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Event Title: The meeting of the senate standing committee on Foreign Affairs held at Parliament House with Senator Farooq Hamid Naek in Chair.

Event Date: 2023-05-25

The meeting was attended by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari along with Senators, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Saadia Abbasi, Molana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, Walid Iqbal, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti, Palwasha Muhammad Zai Khan and Mushtaq Ahmed.

Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave a detailed briefing to the committee on Pakistan's diplomatic, economic, peace and security, and strategic objectives achieved through participation in the recent SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting held in India.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated that the decision to participate in the SCO Summit was a challenging one. After extensive discussions and consultations with several former foreign secretaries of Pakistan, a consensus was reached to attend the summit. The rationale behind this decision was that as a multilateral forum, the SCO should not be left unattended. We chose to present our case through this platform and prevent India from taking advantage of an open field.

The Foreign Minister emphasized that India, as the host country, aimed to exploit the opportunity to propagate its version of terrorism against Pakistan. By being present at the forum, he had the opportunity to counter India's narrative and remind the participants and the world of Pakistan's status as the most affected country by terrorism. He further expressed that our commitment to resolving the issue of terrorism stems from our own interests, not merely in response to India's demands. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari described his visit to India for the SCO summit as positive and productive. The Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of engaging in constructive dialogue, even with countries that have divergent views, in order to foster understanding and explore avenues of cooperation. He expressed his satisfaction with the outcomes of the summit and the opportunity it provided for meaningful exchanges with fellow SCO member states except India with which Pakistan decided not to seek any bilateral exchanges during the summit.

Briefing the committee about India holding a G-20 tourism working group meeting, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly condemned the Indian decision to hold a G-20 tourism working group meeting in the illegally occupied region of Jammu and Kashmir. He deemed this action as condemnable, offensive, and obnoxious. According to him, conducting such a meeting in a territory internationally recognized as disputed exposes India's arrogance to the world. The Foreign Minister highlighted that India's objective of achieving 100% attendance for the meeting was not realized, as several countries did not participate, while others downgraded their level of representation. He further emphasized that if India intended to showcase normalcy through this meeting, it failed miserably, as he could not find any international articles or news stories promoting tourism or normalcy in the disputed territory.

Senators raised various questions to the Foreign Minister regarding a wide range of topics during the session. One of the issues raised was the matter of addressing the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) problem with Afghanistan. In response, Bilawal Bhutto emphasized that Pakistan maintains an ongoing engagement with the interim government of Afghanistan. He stressed that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is crucial for the well-being of the people of Pakistan and the entire region.

The Foreign Minister further emphasized that Pakistan's aspiration for regional integration and the establishment of a trade corridor with Central Asia can only be realized if there is lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. The successful realization of these goals is deeply dependent on the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the creation of an enabling environment in Afghanistan.

When asked about the Saudi-Iran rapprochement and its impact on Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed Pakistan's warm welcome towards this positive development. He stated that Pakistan has consistently advocated for dialogue as the means to address and resolve all outstanding issues between Muslim countries. Bilawal Bhutto also commended the peacemaking role played by China in facilitating and promoting this reconciliation process. By endorsing and supporting the Saudi-Iran rapprochement, Pakistan reaffirms its commitment to fostering peaceful relations among Muslim nations and promoting stability in the region.

Senators praised Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto for his active and successful representation of Pakistan on the global stage. They commended his efforts in effectively projecting Pakistan's interests and engaging with the international community. The senators recognized his diplomacy skills and applauded his ability to articulate Pakistan's stance on various global issues. They expressed confidence in his leadership and acknowledged the positive impact he has made in advancing Pakistan's position and strengthening its international standing.

The committee discussed the Point of Public Importance raised by Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai concerning a D.O letter issued by the Section Officer of the Foreign Office. The letter declared that Parliamentarians cannot be appointed as Honorary Consul Generals. The Foreign Secretary provided an explanation, stating that according to the rules established in 2005, Parliamentarians are prohibited from serving as honorary consul generals due to potential conflicts of interest.

The Chair and all committee members agreed with the Foreign Secretary's explanation and unanimously decided to dispose of the matter.

The committee discussed the clubbed Starred Question Nos. 63, 64 & 65, which were asked by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed and referred by the Chairman Senate during the Senate sitting held on 5th May 2023. These questions pertained to Pakistani embassy schools in Libya.

During the committee meeting, officials from the ministry provided information regarding the schools in Libya. It was stated that there are two schools operating in the country, one in Tripoli and another in Benghazi. The school in Tripoli has an enrollment of 2000 students, while the one in Benghazi has 450 students. Additionally, there are 150 and 70 staff members appointed at the respective schools.

The officials shared details about the principal currently running the school in Tripoli. However, information regarding the principal of the Benghazi school was to be provided during the next meeting of the committee.

The committee members took note of the information presented and agreed to further discuss the matter in the next meeting, when the details of the principal for the Benghazi school would be provided.