Opposition’s demand


Parliamentarians belonging to the PPP have demanded that the government take parliament into confidence about the emerging regional situation in light of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Addressing a press conference, former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi and Senator Rubina Khalid said there should be no closed-door meetings on the issue and that parliament should be fully briefed. The opposition alliance PDM has also called for an in-camera joint session of parliament on the Afghanistan issue. These demands have come in the wake of reports that the US may be asking Pakistan for use of facilities including bases for military use. Pakistan has categorically denied agreeing to any such requests and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said in no uncertain terms that as long as Imran Khan is the prime minister, Pakistan will never provide its territory for any US bases.
The situation in Afghanistan remains unstable as the peace talks between the US and Afghan Taliban have hit a roadblock. The intra-Afghan dialogue also appears to be a non-starter and violence is refusing to abate. Pakistan has played a central role in the peace process, including persuading the Taliban leadership to participate in it, and continues to urge all sides to agree to a power-sharing arrangement so that the country does not descend into chaos. However, officials in Islamabad have also voiced fears that if a civil war were to break out in Afghanistan once the US forces have withdrawn within their stipulated deadline, Pakistan could face adverse repercussions. In such an unsettled situation, it is important that the entire political leadership is brought into the loop as far as Pakistan’s policy options and decisions are concerned. The opposition is justified in demanding that the government and its concerned institutions provide a detailed briefing to parliament and allow them to provide recommendations and suggestions for all possible scenarios. One way could be for the concerned authorities to brief the relevant parliamentary committees. This could be followed by an open debate in both houses. The policy on Afghanistan needs to be well-deliberated and bipartisan in nature. We should learn from the mistakes of the 1980s and 1990s and carve out a long-term approach to Afghanistan. The government has taken a sensible step in engaging all ethnic groups in Afghanistan as well as regional countries. It should follow the same approach towards parliament.