ISLAMABAD, May 16: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari visited the headquarters of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on Friday to attend a briefing on the security situation, sources told Dawn.

The presence of Mr Zardari, who is neither an elected lawmaker nor a government official, in the important briefing surprised observers here because such briefings are held exclusively for people under oath.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister for Defence Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar also attended the briefing given by ISI chief Lt-Gen Nadim Taj.

The sources said the prime minister and his team were briefed on the current situation in tribal areas and along the borders.

Such meetings are a routine matter and heads of intelligence agencies brief new government functionaries on the security situation to help them formulate future policies. The nature of such briefings is so sensitive that the president or the prime minister is required to go to the headquarters for first hand information, and non-government functionaries and low-grade intelligence officials are not invited.

No official handout was issued about the briefing and ministers belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were tight-lipped about Mr Zardari’s presence in the briefing.

Meanwhile, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majeed and Director General Strategic Planning Division Lt-Gen (retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai visited the Prime Minister House and briefed Mr Gilani on the country’s strategic assets and various projects undertaken by the division to make the country’s defence impregnable.

According to an official handout, the prime minister said the government was committed to maintaining a minimum credible deterrence through conventional and strategic capabilities as Pakistan had a major role to play for peace and stability in the region.

Mr Gilani said that impregnable defence could only be achieved through economic sovereignty, smooth political process, good neighbourliness, friendly international environment and good governance. He lauded the role of the armed forces both in maintaining external security and making valuable services during national calamities. He said Pakistan was a peace-loving country and did not harbour aggressive design against any country. “We, however, believe that peace is achieved through strength and not weakness,” he said, adding the government would continue to provide all necessary support to further enhance the capabilities of the armed forces.

The JCSC chairman apprised Mr Gilani of the performance and professional activities of the army, air force and navy. He also updated the prime minister on the ongoing upgradation programmes in the defence sector.

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