Thursday, September 21, 2017

'Free Balochistan' banners in Geneva: Rabbani asks FO to expel Swiss ambassador


Free Balochistan banners in Geneva Rabbani asks FO to expel Swiss ambassador

September 21, 2017/ 2 Comments

ISLAMABAD - Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani Wednesday asked the Foreign Office (FO) to expel the Swiss ambassador from Islamabad for Switzerland exporting terrorism to Pakistan from its soil by allowing the Baloch separatists to display “free Balochistan” banners in Geneva.

The chair gave these directives soon after Law Minister Zahid Hamid, on behalf of the foreign minister told the Senate that the Swiss authorities were reluctant to take action against Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a banned organisation in Pakistan, over displaying of banners in Geneva, in the name of freedom of expression.

“So they [Swiss] are doing nothing…what is the government doing?” Rabbani hit at the Swiss government for its inaction.

He said that the Foreign Office needed to take some serious steps and convey the reservations of the house to the Swiss government.

“The Switzerland is exporting terrorism to Pakistan from its soil on the one hand, and on the other hand, we are being asked not to use our soil for terrorism,” he said in the remarks that were given consecutively during the second day.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid in his response said that it was obvious that India was behind this campaign as a large amount of money was spent on this campaign and Baloch separatist leaders had connections with India as well.

The minister, while giving a policy statement in the house, said Pakistan’s mission in Geneva observed that posters titled “Free Balochistan” were displayed in well-frequented areas of Geneva sponsored by “Balochistan House”.

The Balochistan House is said to be an affiliate of the BLA. “The display of such publicity material is a serious violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and of international laws and the UN Charter,” he said.

Hamid said that anti-Pakistan posters were displayed at a time when the UN Human Rights Council started its session from September 11 in Geneva.

Similar posters had been displayed last year during the meeting of the council.

Earlier in March, some Pakistani Christians had displayed posters in Geneva accusing Pakistan of violating human rights of the community, “We had raised this matter with [the] Swiss authorities and they responded that this was no violation of law and we respect the freedom of expression,” he said.

Talking about the steps taken so far, the minister said that Pakistan’s Permanent Representative in Geneva immediately made a strong demarche with the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations.

He also wrote a letter to the Swiss Permanent Representative to inform him that the BLA was a listed terrorist organisation under the laws of Pakistan and other countries including the UK.

The use of Swiss soil by terrorists and foreign-sponsored secessionists for nefarious design against Pakistan was totally unacceptable, he said.

Moreover, in his second communication to the Swiss PR, he again impressed upon the Swiss authorities to immediately remove those posters and banners from public places and transport vehicles and prevent recurrence in the future.

In Islamabad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately called in the Swiss ambassador-designate to express its serious concerns over the use of Swiss territory by elements linked with a terrorist organisation perpetrating terrorism and violence in Pakistan.

The ambassador was told that the use of Swiss territory to undermine the territorial integrity of a UN-member state was a violation of the international law and not freedom of expression.

“Our mission in Berne has also contacted the Swiss Foreign Office to strongly protest this incident.”

Separately, the chair referred to the whole house the issue of breach of privilege arising out of an allegedly wrong reply to the question about implementation of the recommendations of inquiry board held last year in malpractices in the Aero Medical Department of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Speaking on his motion, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the CAA instead of taking action in the light of recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, furnished incomplete replies to the house.

It appears a case of cover up, protecting some individuals and misleading the house; he said and urged that it be referred to the Privileges Committee.

Chairman Raza Rabbani asked him for the copies of the documents after which the chair for first time in the history referred the matter to the house instead of the Privileges Committee.

He said that the privileges committee would also investigate the matter and give its report to the house within a week where a final decision would be taken.

Responding to a calling attention notice moved by JUI-F lawmaker Hafiz Hamdullah, the Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhary ruled out the possibility of installation of spying equipment on the roof of the newly under-construction eight storey building of the US embassy, located in Diplomatic Enclave of Islamabad.

He said that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had given NOC to the embassy for expanding its building and no illegal expansion was carried out by the Americans.

He said that the interior ministry and other intelligences agencies had also rejected the apprehensions that the eight-storey building could be used for spying.

Earlier, Senator Hamdullah, while referring to a report of the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) said that it had raised objections over the new building of the US Embassy in Islamabad.

 After the PPP Senator Sussi Palejo raised the issue of delay in the announcement of next NFC Award, the chairman Senate said that this matter should neither become victim of litigation nor go to the Supreme Court.

This is the issue of parliament as well as the executive and should be settled here.

He said that either he would give his ruling during the present session or refer the matter to the Senate Committee of the Whole House.

Earlier, Palejo said that some political parties were asking to approach the apex court as the government had delayed the announcement of the NFC Award.

PML-Q Senator Kamal Ali Agha, from the opposition benches, questioned how Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would run the affairs of its ministry when an accountability court had issued his arrest warrant.

He said that the court could declare him an absconder as he was out of the country.

Agha called the matter an embarrassment for the country.

He suggested that the important portfolio of the finance minister should be handed over to some other lawmaker

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