Opposition asks govt to brief parliament on Afghan situation

Published August 16, 2021
This file photo shows former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.— Courtesy: CNN/File
This file photo shows former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.— Courtesy: CNN/File

• Calls for developing national consensus to deal with consequences of Taliban rule
• Formation of parliamentary national security committee urged

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have again asked the government to brief parliament on the current situation in Afghanistan, come up with a policy statement and develop a national consensus to deal with the possible consequences the nation can face after the establishment of Taliban rule in the war-torn country.

The leaders of the two parties, while talking to Dawn, regretted that they had been demanding the sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate or a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament for the last couple of months, but so far the government had not given any serious thought to their demand.

The PPP has already convened an extraordinary meeting of its Central Executive Committee (CEC) at Bilawal House in Karachi on Monday (today) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and formulate the party’s point of view on it.

Talking to Dawn, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar said the party had convened the CEC meeting a couple of days ago and now the situation in Afghanistan had entirely changed after reports that President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country. He said the party’s formal position and statement on the situation would come out after the CEC meeting on Monday.

Mr Babar was of the view that they could not debate the Doha Agreement and now they were required to discuss “what next”. He said the party would hold a thorough and an open debate on the issue in the CEC meeting which would also be attended by former president Asif Ali Zardari via video link.

Earlier, in a statement, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said the situation in Afghanistan was maturing on an hour-to-hour basis and Pakistan would have to take far-reaching decisions that would require a national consensus, but the opposition had not been taken into confidence.

At this critical time, he said, the Senate and the National Assembly, separately, needed to be in session and briefed by the government on a daily basis. He suggested that a joint sitting of parliament should elect a parliamentary committee on national security having equal membership of the opposition and treasury members to formulate a future plan of action.

Mr Rabbani, who had also served as the Senate chairman, said the committee should be tasked with discussing “the Afghan situation and its regional consequences, the question of recognition of Taliban government in Kabul, the escalation of the intra-Afghan conflict into a civil war and its impact on Pakistan’s internal security, the policy Pakistan needs to adopt in order to contain religious extremism and terrorism within, Pakistan’s policy with reference to internally displaced persons in the eventuality of a civil war in Afghanistan and to discuss the diplomatic initiatives required to stop the world from pointing a finger at Pakistan”.

Meanwhile, a senior PPP member and party office-bearer, while talking to Dawn, said the party believed that the proceedings of the proposed joint sitting of parliament should not be held in-camera so that the nation could see and analyse the positions taken by various parties. He said the nation should know as to which were the parties celebrating Taliban takeover of Kabul as there were reports that the activists of some religious parties had distributed sweets over the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N senior vice-president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that in-house consultations were already going on within the party over the events unfolding in Afghanistan.

He said the PML-N was of the view that Pakistan should not become a party in Afghanistan’s internal issues and they should respect the verdict of the people of Afghanistan. He said the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif was also a part of these consultations.

Mr Abbasi said the government should brief the opposition and parliamentarians on its policy on the Afghan situation. He was of the view that a mere debate in the joint sitting of parliament would be of no use.

He said the focus of the debate should be the development of a national consensus. However, he said, the debate would only be meaningful if it was held after the issuance of a policy statement from the government.

Mr Abbasi said that Pakistan should make an effort to prevent bloodshed and civil war in the neighbouring country. He said it would be important to see as to how the Qatar declaration would be implemented as Pakistan was also a part of it. He said it had been decided in Qatar that they would not recognise any government taken over by force.

The former prime minister said the PML-N believed that the two countries should respect each other’s sovereignty.

Published in Dawn, August 16h, 2021

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