Govt, Opp trade barbs in NA over anti-militancy operation

In NA session, PTI chief Gohar says Azm-e-Istehkam operation should be approved by parliament. Defence minister Kh Asif terms PTI leadership ‘compromised’ and is staying with terrorists. Without specifying any date, law minister hints at convening in-camera NSC meeting. NA passes resolution against mob lynching.

ISLAMABAD   -   The government and the opposition yesterday engaged in verbal brawl over the newly announced military operation, Azm-e-Istehkam, aimed at eradicating terrorism. Although the assembly was primarily focused on budget discussions, the session was derailed by heated debates over the military initiative.

The opposition’s protests led to an hour-long walkout, after which they returned to voice their dissent through speeches and chants, such as “end the operation” and “we want peace.”

The government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the other day had announced the counter-terrorism operation.

The government committed to deploying all national resources, including military, diplomatic, and legislative efforts, to combat the surge in terrorist activities.

The Central Apex Committee on National Action Plan (NAP), which includes top officials from all provinces and PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, had approved the operation.

The decision came in response to a notable increase in terrorist attacks, resulting in significant civilian and security force casualties. Pakistan has repeatedly urged Afghanistan’s Taliban-led administration to prevent terrorist groups from operating on its soil, a claim Kabul denies.

During the assembly session, PTI lawmakers staged a protest. Opposition members loyal to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) expressed their dissatisfaction, claiming they were not consulted about the operation.

In his speech in the house, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif accused the opposition of aligning with terrorists by opposing the operation.

He highlighted that PTI’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister was present at the meeting where the operation was approved, implying their tacit agreement. Asif’s strong words suggested that PTI’s protest indicated support for terrorism and opposition to the Pakistani Army and its martyrs.

He also referenced PTI’s stance on the violent events of May 9, when PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest led to attacks on state installations.

PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan maintained that any military operation should be approved by the parliament.

He criticized the federal government for not consulting PTI lawmakers, particularly regarding operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Gohar Khan asserted that the military leadership should brief the parliament before any action, emphasizing his party’s commitment to discussing national issues without being anti-Pakistan.

Asif lashed out at the PTI’s leadership, claiming it was compromised. He quoted PTI member Shehryar Afridi, who allegedly named senior PTI leaders in compromising contexts.

In response to Asif’s comments, PTI MNA Afridi said may the curse of God fall on those who lie. His statement gathered praise from the opposition benches.

He said Asif was more than 70 years old, but still resorting to such statements. “This is my chairman and my opposition leader,” the former federal minister said while pointing towards Gohar and Ayub.

Afridi said the government was “no match” for the PTI and their allegations would not affect the unity within the party’s ranks.

In an effort to ease tensions, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar assured the opposition that the government would consult them, contrasting this approach with Imran Khan’s tenure.

Tarar reprimanded the opposition for causing disruptions when the defence minister was addressing crucial security issues.

He pointed out that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister had not objected to the operation during the committee meeting. He also mentioned plans for an in-camera National Security Council meeting. He added that an in-camera National Security Council meeting would be convened, without specifying the date.

Amid the heated exchanges, PTI’s Shehryar Afridi defended his party, accusing Asif of dishonesty and maintaining PTI’s unity. Afridi stated that the government’s allegations would not affect PTI’s unity.

Later, Asif condemned the opposition for not supporting a resolution to protect minorities in Pakistan, citing ongoing violence against minority groups in Swat and Faisalabad.

He underscored the government’s commitment to safeguarding minority rights, a sentiment echoed by Tarar, who stressed the importance of justice for attacks on minorities.

PTI leaders reiterated their opposition to military operations without parliamentary approval. They criticized the government for bypassing the legislature and imposing taxes on former tribal areas, describing these actions as reflective of a “martial law mentality.”

Despite their protests, the law minister eventually presented and passed a resolution urging federal and provincial governments to protect minority groups and punish those responsible for attacks.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly passed a resolution vehemently condemning the recent horrific and tragic incidents of mob lynching in various parts of the country.

The resolution, moved by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, emphasised that the right to life is the most cherished right enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. “Every person is to be dealt with in accordance with the law and not otherwise,” it stated.

The House expressed serious concern over the mob lynching of citizens accused of offences in Swat and Sargodha, noting with grave concern that such incidents have been on the rise. “Such actions cannot be tolerated in any civilized society,” it declared.

The NA urged both the federal and provincial governments to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, including religious minorities and other vulnerable segments of society.

It called for the provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to take immediate and necessary measures to identify, investigate, and prosecute those involved in these incidents under the relevant laws.

Furthermore, the House expressed the expectation that the courts would ensure immediate and speedy justice in these cases, underscoring the need for swift legal action to prevent future occurrences of such tragic events.