Top-level meeting convened to discuss Kerry-Lugar Bill

* PM regrets people making comments about bill without even reading it

* PPP meeting agrees to build consensus on bill

MUZAFFARABAD: A meeting of the country’s top leadership is being convened soon to discuss the Kerry-Lugar bill and its implications, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Friday.

“President Asif Ali Zardari, myself, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will hold a meeting immediately,” the prime minister said.

Gilani said the foreign minister had been asked to return from the US to respond to the queries being raised in the National Assembly.

To questions about various controversial clauses in the bill, he said parliament was the right forum to discuss important national issues.

Gilani however regretted that people were commenting on the bill without even having read it.

Meanwhile, President Zardari chaired a meeting of senior leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to discuss the political situation following the differences over the Kerry-Lugar bill.

Sources said the party leaders rallied behind the president to support the bill.

Federal ministers Qureshi, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Babar Awan, Naveed Qamar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mehreen Anwar Raja, President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar and parliamentarian Rukhshana Bangash were also present.

The foreign minister briefed the participants on the bill, which for the first time has de-linked the civilian assistance to Pakistan from the security aid.

He also briefed the meeting about his meetings with US leaders and exchange of views on issues related to Pakistan’s security.

Consensus: The sources said the meeting also decided to address the concerns of the security establishment and said the government would create consensus on the issue as the country could not afford internal dissension. They also said Zardari was eager to end the controversy on the bill as soon as possible, as any delay would tarnish the image of the government. They said the president had put off all other engagements to focus on the issue. app/sajjad malik

Troika meets today to resolve all issues

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Parliament likely to reject Kerry-Lugar Bill

By Hamid Mir

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to relent on his hitherto uncompromising stance on the Kerry-Lugar Bill in its existing shape. The president and the prime minister have decided to defuse the current crises by both assuring Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Saturday that all the controversial clauses of the Kerry-Lugar Bill will be debated in both houses of parliament and subsequently these clauses could be rejected by parliament.

The president and the prime minister will meet jointly with the army chief today (Saturday) in a bid to address all concerns of the Army high command regarding the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Both the prime minister and the president discussed the current political crises in different meetings on Friday. A group of federal ministers first met the prime minister in the morning in his parliament chambers and then the president in the late afternoon. This group of ministers was on a crisis-defusing mission. They included Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan and Labour Minister Khurshid Shah. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was also part of the meeting in the late afternoon.

A recent statement of Farhatullah Babar also came under discussion in which he reportedly said that opponents of the Kerry-Lugar Bill were opponents of President Zardari. Farhatullah Babar claimed that his statement was distorted. It was decided that in future he will speak only after first consulting with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik was not invited to this meeting but he too remained active till late last night. He contacted top army brass Thursday and assured that the president had no plans to remove General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani from the command of Pakistan Army.

He categorically told one general that; “Neither I nor the president is hatching any conspiracy against General Kayani and if someone can prove anything against me I will resign.” According to reliable sources, the president himself will assure General Kayani today that nobody is going to remove him from his current job.

It is also learnt that at least two federal ministers recommended to President Zardari that he must identify and fire all those who are responsible for creating misunderstanding between the Army high command and the civilian leadership. Some action on their recommendations is expected soon.

Everybody present in the meeting agreed that the country cannot afford confrontation between different institutions and there is an urgent need to defuse the crises so that no internal or external enemy could take advantage of this situation. The president said that the country needed unity against extremist forces and any political crises will only help all those who have become a threat for the state in the tribal areas. It was also decided that the prime minister will talk to the heads of all major political parties for making a joint strategy on Kerry-Lugar Bill.

One minister informed the prime minister in the morning meeting that Kerry-Lugar Bill is not the only source of irritation between the army high command and the government. The president was also informed about the activities of some US citizens in Islamabad and Peshawar that created a lot of concern in army circles.

Reliable sources claimed that rejection of the controversial clauses of Kerry-Lugar Bill by the parliament will not be enough. The army high command and a large number of federal ministers want a check on the mysterious activities of some US nationals in Pakistan. The Interior Ministry had recently informed prime minister that there were 411 US nationals present in Pakistan these days out of which 286 enjoyed the status of diplomats.

US embassy in Islamabad has hired about 307 houses in the capital. Security agencies have completed a survey of these houses and informed the government in clear words that most of these houses will not be used just for residences but also for spying activities. The president and the prime minister will discuss all these issues with COAS today and will try to form a joint strategy to secure and stabilise the country.


Army had details of Kerry-Lugar bill, says Berman

Army had details of Kerry-Lugar bill, says Berman

WASHINGTON (SANA): The US’ House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman said thatPak Army had complete details of Kerry-Lugar Bill and top military leadership remained in contact with US officials till approval of the bill.

Talking to media in Washington, Howard Berman said that he held talks many times with General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and other top level officials in this regard.

He said that President Asif Ali Zardari and military leadership were agreed to jointly take action against the militant groups to get rid of this menace. He said that those people are opposing the Kerry-Lugar Bill who did not read it or want to mislead the countrymen deliberately.

The US congressman said that purpose of these people seems to destabilize the country and provoke the Pak Army.

Asadullah Ghalib’s analysis:
Nazir Jaji:

Those making uproar about the bill greet the drone attacks in our tribal belt with deafening silence. There cannot be a more explicit and glaring breach of our sovereignty than the drone strikes, but my memory fails to recall any recent ISPR statements condemning those strikes. The sudden uproar of national sovereignty is quite confounding. In my view, it has nothing to do with national security. It boils down to one ultimate theme in our politics, that our establishment cannot contemplate playing second fiddle to a civilian, elected government and any attempts to tame our establishment by any civilian leader, be it Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari will be blocked – by any means possible.

But notwithstanding the problems with the bill or the PPP’s imprudent attitude, why are our khakis arrogating to themselves the ultimate right to define and defend Pakistan’s national security interests? There is so much wrong with the press release issued by the ISPR wagging a finger at the civilian government over the Kerry-Lugar Bill that one doesn’t know where to begin. Do we even know the terms on which drone attacks were allowed, airfields leased and citizens handed over to the US during eight years of military rule under Musharraf?

Where do our khaki saviours derive the moral authority to lecture anyone over a cheap deal with the Americans when they themselves surrendered the entire house for free over a midnight phone call? Whence do corps commanders assume the legal authority to reprimand a civilian government over its conduct of foreign or economic policy? Is the concept of civilian control of the military not mandated under our Constitution? Do we not continue to criticize US administrations for lionizing successive military dictators at the expense of our democracy? Is it then not welcome that for the first time in history the US legislature is legally binding its executive branch to deal directly with the lawful civilian government of Pakistan? General Kayani and his fellow officers have a right to disagree with the choices being made by the PPP government. But they can either counsel the government in private, or exercise their rights in public as ordinary citizens once they retire or resign. The civil society, the media and the people of Pakistan are capable of holding their representatives accountable. We are done with self-proclaimed saviours.