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December 18, 2017

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Army chief to brief Senate on security situation tomorrow

ISLAMABAD: In a break from the past tradition, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will brief the Senate's Committee of the Whole on the security situation on Tuesday, as legislators last week wanted to know the terms of reference (ToRs) of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) that met in Riyadh recently.

According to an announcement by the Senate Secretariat, Gen Bajwa will brief the entire House, to be converted into a House committee, in an in-camera sitting at 10am on December 19 on "the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent visits/developments".

Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, members of the Senate and Minister for Defence Khurram Dastagir Khan will attend the meeting. Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza will accompany the COAS.

In their speeches, the senators on both sides of the aisle, on Friday last questioned the ToRs of the coalition and criticised the government for not placing them before parliament. They insisted that former defence minister Khawaja Asif had assured the Senate that whenever the ToRs were finalised, these would be placed before parliament for deliberation and approval.

However, despite the holding of the coalition’s meeting, parliament was completely in the dark about what had been agreed upon and what exactly would be Pakistan’s role with regard to those terms.

The legislators also wanted to know the details of the army chief’s recent visit to Iran, where he met with not only the top civilian leadership, but also with the military top brass and these activities took place just ahead of the coalition meeting.

The Committee of the Whole is the entire membership of the House sitting as a committee. The Senate rules have been amended to provide for conversion of the House into Committee (Committee of the Whole House) on issues of national importance, with power to require the attendance of any person or summon production of papers, record from any division, department, autonomous body, semi-autonomous body or organization, or examine such persons on oath or solemn affirmation, or invite or summon any person to give evidence in relation to any matter under its consideration.

The panel has already held in-depth deliberations on several key national issues and thrashed out reports and recommendations. The then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, had also given his ideas to the panel on provision of cheap and speedy justice to people.

The committee was summoned on the motion "to prepare policy guidelines in the light of emerging regional realities and the role of United States" following the widely-discussed speech of US President Donald Trump, wherein he had focused on South Asia raising alarm bells in Pakistan.

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