ISLAMABAD, Oct 28: The government told the National Assembly on Tuesday it would go ahead with the current military operation in tribal areas to check Al Qaeda militants and possible intrusions inspired by the powerful Panjsheri group in the Afghan government.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed interrupted the lower house proceedings to make the statement after an opposition complaint of alleged excesses in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where the government says it has set up hundreds of check posts since the army entered the region for the first time last year.

The opposition Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal tried to raise the issue at the start of what was a private members’ day when a European Union parliamentary delegation was present in the speaker’s gallery to witness the proceedings.

There was no immediate government response to the complaint voiced by MMA deputy parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed who objected to the army operation in the tribal region, including the establishment of checkposts and demolition of houses of rebellious tribals accused of harbouring wanted militants but refusing to surrender them.

But speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain dismissed the move by saying the matter could not be agitated through a point of order, which can be raised only about violation of rules of procedure but is often used by members to speak on other matters.

It was much later during the proceedings, after the opposition parties had walked out of the house as part of the regular anti- LFO protests, that the information minister rose to denounce the MMA religious alliance for raising the matter in the presence of the eight-member EU delegation, now visiting the country to observe the working of the parliamentary system.

Sheikh Rashid said while the government was determined to carry on its campaign against the Al Qaeda network as a key ally in the US-led war against terrorism, it had to send army into Mohmand Agency area because it feared intrusion by some 4,000-strong militia of the so-called Panjsheri group.

Pakistan, he said, had no design against even an inch of Afghan territory, “but we had to set up posts because there was danger of mischief from the Panjsheri group”.

The Pansheri group comprises followers of former Afghan defence minister Ahmad Shah Masood.

In a reference to a clash with foreign militants in Wana area earlier this year, Sheikh Rashid said authorities had offered to try them in Pakistan or send them to their countries but they opened fire on Pakistani troops and killed two of them.

Apparently recalling famous protest “dharna” sit-ins of the Jamaat-i-Islami, the minister taunted the MMA alliance that some time they would stage “dharna at the behest of the GHQ” and some time make a statement on seeing people of the “white skin”.

He even took the speaker to task for what he called being influenced by the presence of the “white skin” and creating “a crisis in the house” by suggesting to members to better speak in English — some could not speak well — rather than Urdu so they could be understood by the EU delegation members.

“We are proud of our language,” he said in an emotional sarcasm that seemed to surprise the visitors, who were earlier greeted with cheers from both the treasury and opposition benches after the speaker informed the house of their presence.

The visitors then saw the combined cheering being immediately followed by a usual show of sharp division in the 342-seat house over President Pervez Musharraf’s controversial Legal Framework Order (LFO).

“Go Musharraf go” and “no LFO no”, opposition members chanted and thumped their desks for about 10 minutes after the speaker dismissed Hafiz Hussain Ahmed’s point of order on the Fata operation and started other business on the agenda amid the regular noisy protest, which showed no signs of weakening despite of the advent of the fasting month of Ramazan.

But for the first time speaker Amir Hussain objected to opposition members’ slogans that they continued to chant while standing before the hall’s exit before walking out.

“No slogans in the house,... please maintain decorum of the house,” the speaker said, only to be ignored by the protesters.

This was the second time objection was taken to the opposition slogan-chanting from the chair within two days.

Deputy speaker Sardar Mohammad Yaqub also said on Monday slogans were not permitted in the house after a ruling party member, Mehnaz Rafi, complained of breach of the privilege of ruling coalition members by slogans like “Musharraf ka jo yar hai, woh qaum ka ghaddar hai” (whoever is friend of Musharraf is traitor to the nation).

But he said he would reserve his ruling on the matter for the time being.

The house also disposed of a call-attention notice on alleged police harassment of prize bond dealers across the country and held an inconclusive debate on a resolution calling for complete uniformity of electricity bill before it was adjourned until 10.30 am on Friday.

Editorial

Ominous demands
Updated 18 May, 2024

Ominous demands

The federal government needs to boost its revenues to reduce future borrowing and pay back its existing debt.
Property leaks
18 May, 2024

Property leaks

THE leaked Dubai property data reported on by media organisations around the world earlier this week seems to have...
Heat warnings
18 May, 2024

Heat warnings

STARTING next week, the country must brace for brutal heatwaves. The NDMA warns of severe conditions with...
Dangerous law
Updated 17 May, 2024

Dangerous law

It must remember that the same law can be weaponised against it one day, just as Peca was when the PTI took power.
Uncalled for pressure
17 May, 2024

Uncalled for pressure

THE recent press conferences by Senators Faisal Vawda and Talal Chaudhry, where they demanded evidence from judges...
KP tussle
17 May, 2024

KP tussle

THE growing war of words between KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Governor Faisal Karim Kundi is affecting...