ISLAMABAD - The lawmakers in the Upper House of the Parliament, mostly from Opposition, Wednesday sought clarification from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about his reported remarks that chances of success of a military operation against Taliban were less, saying it was tantamount to demoralising the army and surrender of the state to the militants.
The demand came before the House passed a unanimous resolution, urging the government not to compromise on the rights of women and minorities in the ongoing peace talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The resolution moved by MQM lawmaker Nasreen Jalil also demanded the government constitute a commission for protection of women from the illegal orders of jirgas which usually enforce illegal practices such as Vani and Sawara (forced marriages of women to settle disputes) as well as Karo Kari (honour killings).
“The House is of the opinion that rights of women and minorities are not negotiable with Taliban,” said the text of the resolution.
Earlier, Mian Raza Rabbani, PPP parliamentary leader, was the first who, on a point of order, said the recent revelation of PTI Chief Imran Khan in a TV programme attributed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was tantamount to demoralising the army and the state of Pakistan.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan has said in a TV programme the other day that in his meeting with the then chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, before the All-Party Conference (APC), the premier, quoting Kayani, had told him that the possibility of success of a military action against Taliban in the tribal areas was only 40 percent.
Terming it a serious issue and saying his party did not want point-scoring on it, Rabbani asserted that the PM should end ‘boycott’ of the Senate and take the House into confidence in this regard.
The opposition lawmakers applauded the word ‘boycott’ used by Rabbani by thumping desks. He said it was shocking that the chief executive of the country had said that armed forces were not capable of taking on militants. “This matter is of a grave national security and requires first priority,” he said.
Afrasiab Khattak, an ANP lawmaker, condemning the way peace talks were being carried out for the last couple of weeks, said exploitation of state would not be allowed in such a way. He said he was surprised that the incidents of terrorism were not decreasing despite the ongoing peace talks and blood of innocent people was being shed in the name of talks. He also demanded the PM clarify his reported remarks about the ability of the forces and the success potential of an operation.
Senator Babar Ghauri, quoting an interview of a TTT spokesman to foreign media, questioned who these people were to dictate the government. He said the revelation by Imran Khan was tantamount to disgracing the army by the PM. He said they did not need burqa-clad and forced imposition of Shariah. Kamil Ali Agha also endorsed other lawmakers and sought the PM’s clarification on the issue.
Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, after short remarks of Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan on the issue, said that first, the truthfulness of the reported talk of the PM with the PTI chief needed to be checked; secondly, it was inappropriate to make public the talk of a closed-door room. He said the revelation was also shocking for him. However, he said he could not make commitment to the House regarding the PM’s arrival in the House as he was leaving for Turkey. Another PML-N lawmaker, Chaudhry Jaffer Iqbal, questioned whether it was appropriate for Imran Khan to disclose this talk at a point when talks were going on with the TTP. He alleged Khan was playing the role of a third force and he should be held responsible for this.
Senate Chairman Nayyer Bokhari referred a privilege motion of Senator Haji Adeel to the Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges about a news item that intelligence agencies were recording phone calls of politicians as well as government officials. The matter was referred after the leader of the House as well as the leader of the Opposition termed the issue serious.
Responding to a call-attention notice moved by Dr Saeeda Iqbal regarding placement of Convention Centre Islamabad on the list of privatisation, Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir confirmed it was on the list of privatisation, adding the expenses being incurred on the centre from the government kitty were much more than the income being generated from its rent.
The minister said the centre was facing the loss of Rs 56 to 60 million per annum. The Council of Common Interests (CCI) had approved the privatisation of the Convention Centre in 1997, he said.
The chair remarked that the ministries and its allied departments were responsible for its less utilisation as all government functions were being held in private hotels. Raza Rabbani, contesting the statement of the minister, said the privatisation of Convention Centre on the basis of 1997 decision of CCI was illegal and unconstitutional. The SC in the Steel Mills Privatisation case had already declared that another CCI decision was needed because of time difference, he said.
The chairman, on a motion moved by Rabbani, also empowered the chairman of the special committee on devolution to form a four-member sub-committee to address the issues of devolution.