ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to go ahead with its planned in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Monday (today) despite the opposition’s decision to stay away from it.

The joint opposition in the parliament had last week announced that it would boycott the meeting of the PCNS convened by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday for a presentation by National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf on the national security policy.

A senior member of the federal cabinet told Dawn on Sunday that the government had made some “informal contacts” with the opposition parties, asking them to reconsider their boycott decision. However, he said, the opposition had made its participation conditional with attendance of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The speaker has invited more than 50 members, including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and senior officials of the ministries concerned to attend the meeting on one-point agenda — presentation on national security policy.

The decision regarding the opposition’s boycott was announced by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement, claiming that the decision had been made by the opposition parties unanimously after mutual consultations.

Ms Aurangzeb said the joint opposition had made the decision to boycott the in-camera meeting of the PCNS due to the government’s attitude of bulldozing important draft bills in the recently-held joint sitting of parliament and its “persistent authoritarian approach” on important constitutional, legal, national and security issues.

When contacted, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry regretted the opposition’s decision to boycott the PCNS meeting and asked it to review it.

He said for the first time in the past seven decades a government was presenting its national security policy before the parliament. He was of the view that the opposition should not do politics on an issue related to the country’s national security.

In to a question, the minister said the NSA would present the national security policy with respect to external affairs and keeping in view the prevailing regional situation. This policy, he said, would then be presented before the federal cabinet for approval.

On the other hand, PML-N’s information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement said the joint opposition was more committed to issues of national security than the government which was why it had participated in all such briefings in the past while Prime Minister Imran Khan didn’t even bother to attend a single such meeting.

The PML-N MNA said it was a pity that Imran Khan’s “arrogance, ego and stubbornness” had prohibited him from participating in any national consultation process whereas the opposition had never boycotted such meetings in the national interest.

Ms Aurangzeb said for the first time in seven decades, Mr Khan was the first prime minister who had not taken any issue of national security, including Kashmir, truly seriously. His absence from all meetings on Kashmir and national security till date, were a proof of this, she added. She said it was unfortunate that the prime minister had boycotted all the previous important meetings, including the one held on the issue of Covid-19.

The joint opposition in a statement last week had clarified that the opposition parties had always shown very responsible and serious attitude on all issues relating to the Constitution, national security and public importance and despite the prime minister’s absence and “his complete detachment from important national and public issues”, they had not only fully participated in the previous briefings and meetings on national security, but the top leadership of the united opposition also gave their valuable suggestions.

The opposition said it was very unfortunate that the government was adopting the policy of using parliament as a rubber stamp as important internal and external issues were not being brought and debated in the parliament.

In such circumstances, it said, such an in-camera briefing would merely pave the way for a new government “spectacle” that would have nothing to do with the performance of serious and critical issues facing the country and the people or progress towards their solution.

Furthermore, the joint opposition has agreed that the prime minister’s national security advisers were devoid of relevant information and authority on decision-making and behind-the-scene facts.

PDM Meeting

Heads of the component parties of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will also be meeting on Monday to prepare an anti-government protest plan with consensus.

The steering committee of the PDM met here on Sunday and prepared its recommendations about launching an anti-government protest campaign. These recommendations, according to sources in the opposition, would now be presented before the heads of the PDM component parties for final approval.

The sources said that the committee had suggested that the PDM should organise public meetings all over the country besides giving a final call for a decisive long march towards Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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