- PM conspicuous by his absence
ISLAMABAD: The top military leadership, on Thursday, told the Parliamentary Committee on National Security that Pakistan’s soil is not being used in the conflict going on in Afghanistan, and expressed its hope that Afghanistan’s soil will also not be used against the country.
In a special in-camera briefing to the parliamentary panel about the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the US troops’ withdrawal, internal and external challenges and other strategic matters, including relations with India, it was reiterated that Pakistan would continue to play its constructive role for the Afghan peace process.
The meeting was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser. Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed briefed the participants, whereas Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also responded to the queries by the parliamentarians, according to the participants.
In addition to the 29 members of the committee, some 16 parliamentarians from various political parties were specially invited to attend the briefing.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, JUI-F parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Maulana Asad Mahmood, ANP leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, and Senator Raza Rabbani were prominent among those who also attended the meeting, while Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, other senior cabinet members, chief ministers of the four provinces, senior Foreign Ministry officials, besides Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar and other senior military officers were also in attendance.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, however, was not present in the briefing.
However, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, defending the prime minister’s absence, said it was decided that members of the defence and national security committees would be invited.
He said that political parties were informed that their selected members could attend the meeting, while members of the defence and foreign affairs committee would also be in attendance.
According to a statement of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the participants were told that Pakistan will welcome the true representative government of Afghanistan’s people and continue to play its responsible role for lasting peace in the neighbouring country.
The meeting was told that Pakistan had honestly played a very positive and responsible role in the Afghan peace process.
“Due to Pakistan's efforts, not only was the path paved for talks between different Afghan factions and warring groups, but meaningful dialogue between the United States and Taliban was also started,” the statement added.
“We believe in the fact that lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan will actually result in stability in South Asia,” the statement stated, adding that Pakistan will welcome the true representative government of the people in Afghanistan at every level and continue its role for the Afghan peace process.
The parliamentarians were further told that Pakistan’s land is not being used in the conflict going on in Afghanistan and the hope was expressed that Afghanistan’s soil will also not be used against Pakistan.
They were further told 90 percent of the fencing at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border had been completed, while an effective system for customs and border control was being formulated.
During the first session, the DG ISI gave briefing on the current situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan, besides the internal and external security situation, and the challenges in the wake of the US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The recommendations will be considered as an important part of the security policy. The political leadership has expressed wishes for peace, development, and prosperity in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
It added that the participants, during the meeting, said such sessions play an important role in shaping consensus on important national issues and also strengthen harmony on various matters.
“The political and parliamentary leadership expressed satisfaction over the briefing,” the statement said.
In an informal chat with the reporters, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said that all the political parties whether in the government or in the opposition are on the same page with regard to the national security.
He said that all the participants were of the views that they stand by the armed forces on national security.
Talking informally to journalists, opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said that he was satisfied with the briefing.
However, he declined to share the details of the briefing, saying it was an in-camera session.
Asked whether the COAS also responded to the queries put forward by the lawmakers, he said: “Yes, he did.”
Former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while talking to media persons, said that the military leadership has put forward its opinion, “and now the political leadership would make its decision”.
About the absence of the prime minister from the meeting, he said that the premier’s absence was discussed and there was no harm in coming to the committee.
“He [the PM] should have been present as policies pertaining to the country were being discussed,” Abbasi said. To a question, he said that the parliamentarians were not informed that the US has demanded a base.
“Nobody is going to give anyone any bases and neither has anybody asked for a base,” he added.
To another question, Abbasi said that politics is not a “circus” that one should expect new details every day, adding that decisions and policy making were not being discussed during the meeting, rather information was being provided.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021