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Senate calls for protecting rights of women, minorities in talks


ISLAMABAD: The Senate unanimously adopted on Wednesday a resolution calling upon the government to make no “compromise” on the rights of women and minorities during its talks with Taliban. The lawmakers from all sides also criticised PTI chief Imran Khan for his controversial statement questioning the army’s capability to carry out an operation against militants.

The resolution moved by Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also urged the government to constitute a commission to monitor jirgas being used against women having an access to civil society organisations working for the cause of women rights.

“This house is of the opinion that the government should take immediate steps to resolve the issue of jirgas and establish a commission for monitoring the use of jirga against women and to build a mechanism for easy access to the commission by NGOs and women violated by jirgas,” says the resolution read out by Nasreen Jalil. “The rights of women and minorities are not negotiable and should not be compromised in negotiations with Taliban,” it adds.

The Senate witnessed a heated debate on a recent TV interview of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan in which he had allegedly questioned the capability of the armed forces to take on militants.

Speaking on a point of order, PPP’s parliamentary leader Raza Rabbani, without naming Mr Khan, said that the head of a political party in a TV interview on Tuesday night had stated that during a meeting the prime minister had quoted former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as saying that there was a 40 per cent chance of success of a military operation against militants in the country’s tribal areas.

Opposition members belonging to the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and MQM sought a clarification from the government and the prime minister on Mr Khan’s statement which they termed “a very serious matter”.

They said the prime minister should personally come to the house to respond to the PTI chairman’s statement.

“Such a statement amounts to demoralising our armed forces. Are we going to surrender the country in the talks (with Taliban)?” Mr Rabbani asked.

Afrasiab Khattak of the ANP said the statement was like “extending invitation to foreign forces”.

MQM’s Babar Ghouri termed Mr Khan’s statement an “insult” to the armed forces.

Kamil Ali Agha of the PML-Q said it appeared that a “terrorised government” was holding talks with Taliban. “Are we talking to Taliban because of fear? Can’t we establish the writ of the government? Our army is recognised as one of the strongest forces in the world. Have the powers of the state with such an army become so weak?” Mr Agha wondered.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq also expressed shock over Mr Khan’s statement and called for an investigation into the matter. He was of the view that making such a statement at this juncture when efforts were being made for peace was not appropriate. He said the prime minister was on a foreign visit and he would seek his response on his return to the country.

Mr Rabbani insisted that the response should come immediately as the matter was serious and casting aspersions on the capability of the armed forces.

Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal of the ruling PML-N said it appeared that Imran Khan was playing the role of a so-called “third force” which did not want to see peace in the country.

Earlier, Chairman Nayyar Bokhari referred to the standing committee concerned a privilege motion moved by Haji Mohammad Adeel of the ANP regarding tapping of telephones of politicians and government officials by secret agencies.

During the question hour, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali informed the house that 17,132 FIRs had been registered from April to November last year against the people found stealing electricity. An amount of Rs2.52 billion had been recovered from them, he added.