A briefing session for the Parliamentary Committee on National Security turned into a representative gathering of the national leadership as apart from the 29 members of the committee, about 16 others were specially invited to the meeting, which was attended by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, heads of all parliamentary parties in both the houses, National Security Advisor Dr. Moeed Yousaf, Chief Ministers of the four provinces and the participants received comprehensive briefing by Director-General ISI Lt. General Faiz Hameed on the evolving situation in Afghanistan and other strategic matters.
The initiative yielded positive results as a clear message has gone not just to people of Pakistan but the entire world that political difference notwithstanding, the government, the opposition and the military leadership were on one page as far as issues of national security and defence are concerned.
It is not fully known what actually transpired at the crucial briefing but the brief official account of the proceedings as reflected in the hand out and media reports suggested that the participants expressed satisfaction and assured their cooperation in handling the emerging regional situation that poses many challenges for Pakistan.
The briefing was timely as foreign troops are leaving neighbouring Afghanistan after a long but unproductive stay and Taliban are gaining control of different parts of the country.
In view of the damages that the authoritarian type decisions on strategic issues and policies inflicted on the country, the briefing to the elected leadership on evolving situation, its impact and consequences for Pakistan and how best to tackle it is a welcome development that augurs well in creating genuine national consensus and consequent ownership of the policies and strategies.
The presence of the COAS meant affording an opportunity to the lawmakers to get credible answers to many questions that agitate the minds of the people of Pakistan.
The briefing also might have given an idea to the planners and strategists about mainstream thinking and the need to align policies to the aspirations of the people, who are the ultimate beneficiaries or sufferers of important decisions and actions.
It is, perhaps, for the first time that the people of Pakistan are getting a clearer understanding of the country’s role vis-à-vis the evolving situation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan steadfastly remained committed to the peaceful resolution of the longstanding conflict in Afghanistan and it was mainly because of Pakistan’s contribution and efforts that not only was the path paved for talks between different Afghan factions and warring groups, but meaningful dialogue between the United States and Taliban was also started.
As foreign troops are leaving, Pakistan has declared in categorical terms that it will welcome the true representative government of the people in Afghanistan “at every level” and continue its role for the Afghan peace process, rebutting negative propaganda that it has favourites in Afghan end game.
Similarly, Pakistan has also unequivocally declared that its land is not being used against any other country including Afghanistan, hoping that Afghan soil would not be used against Pakistan, as is the case at the moment.
There was unending speculation about the possibility of Pakistan allowing American bases on its soil in the post-withdrawal period and hopefully the elected leadership would have been given a satisfactory answer.
Publically, there have been a series of statements from the top and relevant leadership that Pakistan would not allow such bases this time round and this is quite understandable.
If Pakistan is not allowing any Afghan faction to use its soil for any activity inside Afghanistan then the logic demands no country should get a facility that could be used against Afghanistan as this would also make Pakistan a party to the continuation of the conflict, a possibility that Pakistan is trying to avert at all costs.
It is also satisfying to hear that 90% of the fencing of Afghan border was complete (remaining two percent to be completed in two months as per statement of the Interior Minister) and that an effective system for customs and border control was also being formulated as this would help tackle the menace of illegal border crossings and rampant smuggling that hurts Pakistan’s economy profusely.
The participants of the briefing reportedly gave suggestions, which would serve as input for the policy-makers and planners.
It is also hoped that different aspects of the Kashmir issue would also have been touched during the lengthy session.
The true nature of the in-camera briefing might not become clear in times to come but the statement of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad highlighted its importance and relevance for national security as he claimed that politics of the country would change after the Army’s crucial briefing to the lawmakers.
No policy can succeed if it is not formulated as per wishes and aspirations of the nation and with this in view, we would urge the authorities concerned to make briefing sessions for elected leadership as a regular exercise in the larger interest of the country.