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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In-camera briefing: ANP Ignored?

In-camera briefing: ANP Ignored?

In-camera briefing
The News, October 13, 2008
ANP not given enough time to put questions
By Rauf Klasra

ISLAMABAD: The Awami National Party (ANP) MPs attending the in-camera sessions of Parliament, were not allowed to put their well prepared questions to DG ISI General Ahmed Shuja Pasha about the explosive situation in the Fata and rest of the NWFP last week during the question-answer session.

Top political level sources have confirmed that earlier before dashing to London last Thursday after getting fresh threats to life, ANP leader Asfandyar Wali is said to have given a list of his own “unanswered questions” to MNAs and senators of his party to be asked from the military establishment during the in-camera briefing.

Sources said NA Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza did not allow the members of ANP to ask questions as the briefing ended. There are 15 parliamentarians of ANP in the Senate and National Assembly and all of them were present in the house when it was opened for questions from the DG ISI.

Sources said names of five MPs were handed over to the speaker with the understanding that they would put questions to DG ISI during the question hour session. It was generally believed that MPs of the ANP would be given priority during the question hour so that they get maximum time and share of questions because of the fact their party was running the affairs of NWFP.

Sources said the ANP MPs were very keen to ask questions because it was being reported that the ANP leaders had expressed their serious reservations in the past that they were not being taken into confidence by the military establishment about the operation in tribal areas. Likewise, it was also reported that the level of mistrust between the security agencies and the provincial government had reached such an alarming point that the security agencies did not undertake an operation in Swat against the hideouts of Taliban leader Fazlullah when his exact location was pointed out by none other than the NWFP chief minister. After three days, Fazlullah’S men kidnapped Chinese engineers.

Sources said, earlier, during the closed-door meeting between the military establishment and political bigwigs like President Asif Zardari, PM Yousuf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif, the pointed questions of Asfandyar from the top military brass were never answered, which further widened the gulf between the army and the ANP.

Against that background, now ANP leaders were prepared to ask all those unanswered questions during the in-camera briefing. But, much to their surprise, Speaker Dr Mirza did not give them enough time to ask questions. Only the parliamentary leader of ANP Senator Haji Adeel was told to ask just one question. Other five MPs never got a chance to put their questions.

Sources said Haji Adeel reportedly asked the DG ISI that he was at a loss to understand how could armed militants torch schools, burn the official buildings and kill the innocent people during the curfew hours. Haji Adeel asked as to why the army and police continued to sleep in the night when Taliban came and returned to their havens after carrying out terrorist activities in the settled areas.

Sources said concerned army officials gave a long explanation in response to this question to justify their action in the area.

But, afterwards, NA Speaker Dr Fehmida did not allow any other ANP MP to ask questions. Sources however said that PPP leaders got maximum time during question hour particularly Labour Minister Khursheed Shah who is said to have delivered a long speech in the house to show his presence, instead of asking a straight question. Likewise, MPs of PML-N also delivered long speeches on the floor of the house instead of asking questions which set a trend for other MPs which continued till the session ended.

This correspondent called upon Haji Adeel but he refused to talk on the subject saying that he was under oath from speaker NA not to make any comment or reveal any information to the media.