The top military leadership, including Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, on Monday briefed lawmakers of the Senate and the National Assembly on matters pertaining to national security, foreign affairs, as well as internal and external challenges faced by the county.
An official statement released after the meeting stated that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security met under the chairmanship of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser at the Parliament House.
National parliamentary and political leadership, members of the National Assembly and Senate, provincial leadership, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister and military leadership participated in the meeting.
The statement added that the participants were comprehensively briefed about matters pertaining to national security, foreign affairs, and internal and external challenges faced by county. They were also briefed about regional and political challenges, especially the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jummu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.
It was outlined that Pakistan desired a government of people’s representatives in Afghanistan and that Islamabad would continue all-out support for peace and stability in the war-torn country. Further, it was briefed that Pakistan played a responsible and positive role for peace in Afghanistan.
The committee was informed that Pakistan believed that peace in Afghanistan would pave the way for regional peace and development. The participants of the meeting were informed that Pakistan was making every effort to ensure that the current situation did not give rise to another humanitarian and economic crisis, which would add to the plight of the people and in this regard, Pakistan was in constant touch with the international community.
It was also hoped that the territory of Afghanistan would not be used against Pakistan, the statement read, adding that the meeting was also apprised of the border control system on the Pak-Afghan border.
At the end of the briefing, a Question-Answer session was held in which the members of the committee presented their recommendations. Gen Qamar answered most of the questions.
The military leadership sought commitment from the parliamentary leaders that they would not support any armed group like the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in the future, during an in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
“The military side has taken a commitment from the civilian side that they would not give any support to any armed group in the future,” a cabinet minister told The Express Tribune after the meeting, adding that the civil-military leadership had vowed to stand united against the armed groups so that no one could challenge the writ of the state in the future.
However, a former federal minister and head of a political party said a comprehensive briefing was given on the situation in Afghanistan and talks were being held with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), adding that no formal commitment was made and things were just discussed in general.
The media was kept at the parliament’s gates and not allowed to attend the briefing. Previously, the doors of the press gallery were closed to the media but this time around, no one was even allowed to enter parliament for roughly six hours, when the meeting was going on.
The meeting, held in the National Assembly hall which was declared the committee room, discussed a host of issues in the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The opposition lashed out at the prime minister for skipping the meeting, saying he remained absent from the previous such meeting too.
Against the backdrop of Afghan Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in mid-August, Gen Qamar and the DG ISI recapped things discussed in the previous meeting and apprised the lawmakers of the latest developments, including the interim Afghan government-backed talks between Pakistan and the TTP.
A PTI minister told The Express Tribune that Pakistan still wanted the Afghan Taliban to form an inclusive government, while simultaneously pushing the world not to abandon the Taliban after the US exit. Apart from discussing the “mess” that the US had left in Afghanistan, the minister said, it was agreed that an inclusive government did not mean that people who fought against the Taliban for years should be given a place in the Afghan government.
While sharing details of the in-camera briefing, an opposition lawmaker said that it was envisaged that a policy should be formulated for the whole of Afghanistan instead of just a party or a group. It was emphasised, he said, that a policy regarding Afghanistan and the US should be formulated so that Pakistan didn’t become a part of any war in Afghanistan and its relations were not always seen through security lens by the US.
On the lawmakers’ demand to take parliament into confidence over the agreement with the TTP, sources said, the army chief assured them that they would be taken into confidence. The sources said that the martyrdom of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a TTP attack also came under discussion during the briefing, adding that it was stressed that the agreement should be reached, while keeping in view the sentiments of the families of the martyrs.
Those present in the meeting included Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani; Leader of House in Senate Dr Shehzad Wasim; National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif; Senate Opposition Leader Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani; National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri; federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Tariq Bashir Cheema, Sheikh Rashid, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Shafqat Mahmood, Dr Shireen Mazari, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Saeed, Shibli Faraz, Dr Forogh Naseem, Ejaz Ahmad Shah, Monis Elahi, Noorul Haq Qadri, Omar Ayub Khan, Fakhr Imam and Aminul Haq; State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan; Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Affairs Chairman Shehryar Afridi; National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Adviser to Prime Minister Dr Babar Awan; Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Affairs Malik Muhammad Amir Dogar; National Assembly members Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Asad Mehmood, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Ghous Bakhsh Mehr, Amir Haider Azam Khan, Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Ahsan Iqbal, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Hina Rabbani Khar, Syed Naveed Qamar, Mohsin Dawar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Tariq Sadiq, Syed Fayyaz Al Hassan, Aliya Hamza Malik; and senators Sherry Rehman, Azam Nazir Tarar, Anwarul Haq Kakar, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi, Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari, Mohammad Tahir Bizenjo, Hidayatullah Khan, Mohammad Shafiq Tareen, Kamil Ali Agha, Mushtaq Ahmed, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Mohammad Qasim, Dilawar Khan and Mian Raza Rabbani.
Members of the National Assembly’s Defence Committee; the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir; army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, DG ISPR Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar and other senior military officers also attended the meeting.
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