ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday threw its weight behind a government proposal to form a parliamentary commission, which would investigate the recent claims made by former Pakistani envoy in Washington, Husain Haqqani.
The proposal, laid before the National Assembly by Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, was welcomed by members of all parties in the house.
“Husain Haqqani has said some things which, if seen from a national security perspective, are quite alarming,” Mr Asif told the house after the conclusion of Question Hour.
He claimed that the former envoy had levelled accusations at the two most senior office-holders in the country, referring to the claim that the then president Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani knew about the scores of visas issued to the US personnel involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Khawaja Asif tells NA no troops have been sent to Saudi Arabia
Mr Asif also claimed that before coming to power, Mr Zardari had often referenced his contact with British and American officials, such as former US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Richard Boucher, and had referred to them as his “guarantors”.
“All these statements are connected, therefore, I request the chair that I may be allowed to make a detailed statement in this matter on Monday, and a multi-partisan parliamentary commission should be formed to investigate this affair.”
“I ask for a parliamentary commission — whose composition will be at the discretion of the chair — because it is time to empower this house to discuss the matter threadbare and before the media, in full public view,” Mr Asif said.
According to the minister, this was not the first time Mr Haqqani had made such utterances about Pakistan’s security institutions or sovereignty. “But now he has named Mr Zardari and Mr Gillani directly, saying that the civilian government of the time sanctioned scores of visas for Americans who came to Pakistan for the sake of US interests, not ours.”
“This is a matter of national security; it is a breach of the highest level,” the minister said, adding that several US personnel had come to Pakistan on this pretext. “They were given visas from Washington and Dubai. Even the then interior minister was involved,” he said, taking aim at Rehman Malik.
Senator Malik, who now heads the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, refuted the defence minister’s allegations. Speaking to reporters outside Parliament House, he said that neither he, nor former president Zardari, nor ex-PM Gillani was taken into confidence while issuing the visas.
“The interior ministry deals only with renewal rather than issuance of visas. The issuing authority is the ambassador and embassy staff,” he said, suggesting that only Mr Haqqani was to blame.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, who had disowned Mr Haqqani in his remarks before the house on Monday, welcomed the idea of forming a parliamentary commission to probe the former envoy’s allegations.
“There should be a joint parliamentary committee that should take up Mr Haqqani’s revelations, the Memogate scandal, Dawn leaks and whether someone had historic links with bin Laden,” he said.
The proposal was supported by all other parliamentary parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahidda Qaumi Movement. The deputy speaker then ruled that the government and opposition should hold consultations on the composition and terms of reference of the proposed body and move a motion for its formation before the house.
Troops in KSA
Recalling parliament’s decision not to send troops to join the fighting in Yemen, PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood took advantage of the defence minister’s presence to seek clarification on the government’s position on reports that Pakistani troops had been deployed in Saudi Arabia.
“As we speak, we have not sent any troops there,” was the minister’s measured response. He said that just over 1,000 Pakistani personnel — including technicians, doctors and engineers — were stationed in Saudi Arabia under a previous military accord and that there had been no additional deployment.
He said parliament’s decision to refuse troop deployment in Yemen was a binding directive, insisting that it would never be violated.
“We will not get involved in a conflict between two Muslim countries,” the minister declared, saying that Pakistan would prefer to act as a mediator rather than acting in a partisan manner.
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2017