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COAS briefs senators on national security

Updated December 19, 2017

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COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa arrives at Parliament House ahead of briefing. ─ DawnNews
COAS Qamar Jawed Bajwa arrives at Parliament House ahead of briefing. ─ DawnNews

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Jawed Bajwa on Tuesday briefed the Senate Committee of the Whole House on national security during an extraordinary in-camera session presided over by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

Speaking to the media after the briefing, Director General (DG) ISPR Asif Ghafoor said that the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza "talked about the geo-strategic environment from a security lens, informed the Senators about threats to national security, gave an update on the war on terror and future plan of action."

He said that the briefing went on for an hour and a half, followed by a "very candid, very free, very frank, very objective" question-answer session.

"When we are together, no one can defeat us," DG ISPR said.

However, he refrained from making a detailed comment on the briefing and said that a detailed press conference will be held in the next few days.

'Army intervened in Faizabad issue in national interest'

Following the meeting, Senator Nihal Hashmi told DawnNews that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa denied the alleged involvement of the military in the Faizabad sit-in.

"The COAS said he will resign if the army's involvement is proved in Faizabad protests," said Nihal Hashmi.

“He [Gen Bajwa] clarified several issues, for example, he made it clear that the army had nothing to do with the retired army officials who appear on TV in the capacity of defence analysts," the senator said.

"You [the parliament] will devise all policies including defence and foreign affairs, whereas, we [the army] will abide by [the policies]," Nihal further quoted Gen Bajwa as saying.

Meanwhile, sources told DawnNews that Gen Bajwa briefed the committee that the army played a role in resolving the issue of Faizabad sit-in in the national interest.

The army chief reportedly said that the police operation had pushed the situation from bad to worse as countrywide protests erupted following the action. “Had the army taken any action against the participants of the sit-in, the situation would have worsened,” Gen Bajwa was quoted as saying.

"It is a matter of honour for me to address an important parliamentary committee," sources quoted the army chief as saying as he began briefing the Senate.

According to sources, the army chief added that trips to certain countries were an important aspect of military diplomacy and that the military was paying close attention to the geostrategic situation in the region.

The Senate was told that the army chief's visits to neighbouring countries had proved to help improve Pakistan's ties with them.

"We cannot ignore the changes that are taking place in Afghanistan," the army chief was quoted as saying. "Border management is necessary to protect the Pak-Afghan border."

Gen Bajwa also said that there was no room for a presidential system in the country, Hashmi said, adding that, "He [the COAS] said a presidential system weakens the country and yields polarisation."

Military courts

During the session, the military leadership told the lawmakers present that since their inception in 2015, military courts had managed to decide 274 cases and had awarded 161 death sentences, sources told DawnNews.

According to sources, the military leadership further said that 56 convicts had been executed in that time ─ 13 before the launch of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and 46 since the launch of the operation.

The lawmakers were told that since Gen Bajwa was appointed army chief, the military courts had received 160 cases, sources said.

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad

DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza reportedly briefed the lawmakers on the action taken by security forces under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, which was launched in February.

Sources said that the DGMO told the Senate that since the launch of the operation, 1,249 combing and intelligence-based operations have been conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

He added that 31 major operations have been undertaken in the region.

The DGMO reportedly told the Senate that 13,011 operations have been conducted in punjab ─ including seven major operations ─ whereas 1,410 ─ including 29 major operations ─ have been undertaken in Balochistan, sources said. The DGMO added that 2015 operations were conducted in Sindh, including seven major operations.

The DGMO said that 18,001 operations were conducted based on intelligence information. He added that 4,983 search-based operations were conducted and 19,993 weapons were recovered.

Rangers operation in Karachi

According to sources, the DGMO also reportedly informed lawmakers that since the launch of the Rangers operation in Karachi in 2013, 8,780 suspects have been handed over to the police, 12,105 weapons have been seized and 1,948 terrorists have been apprehended.

The DGMO reportedly said that 154 abductees have been freed from captivity and 154 kidnappers have been apprehended in that time.

Further, sources said that the DGMO reportedly told legislators that since the launch of the operation, 24 soldiers have been martyred.

Strict security arrangements in place as military leadership arrives at Parliament House

The army chief, DGMO, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence Naveed Mukhtar and Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj General Asif Ghafoor arrived at the Parliament House amid strict security arrangements. Parliamentary members, too, had arrived for the in-camera briefing.

Army Chief General Qamar Javed bajwa arrives at Parliament House. ─ DawnNews

The army chief arrived at Parliament House via a helicopter and was welcomed by Deputy Chairman of the Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. He held a meeting with Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani in the latter's chambers before the two proceeded to the Senate hall.

After the in-camera session, DG ISI will brief the media on its proceedings, the Senate Secretariat has said.

DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor arrives at Parliament House. ─ DawnNews

An extraordinary meeting

This is the first time in six years that the military leadership has come to the Parliament House to brief lawmakers on the security situation.

Last time it was in May 2011 when then army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and then ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha had briefed a joint session of parliament about the Abbottabad operation in which Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces.

Earlier, in May 2009, then DGMO Maj Gen Javed Iqbal had briefed a joint sitting of parliament about the country's security situation and the military operation in Swat.

The COAS and DGMO will give a “briefing on the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent visits/developments”.

The decision to brief senators was taken voluntarily by the military leadership after seeing media reports about criticism in the Senate of the federal government and the military for not taking the parliament into confidence over recent security developments. The developments in question include the change in Washington’s policy towards Islamabad following controversial remarks by US President Donald Trump about the role of Pakistan in the war on terror, border clashes with Afghan forces and Pakistan’s role in a military alliance under Saudi Arabia.