Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem: “Pakistan’s foreign policy is based on what is best for Pakistan”
Among his colleagues, Dr Shahzad Waseem is known for his kindness and politeness in his speeches. Since his affiliation with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2012, first as an advisor to party chairman Imran Khan on foreign and diplomatic affairs, then as a senator in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government in 2018, Dr Waseem is also known for his effective interactions with foreign envoys and visiting dignitaries. Currently, the House Leader in the Senate, Dr Waseem directs government affairs in the upper house of the Pakistani parliament.
After being elected senator in 2003, Dr Waseem was appointed Minister of State for the Interior, 2003-2006. He has also served on various foreign affairs, interior and defense committees.
Dr. Waseem’s debates in parliament testify to his broad understanding of the imperative of strengthening national security, foreign policy, democratic ethics and human rights for an inclusive and pluralist Pakistan.
I asked Senator Dr Shahzad Waseem a few questions:
Mehr Tarar: As House Leader in the Senate, what are the increased efforts of the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to bring dignity and nobility to the work of Parliament?
Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem: In the system of parliamentary government, the fundamental work of parliament is legislation. National and social issues are also debated in parliament. What is not sustainable is that if the government is working on something, the opposition decides to oppose it just for the sake of opposing and preventing parliament from functioning. Create such an environment in which healthy legislation and debates become unmanageable actions.
I will give you an example: the behavior of the opposition during most of the Prime Minister’s speeches. The opposition creates a pandemonium. We understand that it is their right to protest and to oppose. But I think that in matters of national interest and important legislation, the opposition must have a positive attitude.
Our intention is to have a constructive synthesis inside and outside the parliament on important legislation. The electoral reforms for which the President has set up a committee is a vital issue for the consolidation of democracy. Most of the elections in Pakistan were seen as controversial, their results rigged or unfair. What is needed are reforms for which all parties are on one page. One of our proposals is the introduction of EVMs, the use of which will suppress a regular election grievance.
We reiterated to the opposition that we are ready to discuss any reservations they may have regarding EVMs. Consider the proposal, bring in your own experts, discuss any questions, we will answer them. But so far we haven’t seen any positive responses.
Another important national issue is that of accountability. The accountability process should be strengthened. Whenever liability legislation was discussed, most of the suggestions put forward by the opposition were about ways to find “relief” for themselves. Under Prime Minister Khan’s leadership, our position is very clear: we are ready to engage in dialogue with the opposition. There are, however, a few red lines. The accountability process should not be affected. We wish to institutionalize and strengthen the entire accountability process so that Pakistan never suffers from the economic setbacks of the past.
Recently, some human rights bills introduced by opposition MPs have passed in both houses — a sign of our government’s constructive mindset on a bill. important law.
Our efforts to improve the environment for Parliament will continue. The legislation must continue. And we reiterate the opposition to dialogue on all issues.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, how do you assess Pakistan’s current diplomatic relations in the region and beyond?
Amid several complicated scenarios, Pakistan’s foreign policy moves forward with foresight, composure and caution. Pakistan’s foreign policy is fundamentally based on one agenda item: what is best for Pakistan.
Our leader has his own international reputation. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is known around the world for his integrity and passion for moving the country forward. Overall, Pakistan’s role is now that of a responsible nation. Pakistani leaders are sending a message of peace – internally, regionally and internationally. Imran Khan is an Ambassador for Peace. He always spoke of peace. He called himself the “Taliban Khan” when he said that the only viable strategy for Afghanistan was not a military solution but a political compromise, starting with a dialogue with all stakeholders. Nobody paid attention.
Prime Minister Khan emphasized the importance of peace even with India. Unfortunately, the uncompromising and anti-Pakistani state of mind of the current leaders is an obstacle to opening a dialogue on all our outstanding issues with India, starting with the most fundamental: Kashmir. The current stalemate endangers the peace and stability of the entire region.
Prime Minister Khan, in international forums, is also speaking out against Islamophobia, a topic of great importance not only for Muslims in Pakistan, but for all Muslims around the world. Islam is a religion of peace, and Prime Minister Khan emphasizes this in most of his world speeches.
CPEC with China has entered a new level. Our strategic alliance with China is strengthening over time. Our relations with Russia have greatly improved. The visit in April by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation was unique for a long time, a positive sign of the overhaul of Pakistani-Russian relations. Our relations with the Central Asian republics are improving thanks to the mutual recognition of bilateral interests. There is an improvement in our relations with Iran. We have a splendid bond with Turkey. The same is true of our ties with GCC countries.
A special warmth is visible in Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia has been very positive. Based on the feelings of mutual well-being, a future roadmap was drawn up, memoranda of understanding were signed, and strengthening economic cooperation and restructuring relations were discussed. We believe Saudi Arabia has always helped Pakistan and Pakistan has always supported Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan is also keen to reshape its relations, on the basis of a convergence of bilateral interests, with other world powers.
What is Pakistan’s official position on the situation in Afghanistan? As we strive to be the bridge of peace and dialogue between the Afghan people and the rest of the world, to what extent have our efforts so far been achieved in this goal?
Pakistan has played a very constructive role in the peace process in Afghanistan. Whatever influence Pakistan has, it has been applied to ensure the success of the Doha peace process. The United States and other powers have recognized and appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace.
Pakistan’s long-standing position is that of lasting peace in Afghanistan. We believe that there is no other option than a political dialogue and a political process. All military tactics have failed in Afghanistan. Now the different Afghan factions should sit down together to solve their problems. Regional and international powers must also become facilitators of peace; Pakistan has been doing its best in its role of facilitator for a long time.
It is imperative that all major components of the Afghan nation – the Taliban, members of the [now ousted] The Ghani government, other opposition parties and civil society, including women, are having an intra-Afghan dialogue to establish a roadmap for the future. Things in Afghanistan have changed so quickly, the main reason is the hasty withdrawal of the United States at the end. Pakistan’s position, from the start, was that the United States should exit Afghanistan responsibly, and only after a strong political system was put in place to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a victim again. chaos and bloodshed. But unfortunately that did not happen.
The next few months are crucial. The question of the legitimacy and the formation of the next Afghan government is very important. It is hoped that soon the Taliban and the opposing parties will resolve their differences, on their own, peacefully, and that the foundations for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan will be laid. The world powers, without playing for their favorites, must support all the peace and stability processes in Afghanistan.
I repeat that the Pakistani government has a very clear and categorical position: we have no favorites in Afghanistan. We only want there to be peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan people have suffered tremendously, they deserve a peaceful and prosperous future. For this to happen, Afghanistan must be stable inside.