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Event Title: Mushahid says Pakistan has got ‘strategic space’ to pursue foreign policy, Maleeha Lodhi calls for clarity on Kashmir, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee demands setting up of National Task Force on Coronavirus

Event Date: 2020-03-12

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has said that in the changing dynamic of International affairs, especially in the regional context, Pakistan has adequate strategic space and geopolitical breather which should be used to promote our consistent stand on Kashmir cause so that India is compelled to feel the heat of international diplomatic pressure. He made these remarks during the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee meeting held here today at the Parliament House which was briefed by Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, United States and the United Kingdom, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi on “Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, Challenges and Opportunities”. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that Pakistan needs to engage more proactively with the international community by sending envoys who are capable and mobilize the public perception not only with regard to Kashmir issue but towards Pakistan through soft diplomacy. He remarked that the Afghan peace accord, Trump’s reelection, CPEC and Modi looking inwards due to the severe internal and international backlash on abuses against minorities and Kashmiris provides Pakistan with strategic space.

Dr. Maleeha Lodhi observed that given the unsettled times in international affairs the notion of power is changing and challenges to multilateralism are growing. She identified four major challenges for Pakistan in its foreign policy engagement including navigating Sino-US competition, the Kashmir issue and relations with India, Middle East, Saudi Iran stand-off and the Afghanistan issue. She stressed upon the need to evolve clarity on the issues facing us, see objectives we seek and bring consistency in our diplomacy. She called for the need to have an OIC ministerial meeting and Human Rights Council special session on Kashmir. She called for clarity and consistency in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and questioned why, “there is an inexplicable halt in our Kashmir policy”?

The comprehensive and informative briefing by Dr. Maleeha Lodhi led to an extensive discussion in the Committee. Senator Rehman Malik observed that all stakeholders including the politician, from both sides of the aisle, should be on the same page with regard to Pakistan’s principled stand on Kashmir issue and our foreign policy should be focused on engaging all regions. Senator Seemi Ezdi recommended preparing a set of recommendations for the foreign office to provide a policy guideline to develop strategies for addressing the challenges of the foreign policy. Senator Javed Abbasi raised the matter of fall out for Pakistan after the withdrawal of United State from Afghanistan given the historical impact of such like previous withdrawal wherein Pakistan had to host hundreds and thousands of refugees. Senator Anwar ul Haq Kakar talked about preparing for different tactics and outcomes for achieving our targets in relation to Afghanistan. Senator Dr. Asif Kirmani remarked that the joint communiqué from the recent visit of US President to India was surprising as sacrifices done by Pakistan in the ‘war against terror’ have been totally ignored. Senator Dr. Shehzad Waseem said that we have some objectives and we need to have a proper strategy to achieve those objectives. Senator Lt. General Abdul Qayyum HI (M) Retd. stressed upon the need of careful selection of Ambassadors for effective diplomatic endeavours. During the course of meeting the Committee also noted that given the volume of work and significance of proactive approach towards all region of the world there is need to appoint Minister of State for various subjects/ regions. Senator Rehman Malik also presented his books to Dr. Maleeha Lodhi.

The Committee at the beginning offered fatiha for shaheed Wing Commander, Noman Akram who embraced shahadat in a plane crash yesterday. The Committee also unanimously passed a resolution on Coronavirus wherein the Government has been urged to declare a Health Emergency in light of WHO declaring corona various a global pandemic. The Government has been asked to establish a National Emergency Coronavirus Tasks Force under the Prime Minister with all the Chief Ministers as Members plus other relevant stakeholders and the task force shall present its period report before the Parliament which shall be made public. The Chairman Committee informed that the committee will be visiting Line of Control on March 24 to see for themselves the grave human costs of Indian aggression and indiscriminate Indian shelling on innocent civilians.

The meeting was attended by Senators Abdur Rehman Malik, Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, Sitara Ayaz, Senator Dr. Asif Kirmani, Syed Shibli Faraz, Dr. Shehzad Waseem, Seemi Ezdi, Senator Lt. General Abdul Qayyum HI (M) Retd. and senior officials from the Foreign Office.