Lawmakers were told at a high-level security briefing on Monday that Pakistan desired a government in Afghanistan that was representative of its people and would continue its "all-out support for peace and stability" in the war-ravaged country.
The closed-door briefing by senior military officials to the parliamentary and political leadership, members of the National Assembly and Senate, provincial leadership and the Azad Kashmir prime minister was given during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) at Parliament House in Islamabad.
The meeting chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and held in the assembly's main hall started at 11:30am and lasted around five hours. It was also attended by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, ISPR chief Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar and other senior military officers, but Prime Minister Imran Khan did not attend it.
"The participants were comprehensively briefed about matters pertaining to national security, foreign affairs, and internal and external challenges faced by the country. They were also briefed about regional and political challenges especially the situation in [Indian-occupied Kashmir] and Afghanistan," a statement issued by the National Assembly Secretariat said after the meeting.
It was outlined during the briefing that Pakistan had played a "responsible and positive role" for peace in Afghanistan, and would continue its complete support for stability in the neighbouring country.
"Pakistan believes that peace in Afghanistan would pave [the way] for regional peace and development," the NA press release said.
The participants were further informed that Pakistan was "making every effort to ensure that the current situation does not give rise to another humanitarian and economic crisis which would add to the plight of the people" and was in constant touch with the international community in this regard, it added.
"It was also hoped that the territory of Afghanistan would not be used against Pakistan."
The meeting was also apprised about the border-control system installed on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
According to the statement, the parliamentary and political leadership expressed satisfaction over Pakistan's strategy to tackle internal and external challenges and expressed good wishes for the prosperity, development and progress of Afghanistan. "They also said that such meetings paved the way for harmony and unanimity of views on national issues," it said.
At the end of the briefing, a question-and-answer session was held in which members of the committee presented their recommendations.
Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the ISI chief had given a "presentation" during the meeting, while the army chief answered questions from the lawmakers.
He said that in response to questions raised by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and others, he had tried to present the government's stance on the Afghanistan issue.
He refrained from commenting on the details of the meeting, saying it was "in-camera".
"But on the whole, the purpose is to take opposition leaders into confidence, which was done and they were made aware of the entire situation."
He concluded by saying that the atmosphere of the meeting was "good" and that everyone's point of view was heard.
Media entry banned
Earlier, as the meeting got underway, media personnel were barred from entering the parliament building, with officials citing "security reasons". The move led reporters to stage a sit-in outside the parliament to protest the ban.
The Awami National Party (ANP) strongly condemned the restriction on journalists' entry to the parliament.
ANP leader Zahid Khan said the ban on media during the PCNS meeting was "beyond understanding", adding that the parliament was a legislative institution and barring media entry to it was tantamount to "suppressing the people's voice and rights". He called upon the speaker to explain the ban on the media.
The meeting was attended by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Opposition Leader in the Senate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Shafqat Mahmood, Shireen Mazari, Fehmida Mirza, Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Saeed, Shibli Faraz, Farogh Naseem, Ijaz Ahmad Shah, Moonis Elahi, Noorul Haq Qadri, Omar Ayub Khan, Fakhar Imam, Aminul Haque, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, Kashmir Committee Chairman Shehryar Afridi, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs Amir Dogar.
The chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir also participated.
Also in attendance were Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Wasim, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, MNAs Asad Mehmood, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Ghous Bakhsh Khan Mehr, Amir Haider Azam Khan and Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, and Senators Sherry Rehman, Azam Nazeer Tarar, Anwarul Haq Kakar, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Faisal Subzwari, Tahir Bizenjo, Hidayatullah Khan, Mohammad Shafiq Tareen, Kamil Ali Agha, Mushtaq Ahmed, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, Mohammad Qasim and Dilawar Khan.
Former prime ministers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Raja Pervez Ashraf, MNAs Khawaja Asif, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Ahsan Iqbal, Hina Rabbani Khar, Syed Naveed Qamar, Mohsin Dawar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Tariq Sadiq, Syed Fayyazul Hassan and Aliya Hamza Malik, Senator Raza Rabbani and members of the National Assembly's defence committee also attended the session.
The PCNS meeting was convened by Speaker Qaiser on Wednesday for a briefing by military officials on the current national security issues.
Invitations for the meeting had been sent to more than 80 people, including MNAs, senators, members of the federal cabinet, the four provincial chief ministers and the AJK prime minister.
Members of the parliament were expected to raise the issue of the recent controversial and secret agreement signed by the government with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as the agenda issued by the National Assembly Secretariat stated that the members could raise any item during the meeting with the permission of the chair, Dawn reported.
This was the third meeting of the PCNS. Its last meeting was held in July to discuss the regional security situation in the wake of the developments that were taking place in Afghanistan. The meeting that had taken place weeks before the Taliban takeover of Kabul had been attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of the Inter-Service Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
The top military officials had also responded to lawmakers' questions during the meeting which was also attended by opposition leader Shehbaz and PPP chief Bilawal.
The previous meeting of the PCNS had also been held at the main assembly hall.