Pakistan will continue to play its role for lasting peace in Afghanistan, security apparatus briefs lawmakers
The military high command told lawmakers at a high-level security briefing on Thursday that Pakistan will welcome the true representative government of Afghanistan's people and continue to play its responsible role for lasting peace in the neighbouring country.
The closed-door briefing regarding the evolving situation in Afghanistan and other strategic matters was given during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security at Parliament House in Islamabad.
In addition to the 29 members of the committee, some 16 legislators had been specially invited to the meeting which was attended by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the heads of all parliamentary parties both in the National Assembly and Senate, as well as the chief ministers of the four provinces. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed gave the main briefing, while Prime Minister Imran Khan did not attend it.
Committee chairman and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser presided over the session, during which the DG ISI gave the political and parliamentary leadership and lawmakers a comprehensive briefing on "important external matters, national security, internal challenges and regional developments especially the Kashmir conflict and Afghanistan's current situation", according to a statement released by the information ministry.
The meeting was told that Pakistan had honestly played a "very positive and responsible" role in the Afghan peace process.
"Due to Pakistan's efforts, not only was the path paved for talks between different Afghan factions and warring groups, but meaningful dialogue between the United States and Taliban was also started," the lawmakers were told.
"We believe in the fact that lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan will actually result in stability in South Asia," the ministry's press release added.
The meeting was told that Pakistan will welcome the true representative government of the people in Afghanistan "at every level" and continue its role for the Afghan peace process.
"Pakistan's land is not being used in the conflict going on in Afghanistan and the hope was expressed that Afghanistan's soil will also not be used against Pakistan," the statement said.
Lawmakers were informed that 90 per cent of the fencing at the Afghan border had been completed, while an effective system for customs and border control was also being formulated.
According to the handout, political leaders "expressed satisfaction" at the briefing and conveyed wishes for peace, progress and prosperity in Afghanistan.
The meeting started in the late afternoon and continued till late evening after a break. The information ministry said participants gave their suggestions during a question and answer session in the briefing, and that their "suggestions will be considered an important part of the security policy".
After the meeting, the NA speaker hosted a reception for the participants which was also attended by the army and ISI chiefs, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif and other lawmakers.
Asked by a reporter whether Pakistan will allow the US request to set up military bases in the country, Gen Bajwa replied: "You should ask this question from the government."
He went on to add: "[We] won't give air bases this time around."
PM Imran absent
During the briefing, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari raised the point that Prime Minister Imran should have attended the important meeting on national security. While the briefing was underway, the premier was attending a farmers' convention in Islamabad.
At this, NA speaker Qaiser informed the participants that the prime minister did not attend the briefing "due to the opposition", a lawmaker who attended the meeting told Dawn.com requesting anonymity.
The speaker said the premier was scheduled to attend the briefing until this morning, but the Prime Minister's Office had received a tip that the opposition could walk out of the briefing if Prime Minister Imran attended it, according to the source.
The prime minister "made it clear that it was a matter of national security and therefore he did not want to make it political", Qaiser was quoted as saying by the lawmaker.
Earlier today, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said that the course of politics in Pakistan would change following the military's security briefing to lawmakers.
The country's politics would now centre on national security after the briefing, the minister said, adding that he foresaw the government and opposition treading a new path together in politics.
It was the first time during the PTI-led government that officials of security forces and spy agencies updated legislators on security issues.