ISLAMABAD: The government is yet to make good on the promise it made last week during a multiparty conference of parliamentary leaders to reconstitute the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
The move was agreed upon by the entire political leadership and the government, and the decision was made public through a resolution unanimously passed at the Oct 3 conference.
However, since then, the government is keeping mum on the subject. Even during the two-day joint sitting of parliament, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmakers in their speeches kept asking the government in vain when it intended to form the committee.
Senator Sherry Rehman particularly criticised the government for not treating parliament like her PPP had done during its time in power, when all defence and foreign policy-related issues were discussed by the committee.
Minister says PTI’s boycott and protest plan put the matter on back-burner
But the government benches had no response to these queries as most remained empty for the most part of the joint sitting. Both the media wing of Prime Minister Office and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid — who is also the formal spokesperson for the premier — said they were unaware of the status of the proposed committee.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Rashid said that since he had been in Lahore after the joint sitting, he had no new information about the proposal.
The communiqué issued after the Oct 3 conference had said in no unclear terms that “to coordinate on national security efforts, the national security committee of parliament may be reconstituted”.
The committee had remained in place during the PPP’s time in power, but was not reconstituted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) when it took over in 2013.
In background discussions, ruling party sources said that after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) boycott of the joint sitting and their announcement of a siege of Islamabad on Oct 30, the decision to constitute the parliamentary committee had, at least for the time being, lost its relevance.
“The main thrust behind the decision to set up the committee was to strengthen parliamentary oversight on national security issues. But now that a major political party is staying away from both houses of parliament, the government’s attention is certainly diverted to the upcoming protest movement,” said a member of the federal cabinet, who didn’t wish to be named.
In reply to a question, the minister said that if the government wasn’t interested in forming the committee, it wouldn’t have accepted the suggestion made at the multiparty conference.
The minister insisted that “when [PTI chief] Imran Khan is coming down...hard on the government and has undermined the importance of parliament by staying away from its joint sitting, the implementation of such decisions will take a backseat”.
The cabinet member said that the government was in no mood for a confrontation and would try its level best to resolve the issue of investigation into the Panama Papers leaks. However, a lot depends on whether the PTI was interested in doing so.
Talking to Dawn, PTI leader Dr Shireen Mazari, who attended the multiparty conference and actively participated in the drafting of its resolution, said the understanding was that the committee would be constituted forthwith.
“We haven’t resigned from parliament and are only seeking the accountability of the prime minister,” Dr Mazari contended when asked whether the PTI’s boycott of parliament was the reason why the committee’s formation was being delayed.
According to another government insider, some senior ministers were not happy with the idea of reconstituting the committee and it’s likely the government may drag its feet on the issue for some time.
Published in Dawn October 10th, 2016