KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Friday objected to “secretive” talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and demanded that the federal government take on board all stakeholders, parliament and political parties before negotiating with the militant outfit.
The resolution was moved by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party amidst a noisy protest by opposition lawmakers belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance, who protested against the chair for allowing the PPP MPA to move the resolution by suspending the other agenda.
The opposition members gathered in front of the speaker’s rostrum and chanted slogans when the chair. However, Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari put the resolution to the house that adopted it with a majority vote.
The resolution said: “This house objects to the unilateral negotiations with banned TTP that are being carried out in the most secretive manner by the federal government which indicates the complete bypass of the parliament as the supreme institution in the country to decide upon such matters of national security. TTP has claimed thousands of innocent lives in the country over the last two decades including innocent civilians, brave soldiers of the armed forces, police officers, religious scholars, non-political prominent people and lest we forget, the APS massacre.”
Mover calls for involving parliament in national security matters; opposition protests over agenda suspension
It added that to initiate talks with such a ruthless organisation indicated federal government’s unwillingness to crush them by means of force. “The prime minister cannot strike a deal with TTP on its own as this matter is of our national interest and must be discussed in the parliament. The house demands the federal government to take on board all relevant stakeholders, political parties and institutions through the parliament and build unanimous consensus over such a consequential move.”
Speaking on the resolution, the mover, Qasim Soomro, expressed serious reservation on the negotiations and said that the federal government had started talks with the TTP before taking parliament and political leadership into confidence, adding that entire nation suffered loss due to the ruthless organisation.
The PPP lawmaker was of the view that talks with such organisations were held in other parts of the world too but with consensus of all stakeholders. He demanded that the matter be discussed in the parliament. “Let it be discussed in the parliament and go (for talks) with consensus. Backdoor dialogues had done the damage,” he added.
Earlier, giving a policy statement on the acute shortage of gas in the province, Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh asked the federal government to hand over the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited to the provincial government if the federal government was not capable of resolving the crisis.
He said that Sindh produced 62 per cent of the country’s total gas yet it was deprived of the basic necessity.
“The people of Sindh are facing hardships due to incompetence of the federal government. There is a shortage of 800 mmcfd gas in the country. If the Centre cannot run the affairs of the SSGCL, hand it over to the provincial government,” he added.
Replying to lawmakers’ verbal and written queries during Question Hour, Forest Minister Taimur Talpur said that the lease of forest land had been cancelled in the province on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Replying to a question by MQM-P’s Rana Ansar, he informed the house that the provincial cabinet had cancelled the Agro-forest Lease Policy 2004 in compliance with the apex court’s order. “Consequently, [allotment of] 52,921 acres of entire state forest land in the province had been cancelled.”
To a verbal question by Ms Ansar, the minister said that a new forest policy had been formulated and approved by the provincial cabinet.
He said that it would be implemented after the approval of the court.
The house was adjourned to Monday.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2021