ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition in parliament on Thursday announced that it would boycott the upcoming meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) convened by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for a “presentation” by National Security Adviser (NSA) Dr Moeed Yusuf on the government’s national security policy.
According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, the decision has been made by the opposition parties after mutual consultations.
The speaker has convened the PCNS meeting on the one-point agenda on Dec 6, inviting all 29 members of the committee, including Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, for discussion.
Besides 29 members of the committee, the speaker has also issued special invitations to 22 others, including the four chief ministers and other senior officials of the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, defence and finance.
In a statement issued here on Thursday, Ms Aurangzeb said that the joint opposition had made the decision to boycott the in-camera meeting of the PCNS due to the government’s attitude of bulldozing important draft bills in the recently-held joint sitting of parliament and its “persistent authoritarian approach” on important constitutional, legal, national and security issues.
She said the united opposition had informed the government about the decision.
The joint opposition stated that the opposition parties had always shown very responsible and serious attitude on all issues relating to the Constitution, national security and public importance.
It said that despite the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan and “his complete detachment from important national and public issues”, the opposition parties had not only fully participated in the previous briefings and meetings convened on national security, but the top leadership of the united opposition also gave their valuable suggestions.
“All parties of the joint opposition have a very mature vision, extensive experience and seriousness on critical issues related to the Constitution, the country and the people,” said the statement, adding that in the past too, they always played a historic role in safeguarding and promoting the rights and interests of the country and the masses.
“However, it is very unfortunate that the government is adopting the policy of using parliament as a rubber stamp,” the statement said.
“The opposition believes that important internal and external issues are not being brought and debated in the parliament.
“By ignoring the parliament, the government is in fact boycotting the parliament which is the basic constitutional, legal and public forum in a democracy,” said the statement.
The opposition said the prime minister did not attend meetings on the most important national issues of the country such as occupied Jammu and Kashmir and others, “because he is ignorant of the democratic spirit of consultation, the importance of different views in decision-making and the usefulness of opposing views”.
In such circumstances, it said, such an “in-camera briefing” would merely pave the way for a new government “spectacle” that would have nothing to do with the performance of serious and critical issues facing the country and the people or progress towards their solution.
Furthermore, the joint opposition has agreed that the prime minister’s national security advisers were devoid of relevant information and authority on decision-making and behind-the-scene facts.
“These advisers are mere showpieces whose objectives have nothing to do with the real world and future blueprints,” said the joint statement.
Ms Aurangzeb said that the decision to boycott the PCNS meeting had been unanimous and the parties that would boycott the meeting were the PML-N, PPP, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Awami National Party, Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Qaumi Watan Party and National Party. She said that independent MNA Mohsin Dawar had also decided not to attend the meeting.
Informed sources told Dawn that opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif had contacted the leaders of all opposition parties over the past two days for consultations and all the leaders were of the view that the PCNS meeting would be a futile exercise.
Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad, PML-N’s senior vice president and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi questioned the credibility of NSA Moeed Yousuf.
“A person who had nothing to do with Pakistan two years ago will give us briefing,” said Mr Abbasi while mocking the government’s move.
He said that by simply apprising the members as to what was happening in Afghanistan or the region was not sufficient, adding that issues of price hike and corruption were also related to the country’s national security.
He regretted that the government had closed the doors of parliament for discussion on public issues.
The joint opposition had attended the previous meeting of the PCNS held on November 8 in which military officials had briefed the lawmakers on national security issues.