ISLAMABAD: Expressing his apprehensions at the success of talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday admitted on the floor of the National Assembly that anti-Taliban feelings were growing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as people were holding protest demonstrations in various parts of the province against the Taliban presence in their area.
Responding to independent MNA from erstwhile Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Mohsin Dawar who drew the attention of the house towards the rise in terrorism in KP after arrival of Taliban from Afghanistan, the defence minister admitted that the law and order situation was worsening in the province. He, however, termed it a “national issue”, instead of a provincial matter.
Editorial: TTP talks’ oversight
The minister regretted that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leadership, including former prime minister Imran Khan, had in the past welcomed the Taliban people in the province, but now the PTI’s provincial government was itself protesting against the presence of the Taliban in the province. He said there were reports of the protests from Dir, Swat and other places in the province against the Taliban.
He also expressed his apprehensions about the success of the talks with the TTP. “This assembly was given two briefings [on the issue of talks with the TTP]. May Allah keep the affairs [talks] on track as per the briefings,” said the minister, adding: “the danger is gradually increasing.”
Khawaja Asif says anti-TTP sentiments growing in KP; lawmakers assail ‘anti-army’ campaign; Soomro de-seated
Mr Asif expressed the hope that the Taliban would not force imposition of their “own system and implement their “intentions” which they showed from time to time”.
The minister said that a committee comprising political elders had been constituted to visit the Pakistan-Afghanistan entry point at Ghulam Khan area in North Waziristan to persuade the protesters to open the trade route which they had closed in protest for the past two weeks over the killing of some JUI-F members and tribal people. He hoped that the committee members would succeed in pacifying the protesters to resume the stalled trade activities with Afghanistan. He said the closure of roads had badly affected trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan, besides affecting economy of the area.
‘Terrorism across KP’
Speaking on a point of order, Mr Dawar earlier said the people of North Waziristan had been protesting for the past 26 days and they were only demanding “peace and protection”.
The lawmaker claimed terrorism had spread across KP and warned it would soon grip the whole country. Recently, he said, a PTI MPA was attacked and many of his companions were martyred. Similarly, he said, a police official and an army major were abducted from Swat.
Mr Dawar said the Taliban were telling the local people that their leadership had directed them to return to the area in the wake of the ongoing talks between Pakistani authorities and the TTP.
The MNA from Waziristan ridiculed the PTI leaders for protesting against Taliban, recalling that the previous PTI government had welcomed and celebrated the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. He criticised the “non-seriousness” of the authorities to tackle the issue, declaring that the people of KP would not accept “project-Taliban policy” and would resist it at all cost.
Earlier, speaking on points of order, a number of lawmakers expressed their concerns over the ongoing campaign on social and main media against the army and blamed the PTI for it. The issue came up when Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance blasted the government over its action against ARY News channel.
She said if someone had maligned the national institution, then the whole channel should not be punished for it.
The most hard-hitting speech came from a PTI dissident Noor Alam Khan, who lashed out at the PTI leadership over the campaign and praised the army for its services for the country in the wake of the war against terrorism. At one point, he said army was the only institution that was “functioning properly” in the country.
Without naming PTI’s Shahbaz Gill, Mr Khan said those who did not like Pakistan and its army, should leave the country.
Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf declared that only anti-state people could run a campaign against the army. He said attacking the judiciary and the army was a violation of the constitution, stating that the parliament should take cognisance of such campaigns.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly approved a motion tabled by PPP MNA Shahida Rehmani seeking to de-seat PTI MNA from Jacobabad Mohammadmian Soomro for being absent from the house without leave for 40 consecutive days.
The speaker put the motion for vote after rejecting the leave application which Mr Soomro had submitted after the PPP’s MNA had already been placed on the assembly agenda.
Mr Soomro, who had served as the privatisation minister during the previous PTI government, had not submitted his resignation with his other party colleagues, including Imran Khan, at the time of the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister.
The National Assembly also passed four bills and witnessed introduction of three bills.
Minister of State for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan introduced the Railways (Amendment) Bill 2022; the Control of Narcotics Substances (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Qanun-e-Shahadat (Amendment) Bill 2022. Through the first two bills, the government has sought to substitute death penalty with life-imprisonment.
The Statements of Objects and Reasons attached to the bills state that the death penalty in the laws “is used in a disproportionate manner that violates the fundamental right to life which happens to be the most basic of all human rights.”
It state that the risk of executing innocent people exists and “the arbitrary application of the death penalty can never be ruled out” under the two laws.
The four bills passed by the assembly are the National Meteorology Institute of Pakistan Bill 2022; the Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Bill 2022; the Iqbal Academy Pakistan Bill 2022 and the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022.
The speaker then adjourned the sitting till 9pm on Saturday.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022