Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has undertaken 14 official visits to nine countries during the somewhat troubled 18 months of his government. These numbers were presented before the National Assembly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to a question asked by Parveen Masood Bhatti of the ruling PML-N.
Ms Bhatti wanted to inquire “the results and the benefits of the visits abroad by the prime minister so far.” There was no mention of the private visits of Mr Sharif to Saudi Arabia and the UK since the question pertained to only about the official visits. The MNAs could not ask any supplementary questions as the speaker had suspended question hour to allow members to debate on the issue of the internally displaced persons of North Waziristan. This information has come to light at a time when the prime minister was facing immense criticism from his opponents, particularly PTI chief Imran Khan, for his alleged “extravagance” on the foreign trips. According to the information, the prime minister has undertaken three visits each to the United States (US) and China, two visits to Turkey and one visit each to India, Iran, Nepal, Afghanistan and Thailand. The reply does not mention the recent visit of the prime minister to the UK to attend an international conference on Afghanistan.
The reply provided details of the prime minister’s engagements during the visits. The ministry described all the visits as extremely successful for the country. Mr Sharif visited the US in September 2013, October 2013 and again in September 2014. Similarly, he undertook visits to China in July 2013, April 2014 and November 2014. Despite being present in New York to attend the UN General Assembly in September 2013, the prime minister travelled to Washington after a few days to meet US President Barack Obama and other US government functionaries. Besides meeting the US officials, “the prime minister also attended a business event organised by the US-Pakistan Business Council, addressed the United States Institute of Peace, met prominent US journalists and interacted with the local Pakistani community,” says the reply, counting these activities as an achievement. It also gave details of MoUs and agreements signed by Pakistan with different countries during these visits.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch in response to a question asked by Dr Azra Fazal of the PPP told the house that a total of 450,941 Nadra-verified families became IDPs from Fata due to the military operation up to December 2. The minister claimed that 162,338 families had already returned to their areas of origin whereas 288,603 families were still living in displacement. The minister said up to October 31, a total of Rs8.17 billion had been spent on relief of the IDPs.
To another question, the minister through a written reply informed the house that during the last two years a total of 978 people were martyred and 1,345 seriously injured due to terrorist acts in Fata. “A total of Rs731.839 million has been paid to the legal heirs of martyred and injured,” he said, adding that “there is no government policy for compensation to the affected families of drone attacks separately.” -dawn