Army chief to brief senators on ‘national security’ tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, will brief the Senate Committee of the Whole House on the national security situation in the country during an in-camera session on Tuesday (tomorrow).

Through a notice, the Senate Secretariat on Sunday informed all the senators about the extraordinary meeting, to be presided over by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

It will be after six years that the military leadership will be coming to the Parliament House for a presentation to the elected representatives on the security situation.

Last time it was in May 2011 when then army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha had briefed a joint session of parliament about the Abbottabad operation in which Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden had been killed by the US forces.

In May 2009, then DGMO Maj Gen Javed Iqbal had briefed a joint sitting of parliament about the security situation and the military operations against terrorists in Mingora and Swat.

According to the one-point agenda issued for Tuesday’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole House formed by the chairman “to prepare policy guidelines in the light of the emerging regional realities and the role of the United States”, the army chief and the DGMO will give a “briefing on the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent visits / developments”.

Sources told Dawn that the decision to give the briefing to the senators had been taken voluntarily by the military leadership after seeing media reports about criticism in the Senate on the federal government and the military leadership for not taking the parliament into confidence over the recent developments, including the change in Washington’s policy towards Islamabad following the controversial remarks of US President Donald Trump about the role of Pakistan in the war on terror, border clashes with Afghan forces and Pakistan’s decision to become a part of a military alliance under Saudi Arabia.

During a visit of the members of the defence committee of the Senate and the National Assembly to the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi in September, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had said that he wanted “enhanced interaction” with the parliament.

Gen Bajwa had reportedly told the parliamentarians that he was an ardent supporter of democracy and believed in the supremacy of parliament. The army chief said he was ready to appear before the defence committee or any ‘committee of the whole house’ and answer any queries that the parliamentarians might have.

The parliamentarians had raised many of the oft-discussed issues, including security operations, military courts, defence budget, engagement with the US, tensions with India, problems in relations with Afghanistan, and civil-military relations. The interactive session, which was originally planned for 30 minutes, had gone on for nearly three hours.

Last week, during a discussion on an adjournment motion about the “key commitments made by the federal government to the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition without taking the parliament into confidence” in the Senate, the senators had expressed concerns over the government’s decision to become part of the Saudi-led military coalition and asked it to disclose the terms of reference of the force and warned against entering into any proxy war.

They had urged the government to explain the military component of the arrangement, particularly the position to be taken by Pakistan in case the force was sent to a Muslim country. Some of them had expressed fears that the alliance had in fact been put together to act against Iran.

They had cited the parliamentary decision given in the form of a resolution at the beginning of the ongoing crisis in Yemen, which held that Pakistan should not join any military alliance, and said the government should have consulted parliament in the same manner in this case as well.

Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party had stated that it was frightening that both the Foreign Office and parliament were in the dark about the terms of reference of the alliance even after its formal launch in Riyadh.

Mr Babar had mentioned in his speech that the army chief had undertaken a visit to Iran, but parliament was still unaware as to what transpired during that trip. He had asked the chair to give a ruling on the matter.

Chairman Raza Rabbani remarked in a lighter vein that he too would become a “victim of enforced disappearances” if he did so.

Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, without naming former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, had regretted that a “great soldier of Pakistan” had been sent to lead the coalition “without knowing its aims and objectives”.

Senators from other parties had also criticised the government for concealing important information from parliament.

Source: Dawn

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