Army chief to brief Senate on security tomorrow

Islamabad –  Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General Military Operations Maj-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza will brief the Senate on Tuesday (tomorrow) on emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent high-level visits and ensuing developments.

According to a notification issued by the Senate Secretariat on Sunday, the in-camera briefing to the Whole Committee of the House will be held at 10 am in the parliament building, and it has been arranged to help enable the Upper House to prepare guidelines in the light of emerging regional realities and the role of the United States.

The Committee of the Whole House was formed in August on a motion by the leader of the house “to prepare policy guidelines in the light of emerging regional realities and the role of the US”.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history that an army chief will give a briefing to the Senate over the country’s security situation and the region. In the past military leadership used to give briefings to parliamentarians in the joint sittings of the parliament.

Regional security situation following US President Donald Trump’s decision of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Saudi Arabia’s initiative of Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) were also likely to be discussed at the meeting.

Gen Bajwa is also likely to take the Senate committee into confidence over US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to the country.

The vital in-camera meeting of the committee, encompassing the whole Upper House of parliament, had been scheduled for 10 am on Tuesday.

According to the notification: “Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Maj-Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza will also brief the House alongside the army chief.”

The meeting is expected to devise a strategy over “the emerging national security paradigm for the country with respect to recent visits/developments”.

The move apparently comes after senators from both sides of the aisle asked the government last week to take the parliament into confidence over Pakistan’s role in the Saudi-led 41-nation counter-terrorism coalition.

By and large, all the senators were of the view that Pakistan should send its troops for the defence of holy places in Saudi Arabia, but should not send them for fighting against any other Muslim country.

“Why the defence minister who had attended the inaugural meeting of the IMCTC has not taken the House into confidence,” some of the senators lamented and demanded from the government to share details of the IMCTC’s terms of reference (ToRs) with the parliament.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party Senator Farhatullah Babar said a few months ago that the then defence minister Khawaja Asif had assured the House that the ToRs for participation in the alliance would be placed before the Senate before taking any decision.

Senator Babar said the military commander of the coalition has also been quoted as saying that the coalition encompasses four key areas – ideology, communications, counterterrorism financing and fighting terrorism besides carrying out other international security and peacekeeping efforts.

He was of the view that each of these areas, particularly the one relating to ideology, would have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had endorsed the standpoint of Senator Babar saying Khawaja Asif, who is now the foreign minister, had assured that the Senate would be taken on board before joining any venture with the Saudi-led military alliance.

The 41-nation alliance was first announced by Saudi Arabia in December 2015. But key countries such as Iran, Syria and Iraq were not invited to join it, something that reinforced fears that the Saudi initiative was meant to target certain countries.

The army chief will take the House into confidence about the military diplomacy that entails his recent visit to Iran and the visits of US Defence Secretary Gen Mattis and Deputy Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia early this month. The military leadership will also share insight with the senators about the recent developments, especially happenings in Afghanistan, having a direct bearing on Pakistan’s national security.

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