The Parliamentary Committee on National Security on Tuesday gave formal approval to the government for holding talks with banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), besides forming a parliamentary oversight committee to ensure the process moved within the constitution’s ambit.
During the sixth in-camera session of the PCNS, summoned by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, it was highlighted that with the support of the Afghan government, the government of Pakistan – led by civilian and military officials – was negotiating with the TTP within the framework of the constitution of Pakistan.
The negotiations are being carried out in order to maintain internal and regional peace, the meeting was informed. According to a statement issued after the PCNS meeting, the final outcome of the discussion with the banned outfit would be implemented after the completion of the procedure within the limits of the constitution and the approval of the Pakistani government.
In the meeting, the committee approved the process of negotiation and also agreed to form a parliamentary oversight committee, which would be responsible for overseeing the process.
The statement further mentioned that the committee reiterated the importance of dialogue, mentioning that Tuesday’s meeting was the “first step in this direction”. The participants, during the meeting, paid tribute to the sacrifices made by the nation and the security forces.
The meeting was attended by the tri-services chiefs; heads of other security agencies; senior members of the National Assembly and the Senate; members of NA and Senate standing committees on defence; and officials of the ministries of defence, foreign affairs, interior, Kashmir affairs, health and the National Security Division.
According to reports, the meeting discussed important issues, including the overall national security situation. The military leadership briefed the participants on the progress of talks with the banned TTP. The participants were briefed by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general and the Peshawar corps commander, while the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also gave a briefing and replied to the questions of the members.
The participants also expressed the hope that the territory of Afghanistan would not be allowed to be used against Pakistan.It may be mentioned here that the National Assembly Secretariat had sent a letter inviting 62 members of NA, Senate and PCNS, which consists of 27 members, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, senior parliamentary leaders of both Houses, federal ministers, senior political leaders, provincial chief ministers, president and prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan were specially invited to the meeting.
However, former prime minister Imran Khan was not invited to the important PCNS meeting, as he wasn’t a member of the committee and did not accept the position of parliamentary leader of his party either. Special security arrangements were made on the occasion. In all, 140 members of the two Houses were invited to the meeting, including members of the security committee. The NA, through a resolution last month, had already permitted the use of the premises for the meeting.
It may be mentioned here that on June 23, talks with the TTP were discussed in the Senate, where some senators demanded clarity from the government over the matter. During the debate, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani had lamented that parliament had always been “used as a rubber stamp”. “There will be no use of presenting the TTP agreement before parliament if the government finalises it as the agreement cannot be amended later,” the former Senate chairman said.
Rabbani had said that an in-camera session of parliament should be called to inform lawmakers about the terms and conditions of the negotiations with the TTP. In response, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had made it clear that negotiations would be in line with the constitution.