ISLAMABAD: Monday’s meeting between Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and members of defence committees of the Senate and National Assembly was really frank and candid with both the sides agreeing on greater interaction to counter the challenges, both internal and external, haunting the nation.
Informed sources said that while the army chief referred to the past military interventions with abhorrence and stated that he believes in democracy and civilian supremacy, the parliamentarians appreciated the military’s role in curbing terrorism and admitted that misgivings of institutions against each other will only damage Pakistan.
According to one of the participants, the Monday’s interaction was a great step towards the realisation of the idea of encouraging formal interactions between the institutions to promote constitutional rule and help face Pakistan serious challenges it is facing.
“I never witnessed such a frank and candid discussion,” a parliamentarian source said, hoping that there would be more such interactions to address the misgivings against each other.
At the very outset of the meeting, it was agreed to discuss freely whatever agitates any mind present there. The ISPR issued a brief press release about the event while the parliamentarians are also hesitant to share with the media everything discussed there to avoid spoiling what is seen as a great opportunity to bridge the gap between civil and military leadership.
One of the parliamentarians approached by this correspondent, though said he would not discuss what was discussed in the meeting, was found too excited to share that the army chief said that he believes in civilian supremacy and is against military interventions.
Being a government servant, the army chief told the parliamentarians, he is bound to follow the policies framed by parliament. Both the sides were in favour of enhanced interactions between them, so that while making policies, the parliamentarians should have the viewpoints of all stakeholders, including the military.
The parliamentarians agreed that on issues of national security and foreign policy, the military’s viewpoint is critically important and thus it should not be ignored or avoided. The army chief, it is said, even agreed that he would be ready to visit parliament and attend meetings on national security and defence for greater understanding and unified policy formulation.
Head of the parliamentary delegation Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum suggested to the army chief that he should attend the Senate’s Committee of the Whole. In his response, the army chief agreed to attend the meeting.
The meeting discussed that during the past 70 years, politicians, military and judiciary all made mistakes which in actual had harmed Pakistan. To ensure that such mistakes are not repeated again, it was pressed that lessons should be learnt by all sides.
With regard to greater civil and military interaction, the army chief did refer to incumbent Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s initiative of calling repeated meetings of cabinet committee on national security for consensus policy decisions on issues of national security and foreign policy.
Following the Monday’s meeting, the ISPR press release said: “A delegation comprising members of Defence Committees of the Senate and National Assembly headed by Senator Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum, Retd, visited GHQ today. The delegation laid wreath at GHQ’s Shuhada Monument and was given a detailed briefing on evolving security environment, including situation on the borders and Pakistan Army efforts for peace and security. The delegation also had an interactive session with General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS). The session concluded with a resolve to continue our struggle against the menace of violent extremism through a synergetic, whole-of-the-nation approach based on the principle of ‘collective potential and shared responsibility’.”
Muhammad Anis adds: Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa made it clear that the Pakistan Army had nothing to do with the Panama case, saying that all the institutions were performing within the constitutional limits. Giving briefing to parliamentarians, he said that the Panama case was with the courts and the Pakistan Army had nothing to do with it, the sources said.
Chief of the army staff said that he had good terms with both the former prime minister and the sitting prime minister, saying that people have their own guesses. “We believe in strengthening democracy and respect of the Constitution,” he said.
The parliamentarians who attended the meeting while quoting the army chief said that he also talked to Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and congratulated him on the success of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in by-elections.
The army chief said the Pakistan Army played its role in ensuring peaceful elections in Lahore and would continue to perform the same responsibility in the future also.
On the defence budget, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that technically speaking, the allocations for defence sector have come down. He said the defence budget is 18pc of the total allocations which was not sufficient to meet the expenses.
According to parliamentarians, the army chief also pointed out that many problems were faced because of no full-fledged foreign minister. Citing the example of release of accused (jet-black terrorists) in Benazir Bhutto case, he said the military courts were established to punish terrorists.
The sources said the army chief also talked in detail about the relations with Afghanistan and India. He said that India was responsible for the tense situation on the Line of Control while the Afghan authorities ought to act against terrorists as done by Pakistan’s forces.
Meanwhile, an official press release issued by the National Assembly Secretariat said that participants of the meeting were unanimous on holding interactive sessions in the highest national interest for developing the policies and strategies to strengthen all institutions in the country.
The chief of army staff and the parliamentarians held a detailed question-answer session for three hours and addressed all the points raised during the discussion. The briefing was attended by Shaikh Rohale Asghar, Chairman, National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence, and the members of the National Assembly and Senate who were present included MNAs Isphandyar M Bhandara, Ms Surriya Asghar, Sanjay Perwani, Lt Col (retd) Ghulam Rasul Sahi, Saeed Ahmed Manais, Sheikh Muhammad Akram, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Syed Mustafa Mehmud, Dr Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari, Shafqat Mahmood, Ms Kishwer Zehra, Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, Malik Muhammad Amir Dogar and Senators Mr Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Hidayat Ullah, Col (retd) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi, Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum, Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Mrs Sehar Kamran, Saleem Mandviwala and Walayat Khan, Secretary Committee.
According to the sources, the cabinet had approved his appointment through circulation summary
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