ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Tuesday took notice of a disclosure made by former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan regarding a grave threat to national security, known only to four individuals, while Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said he needed a day to think about how to proceed.

The issue was raised by the Leader of the Opposition in Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan, who referred to a television interview where the former minister made claims about serious threat to the country.

He said that according to Mr Nisar only four people were aware of the threat —besides the latter, two military officers (probably the army chief and the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence) and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

According to Mr Ahsan, the former minister had claimed that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was unaware of the threat.

The Senate’s chairman said it was worrisome that the sitting prime minister was unaware of the threat. He added that he would take the house into confidence on Wednesday (today) on how to proceed, indicating that an in-camera session of the committee could be convened for a briefing on the issue.

Presidential address

Opening the debate on the presidential address to the joint session of parliament, Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that presidential claims of non-proliferation were mocked by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

He said that he welcomed President Mamnoon Hussain’s remarks on how Pakistan believed in non-proliferation and was entitled to a seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

However Mr Hussain’s statement on non-proliferation and hopes to enter the NSG were contradicted by Gen Musharraf who claimed that tons of nuclear material had been clandestinely shipped to North Korea, Iran and Libya by one individual.

“Who will trust Mr Hussain’s claim of non-proliferation now? Who will agree to give Pakistan a seat on the NSG, the foremost condition for which is an impeccable record of non-proliferation,” asked Senator Babar.

“By regurgitating an old and almost forgotten story, Gen Musharraf has publicly contradicted the president and done irreparable damage,” he said, adding that action should be taken against the former president.

Fata reforms

Mr Babar deplored that in his address, President Hussain had remained silent on the critical issue of reforms in the tribal areas. He said that at a meeting last week at the Prime Minister House, more questions were raised than answered and they had asked for a reforms package to be brought before parliament.

“There was no mention in the press statement from PM House about the jurisdiction of the superior courts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), nor of the law replacing the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations,” he said.

“It mentioned the creation of a new post of Chief Operating Officer (COO)… sooner or later a general will be appointed as was proposed in the now aborted Chief Executive package to be filled by a grade-22 civilian or military officer,” said Mr Babar, adding that in the presence of a uniformed officer as COO both the Governer House and President House would become redundant as the power would shift to Rawalpindi, further militarising the tribal areas.

In response Chairman Rabbani said that a meeting of the Committee of the Whole would be convened next week to discuss the Fata reforms and advised Senator Babar to raise the issue then.

Missing persons

The issue of missing persons was raised in the Senate again when Senator Hafiz Hamdullah said that a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, his son and secretary were abducted a few days ago in Quetta.

“The missing persons issue will continue to dodge us as long as there is no law to contain the state agencies,” he said.

“The Supreme Court, Commission on Enforced Disappearances, Senate and National Commission on Human Rights have all asked for legislation but to no avail… Is this because those responsible for it are more powerful than all these state institutions combined,” asked the senator.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017


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