ISLAMABAD, Oct 9: If the government aims at creating a national consensus on its strategy in the “war on terror” through the joint session of parliament, it seems to have failed in its objective as all opposition groups have been expressing dissatisfaction with the briefing and the quality of answers to their questions.
However, the onus of giving solid and unwavering suggestions for formulation of a new strategy on the war on terror rests with the opposition when they start speaking on Monday – the third day of the in-camera session.
The PML-N’s parliamentary leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, called upon the government to summon former president Pervez Musharraf to the session to tell the parliament about the “rules of engagement” agreed upon with Washington.
He said his party would not take part in the question-answer session as it was not satisfied with the format of the briefing so far. “We want the parliament to be briefed on an umbrella strategy to replace the existing policy.”
The parliamentary group leaders had agreed in a meeting with Speaker Fehmida Mirza that a general debate would follow the briefing and every lawmaker would be allowed a certain amount of time to speak and forward suggestions for the formulation of a new strategy.
A unanimous resolution containing recommendations on the basis of suggestions made by the lawmakers is likely to be adopted before prorogation, sources said.
On suggestions from legislators, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani promised to brief legislators after consulting his party.
President Asif Ali Zardari has in the meantime convened a meeting of the PPP’s central executive committee on Friday. It will also be attended by the prime minister, ostensibly to discuss deliberations of the joint sitting.
Those who spoke or put up questions during the proceedings included Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, PML-Q’s Faisal Saleh Hayat, Leader of Opposition in the Senate Kamil Ali Agha, Munir Orakzai (Fata), Senator Khurshid Ahmed (JI), Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao (PPP-S), Leader of House in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and Asfandyar Wali Khan (ANP).
Khurram Dastagir Khan, of PML-N, told reporters that all questions about a new strategy remained unanswered in Thursday’s proceedings as Gen Ahmed Shuja, the director general of military operations, expressed inability to respond to them.
He said the whole nation and its representatives were united on the need for a national strategy to face the present imbroglio, but they also want to understand the gravity of the situation and the “terms of engagement” with the United States.
He said his party had suggested that the government should take the parliament into confidence about the US air strikes and intrusions by ground forces.
Insiders said that a major part of the four-hour session remained lacklustre as majority of the participants left the house after the first hour.
The chief of PML-N, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, who had attended the first day’s meeting, was absent from the house. Only Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani remained seated till the end.
Ahsan Iqbal, of the PML-N, said lawmakers would not be satisfied unless they were informed about the utility of the military operation so far and its dividends to the nation.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Sherry Rehman has described the session as a new chapter for democracy.
“The ongoing briefing session for the parliamentarians is a step towards strengthening the democratic system as it is aimed at taking public representatives on board on the most important challenge the country is currently facing,” said Ms Rehman while talking to the media on Thursday.
She said that “public ownership of the war” was critical to the nation’s success against terrorism. “The threat cannot be shrugged off through suggestions advocating pulling out of the global battle against these non-state actors.
“We cannot expect these terrorists to retire if we halt military operation against them. The government will also be giving a national security briefing in the larger strategic context.”
A PPP lawmaker, Tariq Mustafa Bajwa, made an interesting comment on the briefing: “We need to understand that the terrorists were fed by the drug money of Afghanistan.
“Even 10 per cent of the enormous drug money could be enough to destroy half the world, let alone producing suicide bombers.”