TTP negotiations spark furore in Senate

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Mushtaq Ahmed seeks clarity on matter; Raza Rabbani says Parliament used as “rubber stamp”
ISLAMABAD: Senators on Thursday sparred over the state’s negotiations with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and demanded clarity from the government over the matter.
The institutions that overlook the country’s national security briefed an important meeting a day earlier at the Prime Minister’s Office, with high-level political leadership in presence.
Following the meeting, the PM’s Office said all negotiations with the TTP will be held as per the Constitution and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah assured that an in-camera session of the Parliament will be called to take lawmakers into confidence regarding the decisions related to national security.
In today’s session of the Upper House of the Parliament, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said a session on negotiation with the TTP took place at the PM’s Office yesterday in which representatives of some political parties were present but not everyone was invited.
“This session took decisions related to the talks with TTP. Therefore, there should be clarity and the house should be informed that which committee’s session was it?” Senator Ahmed questioned.
The senator said that if the session was of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) then he is a member of it and he was not invited to the meeting.
“Was this a session of a parliamentary committee? If not, then where does the Parliament stand on this matter?” the JI senator wondered.
Senator Ahmed added that the government has said that it will brief the Parliament on the negotiations. “What will be the use of it once the [state] finalises it themselves?”
The senator slammed the government and asked it whether the Parliament was a mere “rubber stamp”.
‘No use’
For his part, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, whose party is a major stakeholder in the coalition government, said the Parliament is “always used as a rubber stamp”.
“There will be no use of presenting the TTP agreement before the Parliament if the government finalises it as the agreement cannot be amended later,” the former Senate chairman said.
Rabbani said an in-camera session of the Parliament should be called to inform lawmakers about the terms and conditions of the negotiations with the TTP.
“I am surprised that we can speak to the TTP, but production orders for Ali Wazir, a member of the Parliament, could not be issued so far despite several requests,” Rabbani added.
Law minister’s assurance
In response, Azam Nazeer Tarar, who is the law minister and a member of the PML-N which is the biggest stakeholder of the government, said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made it clear that negotiations will be in line with the Constitution.
“Talks with the TTP will be held in consultation with the Parliament and the Parliament will be part of it,” he said.
Talking on the floor of the house, PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said the negotiations with TTP did not start two-and-a-half months back, but they were initiated during the previous government’s tenure.
The senator noted that lawmakers were unaware when the negotiations began and between whom were they taking place.
“Are the negotiations taking place somewhere else or are they taking inside the country? We did not know even that, but now the details are being unveiled gradually.”
“The negotiations should not be kept a secret as we are not in its favour. This is not our policy,” he added.