Fawad proposes parliamentary panel for consensus on Army Act

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Staff report

Islamabad

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday proposed the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee so consensus can be formed on the issues of amendment in the Army Act and on economic policies.

“As a student of politics since 93, my personal opinion is that we should have a joint parliamentary committee which should immediately decide on the two matters.

“There is no doubt that the opposition’s role should be recognised. Without them, a wider consensus regarding institutions cannot be achieved,” said the federal minister.

Chaudhry, referring to the Supreme Court verdict on the extended appointment of army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, said that “a good atmosphere” had now been created in the country.

“The prime minister has always spoken of the strengthening of institutions and of course this has meant asking that institutions respect the authority and balance of one another.”

The minister proposed that the above mentioned personalities — Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa — oversee the committee. “And with the help of media, a consensus on the two matters should immediately be formed.”

“A consensus on these two matters is of extreme importance for Pakistan. And any problem that besets Pakistan cannot be solved solely by a single institution,” Chaudhry added.

The minister said that he knows the prime minister “closely” and does not aim to “make political statements”, but that prime minister does have the people’s best interests at heart.

“I know for a fact that his heart beats with the people. He wishes to make a new Pakistan. He has no personal agenda, he doesn’t want to amass wealth and is not interested in power. He actually wishes to bring change.

“But for that to take place, unless we bring balance in our institutions, unless we strike a fresh deal, we will remain entangled in problems.”

Speaking of the future of Pakistan, the minister said that political differences must be cast aside, “if we wish to leave a stable Pakistan for our future generations”.

In the same vein, he spoke of the recently held countrywide ‘Student Solidarity March’ which had demanded the restoration of student unions. Expressing his support for the movement, the minister said that the very foundation of Pakistan rests on student unions.

“Pakistan was formed due to student union activities. When the Muslim Student Federation was established in Aligarh University, and later on in Islamia College, the entire movement for Pakistan run by students.”

He said that whereas Gen Ziaul Haq in his tenure had made many mistakes, one of them was the ban on student unions.

“Student unions are the backbone of any democracy. But, there must be some safeguards in place. Student unions must not be allowed to be used by mainstream political parties for gang-like violent activities. Neither should we allow the unions to become a blackmailing mafia like in other places.”

Chaudhry said that all the leading institutions in the world have student unions. “We can’t ban them but we can’t have them engage in hooliganism either.”

The science minister said that the country’s first space mission would be launched in 2022, for which shortlisting for the astronaut would be done by the air force in February next year.

“In 2022, with the cooperation of China, our first astronaut will be launched into space,” he said.

The minister said that in this year’s budget, a 600-fold increase had been made for science and technology. “By next June, we will increase it by 1,000 times.”

He said that after a prolonged period of time, Pakistan was now reentering the international scene for technology and research.

The minister said a “ministerial committee” had been formed during his last visit to China. He said a similar committee with Russia was also expected to be formed shortly, after which the focus will shift to European Union and the United States.

“Unless and until we have international collaboration, we cannot move forward.”