The special meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Interior was held under the Chairmanship of Senator A. Rehman Malik here at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended by Senator Rana Maqbool Ahmed, Senator Javed Abbasi, Senator Kulsoom Perveen and Senator Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh as members and Senator Saadia Abbasi, Senator Begum Najma Hameed, Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif and Senator Sitara Ayaz as special invitees. Secretary Interior, Secretary Defence, Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, National Coordinator NACTA, Chairman PEMRA, Chairman NADRA, Home Secretaries and IGPs from all provinces and IGP and Chief Commissioner Islamabad among others.
Major General Asif Ghafoor attended the meeting as representative of the General Headquarters (GHQ), Pakistan Army.
In the begging of the meeting, suicide attacks in Peshawar, Mastung and Bannu were strongly condemned and Fateh was offered for the martyrs and condolences were expressed with victim families.
Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik moved a Resolution which was unanimously adopted by the committee. He read the Resolution as “The Senate Standing Committee on Interior strongly condemns the recent deadliest terrorist attacks claimed by Daiesh wherein on July 10, 2018 Shaheed Haroon Bilour and 21 others workers of ANP were martyred in a suicide attack during his campaign rally in Peshawar and in another terrorist attack on July 13, 2018 more than 200 workers, including Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were martyred during his election campaign rally in Mastung area of Balochistan. The Committee also condemns attack on JUIF Leader Akram Khan Durrani in Bannu, in which 4 workers of his Party were martyred in his election campaign rally in Bannu. This Committee pays rich tribute to the martyrs of the nation, prays for the departed souls and expresses heartfelt condolences with victim families. The Committee appreciates the work being carried out by the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct fair, free and transparent Elections on time under the supervision of Chief Election Commissioner Justice ® Sardar Muhammad Raza and Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the professional input being rendered by Mr. Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, they may also endeavor to ensure parity between parties and political persons. The Committee appreciates the assistance committed and is being given by the Pakistan Army under the command of COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa to the Election Commission of Pakistan and to the Provincial Governments to conduct secured and protected Polls by providing best possible security cover to the voters, candidates, electoral staff and polling vicinities. The Committee also appreciates the continued commitment of Pak-Army to safeguard the borders and to counter terrorism across the country. We (members) pray for the success of Pak-Army, Police and other law enforcers in keeping the peace and to protect the voters and the candidates.The Committee appeals to every Pakistani voter to come out to vote on 25th July as part of their national duty to maximize the voters’ turnout.The Committee expresses serious concern on the recent wave of cross-border terrorist attacks claimed by Daesh and TTP who on behest of inimical forces are trying to sabotage the elections and to destabilize the country. The law enforcer should remain alert and vigilant to counter any such attack by the enemies of Pakistan. This Committee directs all the Provincial Governments to follow the Elections SOPs issued by Election Commission of Pakistan as per the code of conduct under Election Act 2017 to ensure “VIOLENCE FREE POLL-DAY” on 25th July.
Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik said “I as a Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and on behalf of my Committee Members, would like to express my thanks to the Chairman Senate for nominating me as a Coordinator / Focal Person to monitor the security arrangements pertaining with General Elections, 2018”. He said that 25th July is a very important day in our national history when the nation is going to choose their representatives for the next 5 years in the National and Provincial Assemblies all over the country and the meeting was aimed at to make the day “violence Free”. He said our today meeting may be marked as “MEETING FOR VIOLENCE FREE POLL-DAY”.
While paying thanks to the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for sending Pakistan Army representative to apprise the committee on security arrangements on polling day by Pakistan Army, Senator A. Rehman Malik asked the Major General Asif Ghafoor for the briefing. GHQ representative Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor rejected the notion that the security forces have any direct role in how the July 25 elections will unfold. He said that the Pakistan Army personnel are only following the Election Commission of Pakistan’s code of conduct to provide foolproof security during the elections. “There were some rumors that army personnel had been issued ‘different’ orders — this is completely baseless,” he said. Major General Asif Ghafoor said “We do not have any link with the elections; we are only working on the election commission’s directives to improve the law and order situation. We do not have a direct role in polls.”
Major General Ghafoor added that “the armed forces have always lent support to civil institutions. The security situation is being improved in the entire country to hold elections.
“Three hundred and seventy one thousand army soldiers will be deployed at the countrywide polling stations. The army is also performing its duty at the printing press and safe transportation of ballots papers and boxes”, he said. “The army is not taking direct responsibility for the security of any politician,” he said. “The security of political candidates is the responsibility of the government of Pakistan and the ECP. He said that we are assisting the election commission for security during polling and unfortunately, until the police’s abilities improve, we will also have to do police duty.
Responding to a question by Senator A. Rehman Malik about coordination with Afghani government, the Army Representative said that Pakistan has been assured of reciprocal support from the Afghan side on the security front and has assures us about the closure of border during elections. “When the elections took place in Afghanistan, we took extraordinary measures on this side of the border. This time, the Afghan president phoned Pakistan prime minister and the army chief to assure us of their cooperation, said Maj General Asif Ghafoor”.
Secretary Babar Yaqoob also briefed the Senate body over the security arrangements on the polling day and said that a total of 800,000 security officials and 700,000 ECP staff will perform their duties. “Bearing in mind the events of 2013, the ECP took the decision to deploy army. We are grateful to the army. Their officers are also being trained. The army’s help was also obtained to keep a watch on ballot papers.” He said that it is for the first time that ballot papers with watermark will be used and were imported from the Europe which will ensure the transparency of the election. He said that the result management system and the transmission system have also been improved with special software with three ways mechanism for the results transmission. He said that around 200 foreign observers have reached Pakistan to monitor the electoral process and the Election Commission is fully cooperating and facilitating them.
Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik expressed grave concerns over the use of abusive language by some politicians during election campaign and asked for stringent actions against them before the elections. He said that whosoever and belong to any party should be taken to task if uses abusive language against political opponents being the clear violation of ECP code of conduct and election laws. Secretary ECP said that actions have already been taken on complaints of hate speeches and use of abusive language by some politicians. Senator A. Rehman Malik advised the ECP to take stern actions against those who violate the ECP code of conduct and use abusive language/remarks against any political opponents. ECP secretary ensured that Elections will held free, fair, transparent and peaceful with the help of candidates, people of Pakistan and all institutes of the state. However, Secretary ECP requested that CCT cameras may be made operational across the country for vigilances and surveillances. Chairman Senate Standing Committee Senator A. Rehman Malik directed the Interior Ministry to direct all the provincial home departments as well as IGPs to take cognizance of these serious concerns of ECP. Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan strongly reputed the notion that ECP is playing a biased role, saying such comments are hurtful as ECP is intended to conduct free, fair and transparent elections under Article 218 of the Constitution of Pakistan. He said that nation will be celebrating 25th July as Democracy Day. Senator A. Rehman Malik said that this committee highly appreciates the role of ECP and stands by it and extends full support of the Parliament to conduct free, fair and transparent elections.
National Coordinator NACTA briefed the committee about possible threats to various political parties and candidates during their election campaigns and on polling-day. He said there are 65 threat alerts for various politicians across the country and most of the threats alerts are from across the border. He said that the new perception after the death of TTP chief Mullah Fazalullah that TTP has gone weaken is proving wrong especially when the elections are commencing and the environment is highly charged and motivated. Senator A. Rehman Malik advised NACTA to formulate the new SOPs for peaceful elections accordingly the threats and as advised by this committee in its earlier meetings. He expressed that LeJ and TTP are emerging in a new shape of Daish about which he had disclosed back in 2014 that Daish exists in Pakistan but no actions was taken then. He said till we do not smash the heads of TTP and LeJ, a peaceful Pakistan will remain just a dream. He asked the government to immediately ask the government of Afghanistan to hand over us the chief of terrorists i.e Khalid Khurasani- chief of Daish of Pakistan, TTP’s new chief Mufti Noor Wali and escaped suicide bomber Ikramullah who is most wanted in Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom case as they all are hiding in Afghanistan. Senator A. Rehman Malik said that Afghanistan soil is being used against Pakistan and there is nexus of RAW and NDS under the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that India is leaving no stone unturned to destabilize Pakistan by sabotaging electoral process through terrorism. Senator A. Rehman Malik further said that India is trying to create wedge between the provinces by using terrorism as tool in KPK and Balochistan however as a nation we stand together on page. “Today meeting is the best example of Civil-Military ideal relationship when it comes to the national security of Pakistan” said Senator A. Rehman Malik.
Chairman Senate Standing Committee Senator A. Rehman Malik inquired the Chairman PEMRA as what measures the PEMRA has taken so far to block the derogatory advertisements containing foul and humiliating language against opponents political parties. Chairman PEMRA said that actions in this regard have been taken and adds with derogatory remarks and foul language have been blocked. Senator A. Rehman Malik directed the Chairman PEMRA to direct all the tv channels to dedicate specific time and space for public awareness message on Election that public can be motivated and mobilized to cast the vote.
Inspector General Police and Home Secretary Balochistan briefed the committee about the deadliest terror attack in Mastung in which more than 200 people were martyred. They informed the committee that suicide bomber was recognized as Hafiz Nawaz hailing from Abbotabad and further investigation is underway. They informed that the local administration had no prior information about holding of corner meeting by the candidate.
Senator A. Rehman Malik said that he and the committee members salutes the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan for their countless sacrifices against war on terror. He said “My heart goes out to the victim families of terrorism and I strongly recommend that compensation package should be fixed equal to the victims of all provinces”.
Additional IGP KPK briefed the committee about the blast in Peshawar on Shaheed Haroon Bilour and said that local administration and police was not informed prior to the corner meeting of ANP. The incident would have been averted if the administration was informed well before the meeting, he added. He said however a JIT was formed soon after the incident and facilitator is arrested from Hangu and further investigation is underway. IG Police Islamabad also briefed the meeting and said adequate measures have been taken to make the polling day peaceful across the ICT. At the end of the meeting, Secretary Interior informed the committee that regular meeting are being held with all stakeholders through video conferences about the security situation across the country. He said that Ministry of Interior is in close coordination with ECP and all provincial governments and is ensuring peaceful conduction of elections. He said they are trying their best to implement the code of conduct and SOPs framed by the ECP. Senator A. Rehman Malik said that for better security there is a dire need to work 24 hourly bases and to remain in direct contact with candidates through local administration.
While concluding the meeting Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik appealed the people of Pakistan to come out and vote on July 25th for the future of the country considering it a prime national duty and responsibly. He said that the nation is behind Pakistan Army and all other LEAs in war against terrorism.