No ‘overt or covert’ deal with US, defence ministry told

A Senate panel on Tuesday issued directions to the Ministry of Defence that giving US air bases, foreign boots on the ground or foreign intelligence operations are forbidden under the terms of engagements approved by parliament in April 2012.

The direction came against the backdrop of reports that the US wanted air bases in the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan including Pakistan. Although Pakistan has repeatedly rejected such reports as Prime Minister Imran Khan in a recent interview made it clear that there was “absolutely no” truth in reports that Pakistan would allow its territory to be used against Afghanistan, the Senate Defence Committee issued directives to the Ministry of Defence, under which theoretically the three services operate.

The meeting was chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who presented a copy of the terms of engagements which parliament of Pakistan had unanimously approved on April 12, 2012, pursuant to the report of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security which was then headed by Senator Raza Rabbani.

The terms of engagements were approved by parliament in the wake of Salala attack in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were martyred in the US air strikes. Pakistan in response to the air strikes temporarily halted all cooperation with the US and parliament then worked out new terms of engagements.

The 14-point terms of engagements include “Pakistan’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of any foreign bases”. The terms of engagements also barred the government from allowing the US any “overt or covert” operations from Pakistani soil as well as entering into any “verbal” agreement.

The committee members noted that these terms of engagements should serve as policy guidelines and the government cannot deviate from those.

The Senate Defence Committee referred the terms of engagements to the Ministry of Defence with the direction that on the issue of bases, foreign ‘boots on the ground’, foreign intelligence operations on Pakistani territory, that all of these are forbidden under parliament’s directive and this document is to be considered as Pakistan’s state policy guidelines for the future on such issues, an official statement issued by the committee said.

The body also received a comprehensive briefing from the Ministry of Defence, which lasted for almost three hours.

At the outset of the meeting, in his opening remarks, Senator Mushahid and other members of the committee offered Fateha for the soldiers, civilians and officers, who have laid down their lives in defence of the motherland. He also paid tributes to his predecessor, Senator Walid Iqbal, for his positive role.

Senator Mushahid said that the Committee on Defence and National Security would function above party lines with a national perspective that seeks to preserve, protect and promote Pakistan’s defence and national security, while also acting as a bridge between “khaki and mufti” in promoting intra-institutional harmony.

He underlined that in this challenging time, issues on defence and national security require a “whole of nation” approach since the role of the armed forces, the government, parliament, people, media and political parties are inextricably intertwined to achieve common national goals.

He also underlined that in Pakistan’s transition from geo-politics to geo-economics, the notion of national security can no longer be confined to military components alone like tanks, planes or military equipment, but it has to be based on the notion of human security that makes people as the pivot of defence and national security incorporating such areas as economy, health, population planning, climate change, food and water scarcity.

On related issues, the committee also underlined the need that the 2% disability quota be fully implemented in the Ministry of Defence in letter and spirit, with the Secretary Defence committing to comply with this direction.

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Senator Mushahid conveyed the sense of the committee to the Ministry of Defence that in future, that the defence minister should also be present during meetings of the committee.

Unanimously adopting the work plan for 2021, the body underlined that it will work closely with the Ministry of Defence to ensure the implementation of the 14-point work plan which include detailed briefings on the three services as well as a briefing on intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, visits to Siachen, Waziristan and the LoC for solidarity with our soldiers, briefing on CPEC security, visits to CMH and other military hospitals to express sympathy with those wounded during counter-terror operations as well as a special visit to the graves of Nishan-e-Haider martyrs on September 6, the Defence of Pakistan Day.

June 29. 2021

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