WEB DESK: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday accepted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Pakistan under international pressure as the entire international community had been asking India to resume the dialogue process.
Briefing Senate over the recent visit of Narendra Modi to Pakistan, the adviser said that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would sit together in ‘mid-January’ to draw up map for next six months for talks on ten identified subjects.
Expressing optimism that the visit would help in resuming the suspended dialogue process, he said that the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will prepare a schedule for a comprehensive dialogue. Prime Minister Modi paid a surprise visit to Pakistan on December 25 along with an entourage of 100 people, after visiting Afghanistan. The visit was dubbed a family get-together between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart by opposition political parties.
Some lawmakers also questioned whether the visit took place under pressure by US. Senator Rehman Malik pointedly asked whether it was a goodwill visit or it took place under the American pressure. The adviser said that Modi telephoned Nawaz Sharif during his trip to Afghanistan and expressed the desire to visit Pakistan as it was his birthday on December 25, adding the wedding of his granddaughter, which took place the same day, according to Aziz had nothing to do with his visit. “It was a goodwill visit by the Indian prime minister…he [Modi] telephoned Prime Minister Sharif and expressed the desire to visit Pakistan to wish him happy birthday, which the prime minister accepted. He also told him that he is in Lahore so he’d to land up in Lahore,” he added.
Aziz said the dialogue process is challenging as it involves difficult decisions and important issues, adding the visit of Prime Minister Modi would help in moving forward to a great extent, as it is the first-ever visit of any Indian prime minister since 2006. “Both the prime ministers have met five times and the recent visit of Prime Minister Modi will certainly have an impact on the dialogue process which was suspended in 2013…the international media also lauded the visit,” he added.
At the same time, Aziz cautioned that the government is not into any wishful thinking that Modi’s visit would help in resolving all the issues between the two countries, adding it would definitely help in moving forward. “There was definitely a visible progress on some issues which will pave the way for rest of the issues gradually,” he added.
Responding to criticism by opposition senators, Aziz said the visit of Prime Minister Modi was largely appreciated by both the countries as well as the international community except some elements in India. He rejected the reports that Modi’s entourage visited Lahore without any visa, saying about a 100 members of his entourage stayed at the airport while visa requirements for Modi and those accompanying him were met at the airport.
Referring to reports that a ‘secret meeting’ between two prime ministers took place in Katmandu, he said there was no truth whatsoever in what the Indian journalist had written in her recently launched book that the duo had secret meeting in Nepal. However, the opposition members expressed dissatisfaction over the statement made by the adviser. Aitzaz Ahsan, the opposition leader in Senate, declared the briefing by the adviser “completely inadequate”.
He said they fully support that relations between the two countries should be improved but the government must take the parliament into confidence. “This is not enough, as the adviser should have come prepared, instead of concealing things from the house, adding he should hold an in-camera briefing for the house if it was confidential”.
MINI BUDGET Zahid Hamid, federal minister for climate change, informed the House that a regulatory duty has been imposed on luxury and non-essential items. He said that additional measures have been taken to ensure that middle and lower income segments of society were not affected.
He stated this while winding up a debate on an adjournment movement by Colonel Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi (Retd) and others regarding mini-budget envisaging additional taxes of Rs 40 billion by imposing 5-10 percent regulatory duty on the import of 61 items, increasing duty by 5pc on 289 items and levying 1pc customs duty on hundreds of other items in compliance of pre-conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Speaking on the motion, the MPs criticised imposition of new taxes, saying the step would directly hit the common man. They asked the government to focus on direct taxes and not on indirect taxes.
They regretted that the government always adopted an easy way of collecting more revenue from general public through increases in indirect taxes, which is not acceptable. They demanded the government withdraw additional tax collection from masses through such means, saying it was being solely done to appease the IMF. Zahid Hamid also presented The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the House which was referred to the concerned committee of the house. The house adjourned to meet again on Wednesday at 3pm.