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Armed Forces to Brief Lawmakers on National Security Situation

by Staff Report

File photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Meeting is expected to deliberate on granting provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan

The Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, has called a meeting of parliamentary leaders tomorrow (Wednesday) so military officials can brief them on “current issues of national security.”

According to a statement issued by the National Assembly, senior leaders of all major political parties—senators and MNAs alike—have been invited to attend the meeting, which would take place at Parliament House in Islamabad. Among those invited are Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Khawaja Asif, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Asad Mahmood, Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid)’s Tariq Bashir Cheema, Balochistan National Party chief Akhtar Mengal, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan) leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, and others.

Members of the federal cabinet, including Pervaiz Khattak, Ijaz Shah, Ali Amin Gandapur, Shafqat Mahmood, Asad Umar, Shibli Faraz, Babar Awan and Moeed Yousaf, as well as senators Mushahidullah Khan, Sherry Rehman are also among the invitees.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan, as well as Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon have also been invited.

While the National Assembly statement has not specified the exact nature of the meeting, sources have said that the people invited point to an attempt to develop consensus on granting “provisional provincial status” to Gilgit-Baltistan, as announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month.

Opposition concerns

Representatives of the PPP and PMLN have both said that they would decide on whether to attend the briefing today (Tuesday). PPP Chairman Bhutto-Zardari is currently campaigning in Gilgit-Baltistan and might be unable to attend the meeting in Islamabad, said a spokesman. While the PMLN has said that it would decide on its participation in line with decisions of the united opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement.

The opposition’s hesitance to attend this meeting might also be linked to the government using a Sept. 16 briefing on Gilgit-Baltistan to suggest its rivals were seeking a “deal” with the armed forces. Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had alleged that the PDM was criticizing the establishment’s alleged role in Pakistan’s political process while sitting with them during briefings on national security matters.

The opposition has maintained that sensitive matters were discussed during the meeting and have criticized Ahmed for making it controversial. They have also pointed out that the prime minister willfully ignored the meeting, raising questions on his sincerity to the process.

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