ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Monday walked out of the National Assembly to protest Communications Minister Murad Saeed’s response to a violent incident at a North Waziristan security post in the presence of the ministers concerned, whereas the government accused the leadership of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) of having links with Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.

Questioning the silence of Prime Minister Imran Khan and other concerned people on the incident in which three people were killed and 10 others were injured due to an exchange of fire between the PTM protesters and army personnel at the Khar Qamar check post in North Waziristan on Sunday morning, PML-N’s parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif called for resolving the issue by “the civilians” through parliament.

Expressing serious concern over reports of the arrest of MNA Ali Wazir and fleeing of another MNA Mohsin Dawar, the PML-N leader suggested formation of a house committee to be headed by Speaker Asad Qaiser and comprising members from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to resolve the crisis through political means, instead of using force.

The firebrand PML-N leader from Sialkot recalled that Pakistan had already suffered the East Pakistan tragedy, whereas Balochistan had been facing insurgencies since the 1950s due to past “mistakes”.

Demands special committee to resolve crisis; minister accuses PTM leaders of having links with Afghanistan

“Fault lines are present in the country. History has brought us to a position where if these fault lines are not removed, the country’s integrity can be at stake,” Mr Asif said, while advising the government to “deal with the issue politically”.

“There should be no attack on check posts. However, we should admit that there is a need to deal with these fault lines politically,” he said, adding: “The issue will not be resolved through use of force. Politicians should take charge.”

The PML-N leader regretted that no one from the federal or the KP government had spoken about the incident. “Why is there no statement from the KP chief minister over the incident?” he asked. He said the prime minister, defence minister and interior minister would have to make a statement.

“It is your responsibility to bring these (tribal) people into your fold and political mainstream,” he said, warning that the enemies from across the border could exploit the situation. The state, he said, should play the role of a mother and “prevent proliferation of this problem”.

Without naming Mr Dawar, he recalled that the National Assembly had recently unanimously passed a constitution amendment bill seeking to increase seats of the erstwhile Fata areas in the house and that bill had been moved by an MNA as a private member’s bill.

The PML-N leader said the amendment was yet to be passed by the Senate because some forces were in action to prevent it from being passed. “It will be our defeat, if those forces, through manoeuvring, prevent it from being passed by the Senate,” he added.

The opposition members staged a walkout when the speaker gave floor to the communications minister to respond to Khawaja Asif’s speech. The opposition members were of the view that when the defence minister and the interior minister were present in the house then why the floor had been given to Murad Saeed.

The communications minister said the protest sit-in in North Waziristan had entered its third day and the protesters had almost reached an understanding and were about to end the protest when an MNA called them from Islamabad, asking them not to end the sit-in and provoked them for the attack on the check post. He said the video footage of the attack was available in which the MNA could be seen provoking the protesters.

The hot-headed minister lashed out at the previous two governments for not taking steps for the uplift of the tribal areas after completion of the military operations there. “The Army restored peace [in tribal areas], why didn’t you restore life?” he asked.

The minister alleged that the PTM leadership had links with Afghanistan’s intelligence agency National Directorate of Security. He wondered why NDS head Imtiaz Wazir had handed over the body of assassinated police officer Tahir Dawar to the PTM leaders, if having no link with it.

Mr Saeed asked the PTM MNAs to come to the house and give reply to the question as to what was their relation with Imtiaz Wazir. He also asked the MNAs to apologise to the nation over their past role. He said the PTM was formed after a tribal, Naqeebullah Mehsud, was killed in Karachi in an encounter allegedly by former senior police officer Rao Anwar. “Whose good boy was Rao Anwar?” he asked, and then alleged that Rao Anwar was a blue-eyed boy of former president Asif Zardari.

The minister said that PTM-backed MNA Mohsin Dawar used to give statements in favour of drone attacks in the erstwhile Fata when tribal people were mourning over the deaths of their dear ones. He said that when a resolution was tabled in the assembly after the attacks on Army Public School in Peshawar and in Charsada to ensure fencing along the Afghan border, it was opposed by some elements who were more loyal to someone else than Pakistan.

The communications minister also spoke in Pushto with the permission of the speaker, saying that he wanted to give a message to his Pashtun community from the floor of the house.

Defence minister

Hours after the adjournment of the NA sitting, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak issued a statement, “condemning” the attack on the check post in North Waziristan.

Mr Khattak alleged that a “group” opened direct fire on the check post. The soldiers, he said, first tried to disperse them peacefully and later resorted to aerial firing. However, when five personnel received bullet injuries, they opened fire in “self-defence” which resulted few casualties in the crowd.

He said the government was making effort to fulfil the demands of the tribal people while remaining within the constitutional and legal limits. However, no individual or group could be allowed to do politics and create lawlessness in the name of the problems and difficulties of the people.

NAB chairman controversy

Earlier, Khawaja Asif also called for constituting a special parliamentary committee to probe the recent controversial audio and video clips involving National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.

The PML-N leader alleged that the NAB chairman was being blackmailed by the government at the behest of the prime minister after he had hinted in an interview that some government personalities could come under the grip of NAB in coming days. “The government became alert so a trap was set against the NAB chairman,” he alleged.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2019