ISLAMABAD - Washington would tender an unconditional apology to settle its row with Islamabad over Nato supplies resumption while Pakistan’s Parliament and media makes the ‘first line of defence’ against a host of non-military challenges the country grapples with in the current situation, stated Chairman Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed.
“I think apologising over Salala incident is the only option left for them, it’s not about anything else now. The foremost issue is apology that would be forthcoming,” he said on Monday during an informal interaction with the defence correspondents of print and electronic media at a lunch reception for journalists the Senator had hosted.
“The payments and lucrative deals don’t matter now. These are already done with. I repeat, something that matters is an unconditional apology. I feel very strongly about it and so does every Pakistani, “he stressed.
Elaborating on the non-military challenges, which, according to him, are seriously confronting the country, Mushahid mentioned of cyber warfare, anti-Pakistan propaganda, climate challenges, sectarian violence and shortage of water resources. “Psychological wars are fought on the internet-the shaping and reshaping of opinions-The floods catastrophy that virtually wiped out rural Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the last couple of years-killing the innocent in the name of religion-threat of water shortage Pakistan faces-All these factors are inter-linked in one way or other.”
Together, the Senator believed, Parliament and media can build-up a strong ‘counter-alliance’ to respond to these challenges, he said. “The Parliament and media are the first line of defence for Pakistan. That’s what I religiously believe and I have strong faith in. Both these institutions have frontline role to play for getting Pakistan on the way to progress and prosperity. Media can create awareness, identify problems, give solutions and make recommendations while Parliament can translate them into action through legislation. Discussions on defence-related sensitive subjects were a no-go- area before. The Defence Committee would make sure there’s no no-go-area anymore and everything is debated as per its merit ,” he added.
To query on the drone attacks in Pakistan’s FATA, he said drone strikes must be administered with the consent and cooperation of Pakistan.
“Previously, they (US) were carrying out drone-hits with Pakistan’s approval and help. Then they stopped seeking our approval but informed us before every drone hit. Now there’s no cooperation and no consent. This has to change.”
He appreciated Iran’s initiative of getting landed an unauthorised US drone flying into Iranian territory last year. “Why Pakistan cannot do so?” the Parliamentarian asked. The Senator portrayed a gloomy picture of the US future, arguing that the superpower had lost support of its longstanding allies like Turkey and Egypt, wherein, he believed, the fundamental shift in the dynamics of power had ‘overturned the tables.’
“Iran and China keep challenging the US hegemony and so does Russia. These all are sound economies and emerging global powers. This October, China would get a new government that is fundamentally nationalistic in its outlook-this implies that problems would keep brewing for the US,” he stated.
Sharing the Committee’s upcoming endeavours, he said, the Defence Committee would ‘keep an eye’ on the spending in defence sector to ensure ‘harmony’ in defence purchases and policies.
He further said: “The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is the authorised Parliamentary forum to oversee defence budget’s audit and related provisions. But as Chairman of the Defence Committee, I would like to closely monitor if the defence spending are in compliance with the requirements.”
On Siachen dispute resolution, Mushahid accused the Indian establishment of being ‘very narrow-minded’, ‘short-sighted’ and a “major hindrance in the resolution of disputes.”
On the proposed initiatives to be taken up by the Committee in near future, Mushahid informed that the Defence Committee would conduct hearings to review progress on probes into Bhoja Air crash incident and last year’s Mehran Base attack in Karachi. The Committee would also hold public hearings and get the input of defence experts on respective issues, he said.
The Senate’s Defence Committee members have approved this year’s work plan unanimously, to be launched shortly, according to the Chairman. Formation of Defence Reporters Forum (DRF) in consultation with the journalists concerned, launch of Senate’s website, preparation of annual reports on Pakistan’s strategic policy and workshops and briefings on strategic issues are some initiatives in the pipeline, to be materialised soon, he added.