Debate over Anti-Pakistan Bill Presented in US Senate

September 30, 2021

Alarm bells rang in the upper house of parliament as a bill introduced in the US Senate sought to assess Pakistan’s alleged role in Afghanistan before and after the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Taliban.

Senator Sherry Rehman, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s parliamentary leader in the Senate and chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, raised the issue of the anti-Pakistan bill, which aims to penalize and sanction various countries.

Senator Rehman, speaking about the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability bill introduced by 22 Republican senators, expressed regret that the US left Afghanistan under a deal reached directly with the Taliban, but that the US was pressuring Pakistan to take responsibility for whatever was going on in Afghanistan. She remarked, “What is happening to Pakistan is actually worse than what has happened before”.She stated that the bill directly targeted Pakistan and that it was not the US administration’s policy bill, but that it was significant because it had the potential to gain critical mass. She added, “It also points to a rise in toxic sentiments about Pakistan on Capitol Hill, which many of us have worked very hard to reverse”.

She said that at the very least, a start should be made to address the threats, noting that smart policy was about anticipating challenges and addressing them with unity and rational response. The bill’s section 202 specifically mentions Pakistan, calling for a “assessment of support for the Taliban by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, between 2001 and 2020.They are clearly claiming that the Pakistani government has backed the Taliban, but it is disappointing to see that no one has brought it up in parliament to shape collective responses or dispel damaging and painful misinformation,” she added.

“While it is critical to engage with all countries with self-respect, particularly enraged superpowers like the United States, which is in turmoil over its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, what are we doing to empower ourselves?” Senator Rehman asked. The parliament has never met on the Afghan transition, the humanitarian crisis, or the response, instead of attempting to unite the chamber around a bipartisan foreign policy. Joint meetings on Afghanistan are being held all over the world, but Pakistan’s government is refusing to deal with the parliament. She expressed regret that national unity, which she believes should be the first step in foreign policy, had been overlooked by the PTI government.

“Any attempt to assist Pakistan is met with accusations that our leaders are corrupt. What does this have to do with Pakistan? President Zardari has also written op eds for the Washington Post. He defended Pakistan as a whole, not just his political party. Read the op-eds to see how parliament was run to bring people together in times of crisis. You should not only pay attention to what is going on in the US Senate, but also in the Pakistan Senate. Instead of playing the blame game and disrupting unity, the Prime Minister of this country should respect the sanctity of the parliament and come here to discuss the situation. Is this your strategy for defending the country?” she inquired.

She stated that the government must take a serious, deliberate, and informed approach, and that a discussion on Pakistan’s foreign policy was necessary.

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