Parliament to debate operation Azm-e-Istehkam

Opposition demands in-camera briefing

Waqas Ahmed June 24, 2024
Parliament of Pakistan. PHOTO: File


The government is going to offer an in-camera briefing to parliament on a new military operation against terrorists, as the opposition lawmakers on Sunday mounted a strong protest in the National Assembly, asserting that the parameters of the offensive should be set in parliament.

Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar told the house that the National Security Committee would be called in an in-camera session, which would discuss how the operation would be carried out. He added Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would also attend the session.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also said the decision of the operation was taken in an Apex Committee meeting which was also attended by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, adding that the matter would be discussed in the cabinet meeting and then brought to parliament.

The country’s civil and military leadership on Saturday decided to launch a new campaign, titled ‘Azm-e-Istehkam’, in an effort to tackle the resurgence of terrorism. The decision was taken in a meeting of the high-powered Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP).

The move to launch the fresh operation came following an increase in militant attacks and incidents of extremism. The Azm-e-Istehkam operation was approved after reaching a consensus among all the stakeholders, including the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the opposition Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) opposed the new operation during the National Assembly session on Sunday. The SIC members surrounded the speaker’s dais and raised slogans against the operation.

The opposition lawmakers contended that the Apex Committee was not empowered to take the decisions about launching a military operation, adding that the matter must be brought to parliament for an in-camera briefing to the lawmakers from the military leadership.

Speaking in the house, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif confirmed the decision to launch the Azm-e-Istehkam operation, which he said, was taken in the Apex Committee meeting in the presence of the K-P chief minister. He added that the matter would be taken up in the cabinet meeting and in parliament.

“The Apex Committee approved to carry forward the previously incomplete operations. The PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] was included in the Apex committee, [as] K-P chief minister was present in its meeting and everything happened in front of him,” he added.

The minister accused the PTI of “standing with the terrorists by demonstrating in this house”. He said that if the PTI had any objection, they could discuss it in the house. “The decision of the committee is being taken to the cabinet, after which the matter will be brought to the House.”

Asif said voices raised for the minorities in Pakistan were being suppressed. “Minorities are killed sometimes in Swat, sometimes in Sargodha, sometimes in Faisalabad. This bloodshed cannot be allowed. The House should take a unanimous and united stand on this issue,” he added.

Earlier, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said they opposed the new operation, stressing that if the operation was to be carried out, then it should be brought to the house first. “We want this house to have the say in this matter. The military leadership should give an in-camera briefing here,” he added.

Gohar further contended that the Apex Committee could not decide to launch an operation. “We are against this operation. The parameters [of the operation] should be set by parliament for starting the military operation.

Responding to the opposition’s protest, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar announced that it would be debated in parliament how the operation would be carried out, adding: “An in-camera meeting of the National Security Committee will be called in the House.”

Tarar told the house that the defence minister wanted to speak about the Azm-e-Istehkam operation, but the opposition did not listen to a single word of his speech. “The opposition complains that they [lawmakers] are not being consulted. How the consultation could take place when they did not listen.”

Tarar said that the K-P chief minister was present in the Apex Committee meeting but he did not speak in the meeting. He advised the opposition that Pakistan must be kept above politics, stressing that there were certain issues that did not harm any party’s politics.

Tarar said that the matter would be brought to the house for discussion. “Our prime minister [Shehbaz Sharif] will be here [the National Assembly] with the entire cabinet. He [Shehbaz] will not sit outside angrily like your prime minister [Imran Khan] did,” he said, taking a jibe at the opposition.

Information Minister Attaullah Tarar said the Azm-e-Istehkam operation was necessary because of a wave of terrorism in the country. He accused the previous PTI-led government of bringing the Taliban back and promoting the narrative of the “good Taliban and the bad Taliban”.

He said that when a soldier “takes a bullet on his chest, it is not written on that bullet whether it is [fired by] good Taliban or the bad Taliban”. He also condemned the Swat incident stressing that “we have to stop this vigilante justice”.

Later, the Law minister presented a resolution related to the Swat incident, which was approved by a majority vote. The resolution urged the federal and provincial governments to ensure the protection of all citizens, including minorities.

After walking out of the National Assembly today, PTI and SIC leaders addressed the media. PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar emphasised that any military operation must involve parliamentary consent. He called for an in-camera briefing by military leaders, citing previous practices.

On the occasion, former speaker Asad Qaiser said: “We cannot endorse any military operation without parliamentary involvement. Significant decisions are being made without consulting the opposition.” Opposition Leader Omar Ayub also underscored the need for parliamentary approval for operations.




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