Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday that the military leadership would answer all the questions regarding the current security situation, launching of a fresh military operation and the resettlement of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan by the previous civil and military rulers in an in-camera session on national security issues at National Assembly on April 14.
The prime minister’s assurance to the National Assembly came as an endorsement of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s statement in the assembly that the military leadership would not only take the lawmakers in confidence but address all their concerns on the security situation, military operation and TTP members’ resettlement, among other things.
The defence minister said that the military leadership was fully cognisant of the fact that the TTP fighters have come from Afghanistan to Pakistan, revealing on the floor of the house that the TTP officials are still coming in the country. The statements have come in line with NA Speaker’s decision to call NSC’s in-camera briefing on Friday at National Assembly at 2:30pm.
The premier’s and defence minister’s assurances to the lawmakers that all their concerns would be heard in an in-camera session came after MNAs belonging to North Waziristan and erstwhile FATA, including Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, raised objections on the decision of conducting a military operation by the National Security Council on April 7, saying they would resist the operation.
MNA Ali Wazir demanded that all those serving or retired generals and bureaucrats who approved and facilitated TTP fighters’ return to Pakistan be arrested and sentenced. He linked military operation’s permission with prior accountability of all those who helped in resettling terrorists.
Dawar also demanded accountability, saying the reason terrorism couldn’t be eliminated was that the State was confused as it kept sending mixed signals and supported some over others – the good Taliban verses bad Taliban. They both opposed military operation, saying the government should stop the process and take action against the responsible generals and others.
“I want to assure our esteemed members from Waziristan and FATA that all their legitimate concerns would not only be heard but their questions will be fully answered with sincerity,” PM Shehbaz said, adding that the lawmakers can ask questions in the in-camera session and hoped that it would be a healthy interaction.
PM Shehbaz said that all efforts would be made to address the issues instead of deteriorating them further. Asif said that Wazir, Dawar and others lawmakers’ concerns on security issues, military operations and accountability of the serving and ex-military men were relevant, saying the story, however, goes back to three-four decades.
“The foundation of all the wrong policies of State was laid during the military tenures,” Asif said, adding, “first during Gen Zia’s period when first Afghan war began and second started during Gen Musharraf’s time after 9/11.”
Agreeing 100 per cent with the Wazir and Dawar’s statements that condemned past operations causing harm to people and demanded accountability of the military generals and bureaucrats, Asif said people living in the areas where military operations were conducted were punished for the sins that they never committed.
“There was no fault of the people; it was State’s policy made in Islamabad,” Asif said, adding, “Gen Zia’s decision was of an individual and Gen Musharraf’s decision was also a one-man decision.” Asif questioned who would answer about the casualties of the army, police, rangers, FC and civilians, saying the lawmakers were justified in demanding accountability of the ex-officials of military.
Calling the decision of TTP fighters’ resettlement as the latest tragedy, Asif said that “all they [TTP fighters] know is terrorism; they opened their eyes in terrorism; they fought in Afghanistan and terrorism has increased since their arrival in Pakistan.”
Asif said that terrorism reemerged in Pakistan because some “responsible people” had decided to allow TTP members’ resettlement in the peaceful areas of the country. “They [Wazir and Dawar] are speaking the truth; all those who decided to bring back these people [TTP fighters] should be held accountable,” Asif agreed.
“What kind of goodwill gesture was that; it was a recipe for disaster,” Asif continued, saying these TTP people also had political backing these days, adding some of them were currently stationed at Zaman Park in Lahore – the residence of PTI chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan. He added that the TTP people were not just living in Kacha Areas but also backing Imran Khan.
The entanglement which has been introduced amid the political situation is extremely dangerous, he said while urging the lawmakers to wait for just 24 hours when the house would go for a debate on all these issues.
The NA officials said that all the federal ministers, advisers and members of the National Assembly have been invited to attend the meeting, adding that the top military leadership will give a briefing on the national security issues.
The in-camera briefing for the lawmakers is being arranged amid an ongoing tussle between the government and judiciary on holding elections in Punjab. The government is opposing polls due to security concerns and lack of funds. The apex court, however, is pushing for polls within or a date close to 90 days after the dissolution of Punjab assembly, which was dissolved in January 2023.