Senator warns against any secret move to mainstream militant outfits

ISLAMABAD  –  Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar on Wednesday in the Senate warned against any secret move to mainstream militant organisations in the country, which he said could spell disaster for peace in the region.

“The government should come out clean and place all facts before the parliament for discussion and debate,” he said, while speaking on a point of public concern in the Upper House.

Babar said that he had no proof but several strange happenings recently rang alarm bells that lent credence to the suspicion that an effort was afoot to mainstream militant organisation.

He said that the move would cause emergence of negative narrative against Pakistan internationally, that Pakistan was bringing militant organisations into the mainstream, when pressure was mounting on it for action against them.

Later, the State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry also endorsed that this “narrative was being sold internationally that Pakistan was mainstreaming militant organisations.”

Babar in his remarks said the participation of banned outfits in the recent by-election in NA-120 and in NA-4, the emergence of Milli Muslim League, the declaration by the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) to enter into electoral politics, and the suspicious silence over the fate of Ehsanullah Ehsan, the self-confessed murderer of the APS Peshawar school children, indicated that something was cooking.

Mainstreaming of the militants involved in the killing of innocent people and launching deadly attacks in neighbouring countries will be seen as an act of provocation with disastrous consequences, he warned. Babar said that elements inimical to Pakistan would immediately seize upon it and accuse Islamabad of lending legitimacy to the violent non-state actors.

On another issue of public importance, he drew attention towards the shrinking space of the civil society organisations, and said that any policy about the local non-government organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs must be based in legislation and not in executive orders.

He was talking with reference to the recent decision of the Ministry of Interior to ban operations of 27 INGOs in Pakistan.

Babar said that the civil society based on freedoms of association and freedom of expression was a valuable partner and not a threat to the state, and regretted the enlargement of footprint of security agencies in dealing with them. Babar said that it had been claimed that the policy about registration of the INGOs was based on the report of former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi but it was never made public.

The government is happy with the NGOs that relieve the state of responsibility of building schools and hospitals.

Indeed it is so favourably disposed that even banned outfits are allowed to do it.

“But it has problem with those who uphold the rights of the people and those demanding justice,” the senator said.

Babar went on to say that the civil society did not merely disburse charity.

They also work to empower youth, women and minorities, and promote rule of law.

By reducing their space we are rejecting peoples’ participation, he said.

State policies dealing with the NGOs call for discussion and debate among all stakeholders and through legislation and cannot be left to the police or interior ministry or secret agencies, Babar said.

The State Minister for Interior, Talal Chaudhry, in his reply said that the federal government used to take action against militant organisations when provinces write to it about their activities.  He lamented that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) got itself registered as a political party.

Chaudhry added that the government would not allow registration of militant organisation as political parties as was done in the case of Milli Muslim League.

About INGOs, Chaudhry said some international aid groups had been found working in the country out of their mandate and this was the reason that a new policy was formed. He said that there were some NGOs whose 95 per cent of the budget was wasted only on salaries and they had hired retired generals, bureaucrats and judges for reasons best known to them.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also informed the house that there was no mysterious unexplained move afoot to deprive the provinces of their rights to develop upstream petroleum sector on the advice of the World Bank.

In a policy statement given in the house, he said that the government had decided to set up a separate Directorate General of Petroleum Concessions (DGPC) in every province to boost oil and gas exploration across the country.

Abbasi said that the WB was engaged as a consultant to guide the government, which ended a year ago. He said that the work on DGPCs was under way on recommendation made in 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The prime minister said that provinces were empowered to claim their right on 50 per cent of natural resources after the 18th Amendment, and consequently they established their energy ministries.

Earlier, Senator Farhatullah Babar had claimed in the house that a bill, “Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Regulatory Authority Act, 2017” had been proposed to set up an authority to grant and monitor all petroleum concessions and other upstream activities throughout the country.

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