A meeting of the Senate Defence Committee, presided over by its Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, was held on Monday.
The committee was briefed by the Minister for Defence, Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Secretary Defence, Lieutenant General Alam Khattak (Retd), Additional Secretary, Major General Abid Nazir and Military Estate Officer, Dr Saima Shah on various issues pertaining to the agenda of the meeting.
Defence Secretary, Lieutenant General Alam Khattak (Retd) informed the committee members that Torkham border, the posts of which now had been rebuilt, is an official border and a legal crossing where about 20,000 people cross every day from both sides and it will be formally inaugurated on August 1, 2016 with the consultation of both neighbours, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The gate had been closed due to Afghanistan objections on its construction work. Khawaja Asif, Minister for Defence, while underlining the need for national narrative on security said that Afghan refugees are directly linked to the security and stability of both the countries.
The continued presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, numbering almost 3 million, are creating security situation which has worsened, since it is becoming 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 the law and order situation, he said, adding that Afghanistan has shown reservations over the phrase “Border Management” too.
He said it is impossible to control terrorism without Border Management and it is our right to control the traffic entering into our country.
Senator Hidayatullah apprised the committee members that Afghanistan is facilitating Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). He also informed that these terrorists are operating businesses in markets and also have check posts there.
The members of the committee also observed that there should be a clear national narrative on this matter because Pakistan has been a model host, hosting the largest number of refugees for the longest duration in the modern history.
Ministry of Defence provided a detailed briefing in chronological order with respect to Pakistan-Afghanistan border management issues and reaffirmed that Pakistan was committed to good, co-operative relations with the neighbouring country based on a strategic approach and mutual consent and consultation.
Additional Defence Secretary, Major General Abid Nazir briefed the committee that Effective Border Control Mechanism is need of the hour, according to which entry will only be allowed to those who will provide valid travelling documents.
He said Rahdari Cards are restricted up till Shaheed Mor. Illegal entries will be blocked through fence, as there are 4-5 major entering spots where infiltration is seen especially during night.
He said that not only the NADRA, FIA, Customs and other departments are effectively working on border management but also CCTVs along with other arrangements were installed to observe activities on border.
Secretary Defence informed the meeting that there are more than 200 crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, there are only 8 crossing points where check posts exists.
He also told that the American Congress has approved $100 million for Border Management and the amount will also be spent on the development of the FATA.
He informed the committee that they have asked for the documents and things will be finalised once the American officials pay a visit.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed underlined the importance of good relations with neighbours like Afghanistan and Iran in the context of regional stability, Pakistan’s national security interests.
The Defence Committee also expressed its solidarity over highlighting of the issue of Kashmir.
Senator Mushahid Hussain maintained that all the issues will be resolved through mutual consultation and mutual consent, adding there is no need for any over-reaction on account of stray incidents on Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
He also briefed the committee about his interaction with various countries on behalf of the Senate Defence Committee where he expressed solidarity with those countries including Ambassador of Turkey and 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 his interaction with the Ambassador of France, when 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 up the public petition of 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.
The Chairman Committee also said 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 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 peoples and parliaments of the two countries. He also proposed the Senate Defence Committee to 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 Lieutenant General Salahuddin Tirmizi (Retd), Senator Lieutenant General Abdul Qayyum (Retd), Senator Javed Abbasi, Senator Hidayatullah, Senator Brigadier John Kenneth Williams (Retd) and Secretary of the Committee, Dr Syed Pervaiz Abbas. -Business Recorder