Thursday Jul 01, 2021
ISLAMABAD: An in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which took place at the Parliament House and lasted eight hours, has ended, with the parliamentarians expressing satisfaction over the briefing provided by the country's security apparatus.
The meeting was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and involved a briefing by Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar were also in attendance.
Among government representatives, Minister for Interior Shaikh Rasheed, Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema, Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem attended the meeting.
Opposition leaders in attendance included the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, JUI-F Parliamentary leader Maulana Asad Mahmood, ANP leader Ameer Haider Azam Khan Hoti, and MQM-P's Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui.
Moreover, BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal, BAP's Khalid Hussain Magsi, Ghous Bakhsh Mehr, Senators Sherry Rehman, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Faisal Sabzwari, Kamil Ali Agha, Mushtaq Ahmed, and others were also in attendance.
Prime Minister Imran Khan did not attend either of the two sessions that took place.
During the first session, DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed gave a briefing on the current situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan, besides the internal and external security situation, and the challenges due to the evolving nature of developments in the region.
According to an official statement issued after the briefing, the session was informed that Pakistan played a highly positive and responsible role in the Afghan peace process.
"Pakistan's efforts paved the way for dialogue between Afghan factions and warring groups," the meeting was told, while it was also noted that due to Islamabad's efforts, meaningful talks have begun between the US and the Taliban.
"Sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan will lead to stability in South Asia," the meeting was informed.
The participants were further told that Pakistan would welcome a truly representative government of Afghans and that it would continue its responsible role for peace in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan's territory is not being used in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan [...] and we hope that Afghanistan's land is not used against Pakistan," the DG ISI informed the session.
The works on border fencing at the Pak-Afghan border is 90% complete, while an effective system of customs and border control is also being set up, the meeting was told.
"The political and parliamentary leadership expressed satisfaction over the briefing," the statement said.
Sources privy to the meeting told Geo News the meeting was also informed that due to the unrest in Afghanistan, 500,000-700,000 Afghan refugees are expected to come to Pakistan, who would be kept restricted to the border areas.
During the second session, the parliamentarians asked questions and put forward recommendations, said the statement. "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 said.
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.
Before the meeting started, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, defending the prime minister's absence, said it was decided that members of the defense and national security committees would be in attendance.
The federal minister said 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.
Carrying of mobile phones inside the meeting room is prohibited, therefore, the phones of all participants were taken away.
The audio and video recording of the meeting was to be sealed before the Speaker.
Due to the meeting of the National Security Committee, the NA and the Senate Secretariat's employees were sent on leave.
Journalists were barred from entering the Parliament House, a spokesperson for the NA said.
The spokesperson said that the media is allowed when the Parliament is in session. "When the parliament is closed, what will the media do here?" the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the NA Shahbaz Sharif, talking to media during a break, said he was satisfied by the briefing given during the meeting, but refrained from sharing any details.
Shahbaz, responding to a question on whether Gen Bajwa answered questions asked during the meeting, said: "Yes, he did."
Speaking to media at the Parliament House, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Shahbaz had spoken on behalf of the PML-N.
"We were not informed that US has demanded a base," said the prime minister. "Nobody is going to give anyone any bases and neither has anybody asked for them," he added.
Abbasi said decisions and policy making were not underway during the meeting, rather information was being provided, adding that politics was "not a circus" that one should expect new details every day.
The former prime minister said the military brass had put forward its opinion, and now the political leadership would make its decision.
"The prime minister's absence was discussed today [...] there was no harm in coming. He should have been present as policies pertaining to the country were being discussed."
He said that it was the Opposition's success that the session was underway for the past five hours.
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed, speaking to media at the Parliament House, said that the Opposition and the government were united on issues related to the country's security.
All the parties have given input for the country's betterment, he said, adding that every participant present in the meeting has a "unified agenda".
"All the parties have said that they will stand behind the Pakistan Army for the country's security," he said.
PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said that the briefing provided information about the ground realities.
"We have said that we will discuss the issues for now and then make a unanimous decision after consultations," he said.
Taking a jibe at the premier, Sanaullah said the prime minister refrains from attending the sessions where the Opposition is in attendance.
The PML-N leader said the political leadership would reveal its decisions later, as he called for an in-camera session of the Parliament, where every member discusses their point of view.
"The Parliament should reach a consensus after this meeting," he said, adding that this was the job of the government and it will do it once it feels the need.
Backing the prime minister, he said that "the premier's stance is our stance — China is our friend". "We believe that relations with the US should not come at the cost of China."
"We should have a balanced relationship with the US," he said.
Sanaullah said the PML-N will discuss today's session in a meeting of the party.
Bilawal had earlier announced that he will be attending the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on Afghanistan after welcoming National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser's decision to call a meeting of the body.
Taking to Twitter on Monday, Bilawal had said that he had demanded in the National Assembly that the Parliament be given a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan by the relevant departments and institutions.
"We welcome the Speaker's decision and will participate in the NSC committee meeting on the topic," the PPP chairperson had tweeted.
Pakistan has, on multiple occasions, raised the issue of peaceful settlement of the Afghan imbroglio and has urged all the groups to sit and sort out their differences.
PM Imran Khan, in his interaction with the US media, pointed out that there’s no military solution and that there’s no favourite for Pakistan.
Violence has increased in the war-torn country since the foreign troops' withdrawal started.
In a recent interview, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf also expressed concern on the current Afghanistan situation, saying that "it is not good".