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ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Committee on National Security on Tuesday gave formal approval to advancing the peace talks with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and also decided to constitute a “parliamentary oversight panel” on overseeing the dialogue process within the parameters of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the in-camera meeting, attended by political leadership, parliamentary leaders, and top military leadership, including Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Corps Commander Peshawar Lt General Faiz Hameed, chief ministers, and others, termed the Tuesday’s meeting as the first step towards “grand reconciliation dialogue.”

A press release issued after the meeting, stated: “The committee gave a formal approval to advance the dialogue process (with the TTP), whereas, an approval was also given to constitute a parliamentary oversight committee with a responsibility to oversee the dialogue process within the parameters of the Constitution of Pakistan.”

“The meeting, while endorsing the importance of the “grand reconciliation dialogue”, declared that today’s session is a first step towards that end,” it added.

The statement added that the meeting which was attended by the provincial chief ministers, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, the prime minister of AJK, and the military leadership, was briefed on national security issues and the recent talks with the banned TTP.

TTP extends ceasefire until ‘next announcement’

“The participants reiterated that Pakistan has made remarkable achievements against terrorism and extremism which have been recognized globally. The meeting paid tribute to the sacrifices rendered by the nation and the security forces which resulted in establishing (the) writ of the government across the country,” it added.

“The meeting reiterated that under the Constitution of Pakistan, the use of force is the sole prerogative of the State,” it stated, adding that the meeting while acknowledging the sacrifices of the victims of terrorism, including students of the Army Public School (APS), Peshawar, made it clear that the state of Pakistan was, is, and will remain the guardian of the sacrifices of its martyrs and the families of the victims.

The meeting also paid rich tributes to the brave tribal people and acknowledged that their sacrifices and key support had led to peace and stability after immense hardships and sufferings.

The meeting was informed that the effective and practical operations of the security forces are part of the strategy of clearing, holding, construction, and transfer of powers to the civil administration.

The meeting emphasized that the State was committed to empowering these areas and their well-being in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.

With the support of the Afghan government and led by civilian and military officials, it added that the Pakistani government is negotiating with the banned TTP within the framework of the Constitution of Pakistan to reinforce regional and internal peace.

“The meeting stated that the final results would be implemented after the completion of the procedure within the parameters of the Constitution of Pakistan and the approval of the Government of Pakistan,” it stated.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI); however, boycotted the meeting of the committee, as invitations were extended to the PTI’s senators, including Opposition Leader in the Senate Waseem Shehzad and Azam Swati who did not attend the meeting. No PTI member of the National Assembly, who had tendered resignations were, invited.

Chief Minister Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan also did not attend the meeting, whereas, Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Tanvir Ilyas attended the meeting. The AJK PM in a chat with reporters stated that he was attending the meeting after getting permission from PTI chairman Imran Khan. He also maintained that the chief minister Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was not feeling well and might not be attending the meeting.

PML-Q representative in the committee, Senator Kamil Ali Agha told media persons that senior officials of the armed forces gave a detailed and satisfactory briefing on the national security and the armed forces took the parliament into confidence. He claimed that Pakistan Army gave all the powers to the parliament with regard to policies on national security.

He said that DG ISI LT Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum and Corps Commander Peshawar Lt General Faiz Hameed gave a detailed briefing about the talks with the outlawed TTP, whereas, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa answered the queries put forward by the members.

He said that there was a general perception and the military leadership also agreed that talks with the TTP should continue within the parameters of the constitution of Pakistan, adding that talks would only be held if the TTP dissolve its organizational structure and accepts the Constitution.

With regard to the TTP, he said that it was informed that the TTP can be brought into the mainstream if it dissolves its organizational structure and renounces its armed activities. However, he added that the final decision would be taken by the Parliament.

Sources said that Foreign Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his remarks during the meeting, stated that his party accepts the dialogue with the outlawed TTP for the sake of the country, adding that his party is the major victim of terrorism.

However, the sources added that the military leadership informed the meeting that the Afghan government is playing its role as “guarantor” and the terms have already been placed before them. They further told the committee that the presence of Daish in Afghanistan is a major source of concern and a threat not only to the security of Afghanistan but to the whole region and beyond.

The committee members were given a briefing on the “progress” in the talks with the TTP being facilitated by the Afghan interim government. The committee was further told that the negotiation team of the government of Pakistan is comprised of civil and military officials and the talks are being held in the parameters of the Constitution.

The participants were also briefed on the internal and external challenges being faced by the country, besides giving a comprehensive briefing on Afghanistan’s situation, as well as, border management along Pakistan-Afghanistan international border. The committee was also informed that there is no organizational structure of any armed terrorist group in the country and intelligence-based operations are underway against the remnants of the terror outfits.

The sources said that the participants were also given a briefing on the status of implementation of the FATF’s conditions in light of the action plan, besides implementation on the National Action Plan.

Talking to reporters, Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik said that matters with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be settled in one and a half weeks, adding that the fundamental issues with the Fund have already been settled and work on the paperwork is under way.

“The country is in safe hands. We are moving in the right direction and, God willing, the hard times will end soon,” he said, adding that the inflow of the IMF’s tranches will begin soon.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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