Intelligence Briefing for Pakistan's Parliament: A Good Beginning

Military seeks politicians’ support to fight militants: •Nawaz, Shujaat, CMs and Kayani attend briefing •Opposition dissatisfiedBy Ahmed Hassan, Dawn, October 9, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Oct 8: The military took elected representatives of the nation into confidence on Wednesday about the worsening situation in Fata, NWFP and Balochistan and the US-led “war on terror” during a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament held in camera.

It was only the third secret session of parliament in the country’s history.

The military leadership briefed legislators about the source of arms supply and modern communications systems used by militants and the armed forces’ “limitations” in coping with the airspace violations by US drones and helicopters.

A number of opposition lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with briefing, saying it “lacked depth and diagnosis”.

The meeting was attended by almost all MNAs and Senators.

The governors of Punjab, Balochistan, NWFP and chief ministers of all the four provinces were also present.

Mian Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, also attended the briefing.

National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, who chaired the sitting, earlier held a meeting with the heads of parliamentary parties represented in the two houses to chalk out an informal agenda for the joint session.

The lawmakers from the opposition PML-N stressed on the government to extend the session to enable them to put questions to the military high command about their misgivings. The speaker acceded to their request.

It was a very difficult day for the people of Islamabad, especially motorists and pedestrians, as they had to make several detours to reach their workplaces because all roads around the parliament house were closed to traffic. Huge blocks of concrete and police-Rangers contingents saw to it that no one dared walk on the Constitution Avenue, where some “sensitive” buildings are located.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani moved a resolution requesting the speaker to convert the joint sitting into the “Committee of the Whole House”.

The prime minister moved the resolution under Rule 29 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Business of the National Assembly, 2007, read with Rule 33 of the Parliament (Joint Sitting) Rules, 1973.

The resolution further sought the reversion of the Committee of the Whole House into a joint sitting after the briefing.

According to parliamentarians who attended the session, Maj-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director General of Military operations and DG-designate of the Inter Services Intelligence Agency, gave the briefing.

An official press release by the speaker’s secretariat said: “A joint session of the Parliament was held in camera in the Parliament House today. The Members of the Parliament were briefed by Major General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General (Military Operations) on the law and order situation and security in the country.

“The august house was informed that to curb the menace of terrorism, internal security operations had to be undertaken in FATA and Swat. It was informed that the armed forces have successfully conducted the operation with the support of local people who have risen up against the militants by forming “Lashkars” in the affected areas.

BAJAUR TRAVAILS: According to the sources, the MPs were informed in detail about the situation in tribal areas with special reference to recently launched operations in Bajaur agency and Swat. It was further informed about the infiltrations from across the border, the availability of sophisticated arms with militants and recent capturing of foreign currency, including Afghan rupee and US dollars from some of the dead.

The participants were briefed, through footages and maps, the modus operandi of the militants in kidnapping important persons.

It was stressed that the armed forces alone cannot win against the war-hardened militants and extremists without political support which the parliament could provide.

The joint house was also informed that some 2744 terrorists were killed including 321 foreigners and 1400 were injured during the ongoing military operation in Bajaur.

There is no written agenda for the in-camera session but under a broader understanding it has been decided that the question answer session will start from Friday and the members will forward their suggestions during course of discussion for insertion in the national security strategy.

It was stated by DGMO that around 1000 check posts were set up across Pak Afghan border to check illegal infiltration including transportation of arms and other resources.

The three-hour session was further informed that arms were smuggled in the war zone from across the border.

In his comments after conclusion of the session, Khawaja Saad Rafiq of the PML(N) said “There was nothing new in today’s briefing which could have enhanced our level of understanding the problem for, all those matters were highlighted which we have been reading in the newspapers”.

He further stated that foreign powers interference and intrusions had no mention in today’s briefing nor was any remedy proposed to come out of the turmoil.

Khuram Dastagir Khan, another PML-N lawmaker, said the briefing was “rather superficial as it only gave us a resume of events, but no diagnosis”.

He said he would like to put question when the question-answer session starts at 11am on Thursday as to why the army was reluctant to take action against certain militants that were pointed out by the local tribal.

Ayaz Amir, of the same party, said: Questions will be raised as to how Pakistan was thrown in this war and which country had brought this fire to our doorsteps.”

He said: “We need to change this policy to come out of the quagmire in which we are stuck up now”.

On a pessimistic note, he concluded “I feel no new thinking will emerge from this briefing and we will continue to tread the same path even after this process ends”.

Marvi Memon, of the PML-Q, stressed that the input that the MPs from both sides of divide would forward should be inserted in the final security plan of the country.

Ahsan Iqbal, information secretary of the PML-N, said: “Today’s briefing was mostly general in nature”.

Also See:
Political leadership briefed on counter-terrorism strategy - Daily Times
Pakistan MPs in security briefing - BBC
Spy chief gives Pakistan MPs secret brief on anti-terror policy - Guardian
Tell more, MPs to press today - The News

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