ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has never compromised on its core interests while responding to emerging changes in the international environment, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate on Wednesday. He was concluding discussion on a motion moved by 30 senators on the implication of statements made by United States Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain after his recent visit to Pakistan. Aziz said Pakistan would continue to build and strengthen its relations with the US. “We will strive to resolve divergence of approach in all areas,” he said, adding that alliances shift and transform but interests remain permanent. “Countries adopt their foreign policies according to the overall international environment. No single country has the capability to shape this environment according to its wishes and priorities,” Aziz said. Further, he said Pakistan had faced a decade of sanctions without compromison its core interests. “When the time came, we responded to the Indian nuclear tests despite global pressure,” he said. On the matter on the Saudi-led military alliance, Aziz said Pakistan’s policy was aimed at promoting unity in the Muslim Ummah. “We have welcomed all efforts at promoting mediation and reconciliation in different Middle East disputes. The Islamic Military Alliance is aimed at fighting terrorism and extremism,” he said. Aziz said it was natural for the Pakistani government to join the coalition in view of the country’s counter-terrorism experience and its close ties with Saudi Arabia. On Pakistan-Iran ties, Aziz said the two neighbours enjoyed stable and positive relations. “The two countries were enhancing their economic cooperation. We have agreed to link Chahbahar and Gwadar as sister ports,” he said. Concluding discussion on a motion pertaining to new accountability mechanism, Law Minister Zahid Hamid said that the draft bill was in its final stages and was being completed in consultation with all political parties. He said the National Accountability Bureau would be converted into the National Accountability Commission under the new law, he added. Speaking on the matter, Senator Farhatullah Babar said the history of anti-corruption laws in Pakistan was a story of selective accountability, exclusion of sacred cows and political witch hunting in the name of accountability. He said these laws had completely overlooked corruption in powerful state institutions. The abrogation of the Constitution was the mother of all crimes against the people and the state of Pakistan. Yet, anti-corruption laws had no provision in them to deal with it, he lamented. “Institutional corruption and abrogation of the Constitution has threatened the foundation of democracy and statehood no less than financial corruption exposed in the Panama Papers case. Institutional corruption and abrogation of the Constitution has undermined the public’s trust and belief in state institutions and in the state itself,” Senator Babar said. The House also discussed a motion regarding NAB’s failure to investigate Rs19 billion mega scam in DHAs of Lahore and Rawalpindi. The law minister told the house that three persons had been arrested and two others declared proclaimed offenders in the matter. Discussion on a motion regarding threat to freedom of expression from misuse of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act ended with State Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman saying that amendments could be made to improve the Act whenever required. She said that the bill had been passed by the collective wisdom of both houses of the Parliament. Earlier, State Minister for Interior Balighur Rehman said that 102 FIRs had been registered under the Act on 4030 complaints received in 2017. During discussion on the Act, several members condemned the use of the law in cases against journalists and said that social media should not be banned in the country. Senator Aitazaz Ahsan said he had lent support to the bill hoping that it would help prevent misuse of social media in instances where users, especially women, were blackmailed based on their edited images. The law has yet to be used towards that end, he lamented. Published in Daily Times, July 20th , 2017.