ISLAMABAD: The Senate Committee on Defence and National Security on Tuesday asked the government to adhere to the recommendations given in the 2012 report of Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) while setting the future course of ties with the United States.
The directive was given during a meeting of the defence committee that was chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed.
A copy of the recommendations on US ties, which were unanimously approved by the parliament on April 12, 2012, was sent by the committee to the defence ministry with a note that these should be considered as “Pakistan’s state policy guidelines”.
The prescribed terms of engagement deal with issues like bases and foreign ‘boots on the ground’
Senator Mushahid presented to the committee the copy of the terms of engagements prepared by PCNS, which was then headed by Senator Raza Rabbani.
The Rabbani-led PCNS was tasked by the government to review the terms of engagement with the US in the aftermath of the November 2011 Salala incident in which at least 28 Pakistani troops were martyred in an attack by US forces on Pakistani military checkposts along Pak-Afghan border.
The prescribed terms of engagement deal with issues like bases, foreign ‘boots on the ground’, and foreign intelligence operations on Pakistani territory.
The Senate defence committee noted that all of these were now forbidden under the parliament’s directive.
The PCNS report had categorically stated that “no covert or overt operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted”; “no private security contractors and/or intelligence operatives shall be allowed”; and that “Pakistan’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of foreign bases”.
Guidelines for future agreements with foreign governments were also set by PCNS, which had said that in future the government would not make any “verbal agreements” on matters pertaining to national security.
It was further stated by PCNS that any agreement or MoU on military cooperation and logistics matters would be widely circulated among relevant ministries and the parliament’s committee on national security for vetting before finalisation and that the concerned minister would give policy statements on the issue in both houses of the parliament.
The Senate defence committee reminded the government about the PCNS report at a time when the US and Pakistan are negotiating the future of their relationship after the change in administration in Washington and withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been emphasising that it intends to focus on trade and economic aspect of the bilateral relationship, but US has been demanding bases for drones on Pakistani soil for future counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has time and again said that the government would not allow US bases.
The defence committee, on this occasion, also unanimously adopted the Work Plan for 2021, which included detailed briefings on the three services as well as briefing on intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, visits to Siachen, Waziristan and the LoC for solidarity with the soldiers, briefing on CPEC security, visits to CMH and other military hospitals to express sympathy with those wounded during counter-terrorism operations as well as a special visit to the graves of Nishan-i-Haider martyrs on September 6, the Defence of Pakistan Day.
Senator Mushahid said that the defence committee would function above party lines with a national perspective that sought to preserve, protect and promote Pakistan’s defence and national security, while also promoting intra-institutional harmony.
He emphasised that issues pertaining to defence and national security required a “whole of nation” approach since the role of the armed forces, the government, parliament, people, media and political parties was inextricably intertwined.
Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021