EDITORIAL: Pakistan’s vote at the UNSC
The UN Security Council voted 15-0 on Wednesday for a US-drafted resolution that seeks to block the traffic of weapons of mass destruction (chemical-biological and nuclear) to non-state actors and terrorist groups, giving the United States a clean sweep on the issue. Configured under Ch VII of the UN Charter, the measure now obliges all 191 UN member-states to punish ‘non-state actors’ dealing in parts and technology for WMD. Pakistan was the last holdout but went along at the eleventh hour after it was assured that the resolution would not be retroactive. However, some points need to be considered.
Pakistan’s technical objection to the resolution was that the UN Security Council is not the ‘most appropriate body’ to oversee non-proliferation because its five permanent members are all nuclear-weapon states. Its second objection was that any such Security Council initiative “would impose new legal obligations on all members of the United Nations without their consent”. Thirdly, Pakistan was concerned about the implied element of automaticity in the resolution. Since the resolution was to be adopted under Ch VII, which makes it obligatory for all member-states, it could allow for eventual sanctions and use of force. The US and British envoys had given verbal assurances that this would not be the case and that sanctions or possible use of force would require a second resolution. However, Pakistan had insisted that it would like to see that guarantee written into the text of the resolution. That, to the best of our knowledge, has not happened, even though the resolution as it stands does not provide for slapping sanctions on non-complying states.
Yet another concern for Pakistan was Dr AQ Khan. Would the resolution be retroactive? Obviously Pakistan did not want retroactivity. In this, it seems it was helped in large measure by the European Union’s clear stand on the issue of ‘retroactivity’, which is against human rights under the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Even so, it was good diplomatic effort on the part of Pakistan to prevent the name of AQ Khan from emerging in the text of the resolution. Similarly, in the adopted text, the resolution does not oblige states to join treaties and parties to which they are not parties; more over, adoption and enforcement of the resolution have been subjected to the “national procedures.”
Pakistan held out on the issue for as long as it could. It has managed to get some important changes effected in the draft. But it could not have ploughed its own furrow after every other member-state fell in line with the United States. It was a sensible thing to do at the end of the day. What next?
One thing is very clear. The US non-proliferation agenda is not only discriminatory, it is now more force- than treaty-based. In this there is a lesson for Islamabad. Pakistan is a nuclear-weapons state now and the government has emphasised the importance of nuclear weapons for the country’s security. As such, it is in Pakistan’s own interest to join any effort that seeks to prevent horizontal proliferation. The United States is embarked on a policy that is looking to create a more stringent legal mechanism based on the threat of use of force. The normative aspect of non-proliferation is being allowed to fall by the wayside because the issue for Washington now is not whether nuclear weapons are bad but whether they are in bad hands. It is important, therefore, to see this measure in light of the Proliferation Security Initiative which is a multilateral attempt to “combat proliferation by developing new means to disrupt WMD trafficking at sea, in the air, and on land”. This initiative runs contrary to many existing international laws and conventions but is likely to gain popularity and in time may come to denote a new legal-normative framework.
Thus Pakistan has to approach the issue from two dimensions. One, that it is a nuclear power, intends to stay that way and it is in its interest to prevent horizontal proliferation; two, that it must review the emerging framework carefully and take advantage of it. We hope that this is exactly what the policymakers intend to do. *
EC and asset declaration
Last Wednesday, the Election Commission (EC) of Pakistan served notices on 124 parliamentarians who, it says, have concealed information about their assets and liabilities in the yearly declaration forms they submitted to the EC. The defaulters include 45 members of the National Assembly, three senators, 47 members of the Punjab Assembly, eight members of the Sindh Assembly, 10 of the NWFP and 11 members of the Balochistan Assembly. According to EC, they have concealed details of their plots and houses, bank accounts, agricultural property and the worth of jewellery, cars, furniture and other valuable items. Out of the 48 MNAs and senators, 25 belong to the ruling coalition whereas 23 belong to the opposition, including heads of four political parties: Makhdoom Amin Faheem (PPPP); Javed Hashmi (PMLN); Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf) and Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pukhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party.
The EC move has been criticised by some politicians. Information from EC suggests it as so far received only 19 replies while 105 parliamentarians have failed to comply with the directives of the Chief Election Commissioner within the prescribed 15 days.
Why do parliamentarians abhor this exercise? Their primary contention is that this exercise must be extended to include other sections like the military-civil bureaucracy and the judiciary. This is a valid argument and we insist that the legislators sit down and pass laws that can bring these sections under the ambit of similar laws. However, until then, may we remind the honourable legislators that they are supposed to declare their assets, and correctly, under the Representation of People’s Act 1976. Anyone, who chooses to contest the election, submits to the laws that govern the process of election. Until the legislators can pull others into the asset-declaration net, they have to pass muster themselves. Therefore they must do the needful and quickly. But while we are at it, let us add that one reason such eminently sensible measures fail to notch successes is because even the best laws in this country have traditionally been used to bully the opposition. We do hope that this step is not just being taken to put the heat on opposition politicians. *