ISLAMABAD: A Senate special committee on Tuesday held a three-hour marathon session with the leadership of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and asked it to nominate a focal person for effective coordination and to present its demands in writing in order to suggest a workable solution after consultation with all stakeholders.

After listening to the grievances of the PTM leaders, including its chief Manzoor Pashteen, the special committee headed by Senator Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif decided to continue “consultative process” to resolve the outstanding issues.

The Senate special committee was formed to “examine purported grievances amongst some sections of the society and reach out/engage with the genuinely aggrieved persons to create national cohesion”.

Senate special committee holds three-hour marathon session with Manzoor Pashteen and his team to find a workable solution

According to an official handout issued by the Senate Secretariat after the meeting, the PTM chief apprised the committee of their demands and grievances. Mr Pashteen said: “Measures must be taken for resolving the issue of missing persons, demining of the landmines and for constitution of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to restore the confidence of the people of the [tribal] area.”

He said their demands were clear which needed immediate solution.

Sources told Dawn that the PTM leaders also expressed concern over the media blackout of their activities. Due to a bar on the media from highlighting their activities, the PTM leaders said, they had no forum to express their grievances and present their viewpoint.

According to the sources, some of the committee members suggested that a fact-finding mission be constituted to visit the tribal areas and to interview the locals to hear their viewpoint. The committee members agreed with the PTM demands and called for their prompt solution. The members were of the view that differences provided the basis for the democratic process. They termed it a “historic day” and said the Senate would raise effective voice for addressing the grievances.

“However, there is a need for developing a roadmap for formulating concrete recommendations in this regard,” the committee members said.

The official handout claimed that Mr Pashteen “posed his complete confidence” in the Senate special committee and appreciated its suggestions for resolving the issues. However, the sources said the PTM chief had sought some time to consult other members of his organisation to respond to the proposals made by the committee.

Later, Senator Mushahid Hussain of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), who also attended the meeting, wrote on his official social media page on Twitter: “The three-hour marathon session saw receptive response to what the PTM leadership stated about redressing grievances, reversing wrongs/taking concrete policy measures to alleviate long-standing problems with the Senate committee serving as bridge, since dialogue on issues is the way forward.”

In another tweet, the PML-N senator said: “Historic meeting at Parliament of Senate Special Committee where PTM delegation invited to address parliamentarians, with articulate and charismatic Manzoor Pashteen giving detailed presentation on developments in Fata, MNA Mohsin Dawar also present; candid and cordial dialogue.”

In yet another tweet, Mr Hussain stated that the senators in the meeting said “we want to listen and learn”.

“This first step of dialogue with PTM in the premises of Parliament is a glimmer of hope. Positive signs are PTM now also in Parliament, upcoming elections in Fata and welcome change in Pakistan Afghan policy, discarding old mindset!” the PML-N senator tweeted.

The special committee has representation of all political parties in the Senate.

The meeting was attended by Dr Jahanzaib Jamaldini, Sitara Ayaz, Mushahid Hussain, Pir Sabir Shah, Mushahidullah Khan, Sajjad Hussain Turi, Hidayatullah, Dilawar Khan, Fida Mohammad, Naseebullah Bazai, Sardar Shafiq Tareen, Sameena Saeed, Khanzada Khan, Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi and independent MNA from tribal areas Mohsin Dawar.

Speaking to the participants, committee chairman Barrister Saif of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said social injustices could be addressed under the provisions of law and Constitution. This special committee, he said, had been created with this purpose so that solution could be found to the problems of the aggrieved sections of society for promoting national cohesion and integration.

Mr Saif welcomed the PTM leadership at the Parliament House and said Pashtuns had their own traditions which provided the mechanism for resolution of the disputes through dialogue and jirga system. He said the committee would serve as a bridge to address the grievances of the PTM.

He said they all were citizens of this country and might have reservations and complaints with the governments, adding that the region had witnessed turmoil and was facing security situation which had affected different areas of the country.

The committee members were of the opinion that this session had provided them an opportunity to understand the issues and learn from each other.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019