Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday said that the entire Pakistani nation will have to come together for national interest in order to support the government's efforts to create a favourable environment for peace in the region.
He was briefing the National Assembly on the security situation in the wake of two attacks in North Waziristan and Balochistan that left 10 armed forces personnel martyred. The briefing in this regard was sought by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.
"We may have 100 differences of political nature but there is no difference in this nation on Pakistan's borders, geography, ideology and defence," Qureshi said.
The minister said Pakistan should proceed with the same unity as shown by the parliament in response to Indian aggression in February. "The world expects Pakistan to reaffirm that we are one nation with one objective [and] we desire peace and stability because our own peace and stability is linked to Afghanistan's peace and stability.
He said the government welcomed the opposition's suggestion to debate the matter and in this regard, he had called a session of the NA foreign affairs committee. The minister said he would take the committee in confidence on the full context, substance and content of Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent visit to the United States.
Comparing the state of Pakistan's current foreign relations with those during the previous government, he said the administration of US President Donald Trump had in 2017 announced the South Asia strategy through which the onus of all hardships faced by Washington in Afghanistan was put on Pakistan. Security and economic assistance and even training programmes for Pakistan were suspended by the US and there was a bipartisan agreement in the US Congress against Pakistan, he said.
But there has been a "gradual change of thought" during the PTI government's 11 months in power, with the US and its allies reaching a "convergence" with Prime Minister Imran that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict, Qureshi added.
He lauded the parliament for having devised the National Action Plan and voting to amalgamate the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan also invested heavily in border fencing as part of its efforts to secure regional peace, he observed.
The minister regretted that "elements are still present in Afghanistan who come into Pakistan to carry out attacks, and they have their own agenda".
"This was also discussed in the US [...] there are spoilers, there will always be spoilers," he said, adding that Pakistan wanted reconciliation in Afghanistan to reach its logical conclusion.
Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran had convinced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Trump administration that if Pakistan was engaging the Afghan Taliban, it was an effort to take the peace process forward.
Besides Ghani, Pakistan had also invited representatives of all political parties and ethnic groups of the Afghan leadership, ending the impression that Pakistan "prefers a specific section [in Afghanistan]" and refuting the concept of Islamabad seeking "strategic depth" in its western neighbour, the minister added.
He termed as "positive" the statement by the Afghan Taliban that they would visit Pakistan if formally invited by the government.
It was an acknowledgement of Pakistan's efforts that its leadership was invited to visit the US after five years, Qureshi said.
"Availing that invitation, the prime minister presented Pakistan's point of view and stance in the US," he said, adding that the government has attained "immense success" in turning an unfavourable atmosphere in the Pakistan-US relationship to a favourable one.
Shahbaz seeks production orders for jailed PML-N lawmakers
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif earlier urged the NA speaker to issue production orders for jailed PML-N lawmakers.
"It is your responsibility not to compromise the sanctity of the parliament," he said, addressing Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri. "You must ensure the presence of all members of the house.
"If you don't issue production orders for members of National Assembly, it would affect the dignity of the house. Please don't take directions from the prime minister."
He claimed that former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah is being kept in solitary confinement where he has "no bed, no mattress, no charpoy, no chair and he is forced to sleep on the floor".
"This treatment is not meted to even the enemies," he said. Shahbaz also claimed that barricades had been erected to prevent him from meeting Sanaullah at the court today.
He said both Sanaullah and former prime minister Shaqan Khaqan Abbasi had asked him not to request the issuance of their production orders but that this was "their right".
Shahbaz also condemned the arrest of Irfan Siddiqui, a former aide to Nawaz Sharif, questioning why he was taken into custody before being released on bail.
"Had he committed any crime? Had he stolen a goat," he asked, terming the arrest "the height of oppression".