Saudi-led coalition: Government asked to take parliament into confidence

Islamabad – Senators from both sides of the aisle on Friday urged the government to take parliament into confidence regarding Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC).

They demanded this while discussing an adjournment motion moved by Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman regarding the commitments made by the government to coalition without taking the parliament into confidence.

They were of the view that despite assurances from the Minister of Defence, the government has not taken parliament into confidence.

The inaugural meeting of the IMCTC was held in Saudi Arabia last month in which defence ministers and representatives from 40 Muslim countries participated and former army chief Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif was given command of the multinational force.

Taking part in the discussion, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar complained that when asked about the reservations of Iran on the Saudi-led coalition, the Foreign Office said that it was unaware of any and would reply after talking to the authority on the matter. “Just (tell us) who is this authority?” Babar asked.

He also said that parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were being kept in the dark about Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Iran.

“One institution is formulating policy on its own, regarding which, even the Foreign Office is unaware,” he remarked, requesting Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to give a ruling on the issue and summon the foreign minister.

Responding to Babar’s request, Rabbani said: “I will go missing before March 12 if I give a ruling on this.”

He also took the opportunity to rubbish some senators’ comments about the parliament having gotten “weaker than the Organisation of Islamic Countries.”

The members said that the parliament should be taken on board regarding terms of reference of Pakistan engagement in the alliance.  They said that Pakistan should pursue its own national interest rather than fighting a war of others.

They called for making Pakistan economically stable and stronger, without which any independent foreign policy could not be ensured.

The senators said that mandate of Pakistan’s engagement in the alliance should have been debated in the parliament. They said that every decision should be made through collective wisdom.

Members belonging to treasury benches stressed the need that all Muslim countries should stand united to fight terrorism collectively. They said that every Muslim country should join the Islamic military alliance. They said that terrorism should not be bracketed with Islam or any particular region. They said that the government will certainly take the House into confidence when the TORs of this alliance were finalized.

They said that Pakistan will never send its troops to fight against any Muslim country. The House was adjourned to meet again on Monday at 3 pm. 

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