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Afghanistan, Taliban and TTP main topics of PCNS briefing

LONDON: In wake of rapidly changing situation within the country, the military leadership briefed the selected 80 lawmakers from the government and the opposition on national security issues at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS).

The in-camera meeting was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser started at 11:30am and lasted for about 5.30 hours at the assembly’s main hall.

In attendance at the session were federal cabinet members, parliamentary leaders of opposition parties in the National Assembly and Senate, as well as senior military leaders, according to sources in Parliament House. National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, opposition leader and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani are also attending. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and DG ISI were also present at the session.

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers attend the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security on Monday. Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Amir Hoti are seated in front row.

According to informed sources, Afghanistan, Taliban and TTP affairs were the main topics of the discussion. Nationally, agreement with TLP and MQM issues were also raised and discussed.

Moved by Minister for Law and Justice Muhammad Farogh Naseem, the National Assembly passed a motion in its sitting on November 5, to allow the use of the chamber of the National Assembly on November 8, for a briefing to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.

The four provincial chief ministers, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) president and prime minister and the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan were also invited to the meeting.

Media barred due to ‘security reasons’

As the meeting, media personnel were barred from entering the parliament building, with officials citing “security reasons”. The move led reporters to stage a sit-in outside the parliament to protest the ban.

The Awami National Party (ANP) strongly condemned the restriction on journalists’ entry to the parliament.

ANP leader Zahid Khan said the ban on media during the PCNS meeting was “beyond understanding”, adding that the parliament was a legislative institution and barring media entry to it was tantamount to “suppressing the people’s voice and rights”. He called upon the speaker to explain the ban on the media.

The PCNS meeting was convened by Speaker Qaiser on Wednesday for a briefing by military officials on the current national security issues.

Invitations for the meeting had been sent to more than 80 people, including MNAs, senators, members of the federal cabinet, the four provincial chief ministers and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister.

The speaker had also invited Opposition Leader in the Senate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman, former prime ministers Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and PML-N parliamentary leaders in the National Assembly and the Senate Khawaja Asif and Azam Nazeer Tarar, respectively.

Members of the parliament were expected to raise the issue of the recent controversial and secret agreement signed by the government with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as the agenda issued by the National Assembly Secretariat stated that the members could raise any item during the meeting with the permission of the chair.

Today’s was the third meeting of the PCNS. Its last meeting was held in July to discuss the regional security situation in the wake of the developments that were taking place in Afghanistan. The meeting that had taken place weeks before the Taliban takeover of Kabul had been attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of the Inter-Service Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.

The top military officials had also responded to lawmakers’ questions during the meeting which was also attended by opposition leader Shehbaz and PPP chief Bilawal. The previous meeting of the PCNS had also been held at the main assembly hall.

(This is a developing story and details of the news will be published tomorrow.)