ISLAMABAD: After receiving confirmation from leaders of all political parties about their participation, the federal government gave final touches on Friday to its preparations for the All-Party Conference on National Security Policy to make it a result-oriented huddle. The APC will be held on 9th.
The most important part of the meeting, according to a government source, would be a no holds barred briefing by the military establishment before politicians start their deliberations on how to counter both internal and external security threats to the country.
“The government has assured in its invitation to the political leaders that during the conference the military leadership will come clean on its policy vis-a-vis militants in tribal areas to ensure that consultations lead to some concrete outcome,” the source said.
He said there was a positive response from all political parties invited to the conference which was scheduled to be held on Sept 9 in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Although yet to be confirmed on record, the official said a separate meeting among Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Chief Minister Paravez Khattak was also on the cards.
The PTI chief has repeatedly demanded an exclusive meeting with the military leadership before attending any APC or any such huddle meant to evolve national consensus on national security policy.
He has said on a number of occasions that unless he is informed about the military’s actual strategy in tribal areas, where it is heavily involved in fighting militants, it is useless to attend an APC.
Though the time and venue of the meeting between PTI and military leadership is yet to be finalised, the government official said it was likely to be held on Monday morning before the formal opening of the APC.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan remained busy on Friday making telephone calls and meeting political leaders to ensure their participation in the conference. He also called on the prime minister and updated him on the matter.
The interior minister is said to have contacted Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, PTI chief Imran Khan, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Farooq Sattar, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-i-Islami Chief Munawar Hassan and leaders of other political parties.
On Friday, the prime minister also met former prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and made a telephone call to Pir of Pagara Pir Sibgatullah Rashidi.
While the government is hopeful of a fruitful discussion on the crucial issue among political leadership in the APC, critics are asking question how this conference will be different from the previous ones held on the subject. And also what would be attitude of the military establishment because, after a corps commanders’ meeting on Sept 4 the army had decided to continue its operations in tribal areas. It also said the operations would remain unaffected by the government’s plan to hold talks with Taliban. No-one was available from the ISPR to comment on the APC.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the chief speaker at the JUI-F-sponsored conference held in Islamabad on Feb 28 which had unanimously decided to hold talks with militants through a grand tribal jirga.
Signed by about 30 political and religious parties, the declaration of this conference said: “All the religious and political parties and Fata elders participating in today’s APC announce that the present, interim and the next elected government and the (future) opposition will be bound to implement all the steps agreed upon.”
When asked what was the JUI-F’s stance about the coming APC its spokesperson Jan Achakzai said if a new government with a fresh mandate took a concrete decision, things could move forward.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his recent meetings with JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman had claimed that the civilian and military leaders were on the same page over his government’s plan to hold talks with Taliban, which wasn’t the case in the past.
“More or less there is an across-the-board consensus among all political forces to hold talks with the Taliban,” the JUF-F leader said.
An APC held by Awami National Party on Feb 14 had also supported talks with militants.