Talks possible with PTM if it follows ‘Pakistan’s agenda’, say ministers –


ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on the opening day of its autumn session on Monday witnessed a heated debate between Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar — independent members from the tribal areas backed by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) — and federal ministers, with the government offering an olive branch to the organisation, but with certain conditions.

The offer to the PTM for talks was made by two key members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet — Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Interior Minister retired Brigadier Ijaz Shah — with the condition that the PTM members would only follow “Pakistan’s agenda” and would not target armed forces in their speeches.

“The army also wants to come out from there [Waziristan]. If your agenda is Pakistan, then I am ready to hold talks with you,” said Defence Minister Pervez Khattak after the house had already witnessed a verbal brawl between Mr Dawar and Communica­tions Minister Murad Saeed.

“However, if you continue to talk against the institution which has ensured security and peace in the country, then you will not be heard,” Mr Khattak said in his brief speech before allowing Speaker Asad Qaiser to give the floor to the interior minister for making a policy statement.

National Assembly witnesses heated debate between ministers and Ali Wazir, Mohsin Dawar

Mr Khattak said the government had previously talked to the PTM and now for almost one year, they had been asking the organisation to come to the negotiating table, but regretted that the offer was being ignored.

“Why don’t you talk? If your agenda is something else, then talks cannot be held,” the defence minister concluded.

Mr Dawar and Mr Wazir, who had been arrested on charges of attacking a military check-post at Kharqamar in North Waziristan on May 26, attended the National Assembly sitting after four months. They were granted bail by the Peshawar High Court’s Bannu bench last week. Mr Wazir had been arrested on the same day whereas Mr Dawar had surrendered himself to law enforcement authorities after a few days.

Taking the floor, Interior Minister Brig Ijaz Shah said the incident which took place at the Waziristan check-post and the language used by the PTM against the armed forces all were “documented”.

The minister said the two MNAs had been arrested by police since the law and order was a provincial subject.

“If you want to become a mainstream party, then come up with your demands. Tell us and we will sit with the prime minister,” he said, recalling that it was Prime Minister Imran Khan who had declared that the demands of the PTM were legitimate.

“Nobody is after anybody,” Brig Shah said, adding that they were not against any organisation.

“Raise the slogan of Pakistan and come with me we will do whatever you want,” the minister said, amid sloganeering by some of the opposition members. He said the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) had already been merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the areas would be developed. He said the development of the tribal areas would become easier if the PTM supported it, otherwise the areas would be developed at any cost.

Responding to Mr Dawar’s speech in which he had criticised some of the ministers for speaking against them in their absence, Mr Saeed said the government was determined for the development, progress and prosperity of the Waziristan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the people of Waziristan wanted elimination of terrorism and restoration of durable peace in the area.

The minister alleged that Mr Dawar and his party had supported the drone attacks in tribal areas, while the prime minister at that time had opposed drone attacks and the military operation in the area. He stated that he stood by his words that Mr Dawar had connections with Afghan intelligence agency NDS (National Directorate of Security), asking why the NDS had refused to hand over the body of police officer Tahir Dawar to the Pakistani government and handed it over to Mr Dawar.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan also delivered an emotional speech, declaring that the PTI, and not the PTM, was the true representative of the Pashtuns. He said that he and his family also became a victim of terrorism, but it did not mean that they should attack their own country at the behest of others.

The minister criticised the PTM for raising slogans against the armed forces and for prohibiting Pakistan flags in their public meetings.

He clarified the statement of PM Khan about the support and training to Al Qaeda by Pakistan was quoted out of context. He said those who lived in Pakistan would have to raise slogans of “Pakistan Army Zindabad” and “Pakistan Zindabad”.

Earlier, speaking on a point of order, Mr Dawar denied the charges that they were involved in any attack on the check-post. He explained that they had visited the area after getting reports that the people were holding a protest against the security forces for carrying out a search operation and maltreating some of the women. He alleged that 15 people were killed due to straight fire on them during the protest.

Mr Dawar said they were facing the case on charges of attacking the check-post but against whom the FIR would be registered for killing of 15 people. He said he had simply asked a question seeking names of the terrorists who had been killed in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb, but he had not yet received a reply. He also criticised the media for blacking out their activities and presenting a “one-sided picture”.

He criticised some of the ministers, including Mr Saeed, for speaking against them during their absence. He said their loyalty to the state was being questioned whereas the time had come that the state would have to prove its loyalty to the people. He denied that they were armed when the Kharqamar incident took place, saying that he was ready to be hanged publicly at D-Chowk, if the charge was proved against him.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2019



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