Officials warn that policy shifts in Pakistan’s foreign relations are likely to have repercussions for country
Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security was on Thursday briefed on potential threats to regional peace in light of the Afghan peace process and the prevailing situation in India-held Kashmir, with intelligence officials warning that strategic challenges and policy shifts may have repercussions for the country.
The in-camera briefing’s attendance was limited to parliamentarians, though Prime Minister Imran Khan abstained from attending. According to an official statement release after the meeting, Inter-Services Intelligence Director-General Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed briefed the political leadership on both external and internal security concerns, with an emphasis on regional challenges such as the situation in India-held Kashmir and the ongoing unrest in neighboring Afghanistan.
Chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, who also serves as Security Committee chairman, the legislators attending the meeting were informed that Pakistan was playing a “sincere, positive, and responsible” role in the Afghanistan peace process. According to the statement, legislators were told that Pakistan’s efforts have helped bring the Taliban to the negotiating table—both with the U.S. and the incumbent government in Kabul.
The session, which was also attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, was informed that Pakistan firmly believes that peace and stability in Afghanistan would result in lasting peace in South Asia. It said that Pakistan would welcome any government in Afghanistan that represented the true representation of the Afghan people at all levels, adding that Islamabad would continue to play a responsible role for Afghan peace.
According to the security briefing, Pakistan’s land is not being used against Afghanistan, and it is hoped that Afghanistan would likewise not allow anyone to use its soil against Pakistan. The briefing also detailed how around 90 percent of the Pak-Afghan border had been fenced thus far, and an effective system of customs and border control was being enforced to curb unregulated cross-border movement.
Sources claimed the meeting’s participants had been apprised that the government had decided, as a matter of policy, to not become part of any external conflict, as was also conveyed by the prime minister during an address to Parliament earlier this week. They were also informed that “external forces” were trying to pressure Pakistan by keeping it on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey-list, and that “proxies” were being deployed to stage terror attacks in the country.
The overall briefing was divided into two sessions that in total lasted nearly 8 hours. In the first session, military and intelligence officials briefed the parliamentarians, while in the second the lawmakers asked questions of the officials and forwarded recommendations for the way forward. “The recommendations will be considered as an important part of the security policy,” read the statement. It said both the political and parliamentary leadership had expressed satisfaction over the briefing and expressed a desire for peace, development and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Among the participants were Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed; Housing Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema; Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi; and Leader of the House in the Senate Shahzad Waseem. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif; Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousaf Raza Gilani; PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari; JUIF Parliamentary leader Maulana Asad Mahmood; ANP leader Ameer Haider Azam Khan Hoti; MQM-P’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui; BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal; BAP’s Khalid Hussain Magsi, Ghaus Bakhsh Mehr; and senators Sherry Rehman, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Faisal Sabzwari, Kamil Ali Agha, and Mushtaq Ahmed were also among the attendees.
No U.S. bases
In a brief exchange with media after the briefing, Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa reaffirmed that Pakistan would not give airbases to the U.S. in line with the government’s policy. “You should have put this question to the government. Why have you asked this from me?” he said when questioned on the military’s position on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s declaration.
To repeated follow-ups, he said the Army supported the government in Pakistan not providing any bases to the U.S. for counter-terror operations in Afghanistan.