said: “Without any investigation within a few hours India put blamed Pakistan for the attack. Through this one can see what India’s motives are.

“On Sept 28, India’s ceasefire violation resulted in the death of our two soldiers. It was befittingly responded and was conveyed that Pakistan Army is fully capable to respond to any aggression.”

In an apparent response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that India and Pakistan should battle to eradicate poverty, the PM said: “If they want us to fight them to end poverty, then they should realise that poverty cannot be ended by driving tanks on farmlands.”

Why does Pakistan feel isolated, asks Khursheed Shah

Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah was the next to speak and said: “Why does Pakistan feel isolated at the international arena?”

“Why is our foreign policy so weak, why are we lonely?” asked the PPP senior leader. “We have to realise our mistakes and choose better path for the future. Our policies have led to this stage, where Bangladesh is also against us.”

Leader of the opposition, Khursheed Shah
Leader of the opposition, Khursheed Shah

Throwing light on the Tashkent Treaty, Shah stated: “Kashmir could have been solved in Tashkent
but our weak diplomacy became a noose around our neck.”

Shah drew some laughs from lawmakers when he accidentally said “Kulbushan Wani” instead of Kulbushan Jadhav in reference to the Indian spy, who is in the custody of the Pakistan military.

Speaking on the Indian premier’s refusal to participate in the Saarc conference in Islamabad next month, Shah said: “They [India] have tried to isolate us diplomatically. The Saarc conference is before you. Five countries that refused to attend it. We should have preempted such developments.”

Talking about India’s unwillingness to resolve the outstanding Kashmir dispute, he added: “We need to tell the world that India cannot run away from what is on the record. Why is the UN not resolving the Kashmir issue? Jawaharlal Nehru admitted this many times that Kashmir dispute should be resolved as per the will of the Kashmiri people.

“We all are united for Kashmir as per PPP’s fundamental policy. We have a firm believe that Kashmiris will get their rights. The victory will be of Kashmiris and Pakistan.”

There was some jovial back and forth between Shah and Speaker Sadiq when Shah complained mid-speech that he did not have a podium on which to place his speech document. “You should have arranged for this before,” said Shah with a smile, to which Sadiq responded, “You should have asked before.”

The house erupted into laughter when Shah made a witty remark signalling to the podium placed in front Nawaz. “Let’s switch it around — he [the PM] can come here, and I can go in his place.” Much to everyone’s amusement, he wondered out loud what his party’s political leadership must be thinking of his deal making.

Fazlur talks about Kashmir

Kashmir Committee Chairman Fazl-ur-Rehman addressed the lawmakers next, and questioned India’s attempts to secure condemnations over the attack on Uri base.

“We are asked to condemn the Uri attack, but what about those innocent and helpless Kashmiris who are subject to India’s brutality?”

Imran’s boycott

Senior lawmakers of all political parties are attending, with the exception of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and chairman Imran Khan. Khan stunned both allies and critics when he announced on Tuesday his party’s intention to boycott the joint sitting of parliament over what he said is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s failure to present himself for accountability.

Read more: Opposition stunned as Imran announces parliament boycott

Party insiders told Dawn that while most PTI parliamentarians wanted to stay put in Parliament House to fight their case, the party chairman — supported by a group of unelected party leaders — decided otherwise.

During the session, other issues of national importance will be discussed.

Purpose of joint session

Earlier this week, the government sent a summary to the Presidency seeking President Mamnoon Hussain’s approval for holding a joint session of parliament to discuss the issue of ‘surgical strikes’ by Indian forces across the Line of Control (LoC).

Although Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has categorically denied any surgical strike by Indian forces, escalating tension on the LoC compelled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to announce that the joint session of parliament would be held on Wednesday.

“The Joint session of Parliament will be convened on Wednesday to reaffirm the national resolve for safeguarding the sovereignty and preserving the territorial integrity of the motherland against any external or internal threat as well as reiterating the moral, political, and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir,” Prime Minister Sharif said.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah said that not only the violation of LoC by Indian forces would be discussed in the joint session the opposition would also raise the issue of what he called complete failure of the government’s foreign policy which had left Pakistan isolated across the world.

“We believe that the government’s foreign policy has completely failed and it should be revisited,” the opposition leader said.

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