A meeting of the Senate Defence Committee was held today which was presided by its Chairman, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed.  The committee was briefed by the Minister for Defence, Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Secretary Defence, Lt. Gen. ® Alam Khattak, Additional Secretary, Major General Abid Nazir and Military Estate Officer, Dr. Saima Shah on various issues pertaining to the agenda of the meeting.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, in his opening remarks underlined the importance of good relations with neighbours like Afghanistan and Iran in the context of regional stability, Pakistan’s national security interests and the deterioration of ties with India in the context of popular, spontaneous and widespread of the Kashmir issue in which the Senate Defence Committee expressed its solidarity.  Senator Mushahid Hussain expressed the hope that all these issues will be resolved through mutual consultation and mutual consent and there is no need for any over-reaction on account of stray incidents on Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Minister for Defence, Khawaja Asif underlined the need for a national narrative which linked the continued presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan numbering almost 3 million with the security situation between Pakistan and Afghanistan since it was difficult for Pakistan to monitor and regulate the presence of so many Afghan nationals in Pakistan, some of whom may be involved in activities prejudicial to security and law and order.  The members of the committee also felt that there should be a clear national narrative because Pakistan has been a model host hosting the largest number of refugees for the longest duration in the modern history.

The Ministry of Defence provided a detailed briefing in chronological order regarding Pakistan-Afghanistan border management issues and reaffirmed that Pakistan was committed to good, cooperative relations with Afghanistan based on a strategic approach and mutual consent and consultation.  The Ministry of Defence informed the Committee that the border posts at Torkham which had now been rebuilt, is an official border and legal crossing where about 20,000 people cross every day from both sides and it will be formally inaugurated on August 1, 2016 with consultation of both neighbours.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed also briefed about his interaction with various countries on behalf of the Senate Defence Committee where he expressed solidarity with those countries including Ambassador of Turkey where he congratulated the Turkish people and the Turkish military high command for upholding the rule of law and the constitution in the wake of the abortive coup.  He also referred to his interaction with the Ambassador of France where he went to the French Embassy to personally sign the condolence book for the act of terror in Nice as well as the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia on the heinous act of terror in Madina which was condemned by the Senate Defence Committee as well as the recent act of terrorism in Kabul which the Senate Defence Committee termed despicable crime against humanity resulting in killings of children, men and women in Kabul.

The Committee also took the public petition of Mr. Subhanuddin regarding his son’s medical treatment who was injured in the APS attack in December 2015 and arranged a meeting of the petitioner with the Ministry of Defence and the petitioner was also invited to the Senate Defence Committee for a meeting with the Chairman of the Committee on July 27.

In his concluding remarks, while thanking the Minister for Defence Khawaja Mohammad Asif and the Ministry of Defence for their candid and comprehensive briefing, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed underlined that the relationship with Afghanistan was one of the most pivotal relationships for Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy and it was imperative that the channels  of communication be kept open with Afghanistan at all levels since peace, security and stability between Pakistan and Afghanistan are inextricably intertwined. In this regard, Senator Mushahid Hussain also referred to the parliamentary security dialogue that was held between the Senate Defence Committee of Pakistan and their counterparts in the Afghanistan parliament and he felt that this inter-parliamentary security dialogue should be revived to restore confidence between the people and parliaments of the two countries.  He also proposed that the Senate Defence Committee visit the border post at Torkham.

The committee meeting was attended by its members, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, Senator Sehar Kamran, Senator Ilyas Bilour, Senator Lt. Gen. ® Salahuddin Tirmizi, Senator Lt. Gen. ® Abdul Qayyum, Senator Javed Abbsi, Senator Hidayatullah, Senator Brig. ® John Kenneth Williams and Secretary of the Committee, Dr. Syed Pervaiz  Abbas.