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PESHAWAR: People chant slogans in support of the armed forces during a rally on Wednesday.—Reuters
PESHAWAR: People chant slogans in support of the armed forces during a rally on Wednesday.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Top political leadership of the country was given an in-camera briefing at the Parliament House on Wednesday on the prevailing security situation and a sharp escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama suicide attack.

While the opposition parties expressed satisfaction over the briefing mainly conducted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, they regretted the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan from such an important meeting.

The government has already convened a joint session of parliament on Thursday to discuss the security situation in the country.

Talking to the reporters after the meeting that lasted more than two hours, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Syed Khurshid Shah said it was “regrettable that the prime minister was not present in the meeting”. He added that the prime minister’s absence “had been felt even by others”.

Opposition regrets PM’s absence from meeting

Mr Shah was of the opinion that the prime minister should have been present in the meeting that was attended by former president Asif Ali Zardari, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, former ministers and leaders of other parties.

He said the parliamentary leaders of all the parties in the Senate and the National Assembly were present but the parliamentary leader of the ruling party did not attend the meeting.

Mr Shah said the government had “tried” to brief the political leadership about the Indian aggression and the strategy that Pakistan had adopted. According to the briefing, he said, they were fully prepared to meet any eventuality. He said everyone was trying to avoid war and emphasised that the countries which wanted peace in the region should also play their role.

Former president Asif Zardari said they were united under one flag like a rock to give a befitting response to India. He said they would tell India as to how dared it violated Pakistan’s airspace and advised the nation to be prepared for any eventuality in future.

Foreign Minister Qureshi in a video message said that in the meeting he had briefed the parliamentary leadership of the country about the steps so far taken by him and the Foreign Office after the Indian act of violating the country’s airspace.

Mr Qureshi said the army chief took the country’s political leadership into confidence on the prevailing situation in the region and about the state of alertness of the armed forces.

He said China, Iran and Saudi Arabia expressed solidarity with Pakistan. The Saudi foreign minister had expressed the desire that they wanted to come to the region for making efforts for de-escalation, he added.

An official handout issued by the National Assembly Secretariat said: “The forum unanimously expressed that they stand united against any aggression against Pakistan and will support the government and its institutions unconditionally.”

It said the participants also “expressed hope that those who want peace and stability will prevail as war is not an option but a failure of policy”.

In the end, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and NA Speaker Asad Qaiser thanked the leadership for their unequivocal support at the moment of crisis.

Shahbaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Khurram Dastagir, Raja Zafarul Haq, Rana Sanaullah, Rana Tanveer, Ahsan Iqbal, Mushahidullah Khan and Marriyum Aurangzeb of the PML-N, Asif Zardari, Khurshid Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Syed Naveed Qamar, Sherry Rehman and Shazia Marri of the PPP, Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F and Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif of the MQM attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2019