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Print Print 2024-06-24

Parties stand divided over anti-terrorism operation

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s budget session began on a stormy note on Sunday with Pakistan...
Published June 24, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s budget session began on a stormy note on Sunday with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed (PTI) Sunni Ittehad Council MPs protests and token walkouts as government and opposition remained visibly divided over a new military offensive Azm-e-Istehkam to cub the menace of militancy.

The PTI-backed SIC lawmakers made it crystal clear that they would not support any military operation, and demanded that military top leadership to take the Parliament into confidence first.

They insisted that neither the government nor the military took them into confidence over the newly approved military offensive, however, the government assured them that their concerns would be addressed.

Govt approves Operation Azm-e-Istehkam to eradicate terrorism

The PTI staged a walkout from the session after they were not allowed to speak on a point of order by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

After about an hour, they returned to the house on the request of some treasury members, following which their leaders addressed the National Assembly, while they also chanted slogans, including “end the operation” and “we want peace”, etc.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the opposition was standing with the terrorists, not the country as the PTI vehemently opposed operation Azm-e-Istehkam.

He said that the voice of minorities in Pakistan is being silenced as there are killings in Swat, Sargodha, and Faisalabad, adding the bloodshed in the name of religion cannot be allowed.

“In yesterday’s meeting, their Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Ali Amin Gandapur was present. All these decisions were taken in front of him,” he recalled.

Asif lambasted the PTI lawmakers and said that their protest in the parliament was tantamount to them supporting and standing with the terrorists.

“These PTI walas are against the armed forces of the country and the martyrs. They still stand with their May 9 stance,” he said, while referring to last year’s May 9 mayhem.

He maintained that he was talking about the country’s security, but the PTI’s only goal was to protest and not to hear him out.

“They are neither with the country nor with the constitution,” claimed Asif, amid protests by PTI MPs, who shouted “shame on you, shame on you” slogans.

Talking to journalists outside Parliament House, after staging a walkout, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, along with NA opposition leader Omar Ayb and other others, said that the parliament must be taken into confidence before any operation is launched.

PTI’s Asad Qasier said that any decision or agreement reached must be brought before the parliament as the PTI is against any military operation in the country.

“We cannot endorse any military operation without parliamentary involvement. Significant decisions are being made without consulting the opposition,” he added.

Qaiser questioned the effectiveness of past operations and pointed out the inconsistency of imposing taxes on erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) while conducting operations.

The opposition leader in National Assembly Omar Ayub highlighted the necessity of parliamentary approval for military operations in the country.

“The Chinese officials, during their visit, expressed concerns over CPEC security,” he said, adding, “The peace can only be achieved through the rule of law, not by force”.

While speaking on the floor of the house, Gohar said no matter where the operation is about to take place, the parliament should decide its parameters.

“The federal government should discuss the issue in parliament before approving it. Even before, the military leadership has briefed the lawmakers. No Apex Committee is above this house,” he added.

He said that his party has serious objections to the operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, stressing that the federal government did not take his party’s lawmakers into confidence.

“I would like to urge the military top brass to take the parliament into confidence over Azm-e-Istehkam operation…approval of the house is a must before launching any such military offensive,” he maintained.

He said that the PTI is not the enemy of the country and the party is ready to discuss everything which is beneficial for the country.

However, the defence minister alleged that entire leadership of the PTI is compromised, adding these are not his words, as this is what PTI’s own leader Shehryar Afridi had said about his party leaders.

Confirming the launch of Operation Istikham-e-Pakistan, Asif mentioned that the Apex Committee had approved the continuation of previously incomplete operations, and this decision will be brought to the cabinet and then to the parliament.

To calm things down, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told the opposition members that his government would take them into confidence, unlike when Imran Khan was the prime minister.

“It was your leader [Imran Khan] who did not participate in the session in which such topics were supposed to be discussed when he was the prime minister, but rest assured, we will not do this, my prime minister and my cabinet will be present here,” he added.

He also censured the opposition that while they were decrying not being taken into confidence, they resorted to ruckus when the defence minister, who is the relevant person when it comes to the operation, was speaking.

“You did not hear one word Khawaja Asif said. Also, let me tell you that your chief minister was present at that meeting and he did not object to a single thing as it is for Pakistan’s betterment,” he lamented.

He added that an in-camera National Security Council meeting would be convened, without specifying the date, to which the PTI MPs kept shouting, “No operation without taking the parliament into confidence”.

In response to Asif’s comments, PTI MNA Afridi said may the curse of God fall on those who lie. His statement gathered praise from the opposition benches.

He said the government was no match for the PTI and their allegations would not affect the unity within the party’s ranks.

Taking part in budget debate, Asifa Bhutto-Zardari, who has been elected to the house for the first time, said that it was an emotional moment for her as her grandfather, mother, father and brother had been member of this house.

“Today we find ourselves in yet another challenging situation as the government is presenting its budget at a time when the country is facing unprecedented unemployment, inflation, poverty climate change and other catastrophes,” she added.

She said that the new budget does not represent the public and should have provided relief for farmers and ordinary citizens.

“Do the people of Pakistan deserve this anti-people budget? We need to move forward to provide relief for the common man and strengthen our farmers. The people of Pakistan deserve better, and we should work together to achieve improvement,” she added.

Asifa emphasised the importance of unity during times of ideological division and conflict.

“At a time when people are divided by their ideological beliefs, when disagreements are weaponised, and dissent is met with violence, it is crucial for us as elected members of this house to rise and discuss these issues,” she added.

She urged for tolerance to extend beyond speeches and words, calling for action and the rejection of divisive politics.

“We must unite for the people’s sake and find ways to provide them with relief,” she said, adding “we need to use our human resources for development and find methods to give direct relief to the poor. I hope we will witness a new era in politics.”

Addressing the need for national unity, she pointed out the challenges faced by Sindh, such as prolonged power outages.

“When the President talks about unity, it is the need of the hour. Blame games are not the solution to any problem. In this scorching heat, Sindh is suffering from power cuts of 15 to 20 hours. This is unbearable.”

She concluded by expressing hope for a new political culture that rejects divisive politics and addresses critical issues like wheat import decisions.

“We must strengthen our farmers and work towards a better future together,’ she added.

Adding to the opposition’s discontent, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) member Shahida Akhtar argued that the budget is full of attractive words but essentially crafted to meet IMF’s desires. She questioned the increased benefits to IPPs and demanded an audit to ensure transparency.

Further criticisms came from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) Aminul Haq, highlighting that the budget is exhausted by paying interest on loans.

He compared Pakistan’s situation unfavourably to Afghanistan and India and called for an agricultural tax on those profiting from wheat sales.

PPP’s Khurshid Shah echoed these concerns, warning that the budget would increase public hardships and emphasising the need to control population growth to improve fiscal outcomes.

Mahesh Kumar Malani, Ali Zahid, Iftikhar Ahmed Babar, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Riaz Fatyana, Khawaja Sheraz Mehmood, Syed Waseem Hussain, Shazia Marri and others also took part in the budget debate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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mustafa Jun 24, 2024 12:22pm
we should abolish all the -ive elements ... it doesn't matter if they within us or on the opposite side... Pak Fauj Zindabad ... Pakistan Zindabad .... We Bleed Green ...
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