Senate of Pakistan

Briefing by the Ministry of Defence to Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production

July 16, 2012

The first formal meeting between the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production and the Ministry of Defence was held at 11 a.m. on July 16, 2012 at the Parliament House, Islamabad. Representatives of the Ministry of Defence along with its allied institutions were present at the venue including the following:

Ministry of Defence:

1. Ms. Nargis Sethi (Secretary)
2. Major General Arif (1st Additional Secretary)
3. Air Vice Marshal Asghar (2nd Additional Secretary)
4. Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar (Chairman PIA)
5. Captain Nadeem (DG CA)
6. Major General Tahir Masood (DG ML)
7. Arif Mehmood (DG Metereology)
8. Brigadier Aijaz (DG ASB)
9. Brigadier Azam (DG ASF)

SSC on Defence and Defence Production:

1. Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed (Chairperson)
2. Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar ul Haq
3. Senator Sehar Kamran
4. Senator Col (R) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi
5. Senator Farhatullah Babar

The proceedings began with the Additional Secretaries providing a briefing on the Ministry of Defence, its organizational structure, departments, functions and tasks of additional secretaries. The briefing was given with the purpose of providing an overview of the Ministry and how the allied departments are structured and linked within the Ministry, after which the stage was set for Questions and Answers session.

Senator Farhatullah Babar took the floor after the briefing, and started out by first appreciating the Chairperson in his efforts towards developing a bridge between ‘khaaki and mufti’. According to the Senator this Committee will prove to be a success under the leadership of Chaiman Mushahid Hussain Sayed. The Senator went on to suggest a few recommendations within the slides used for the briefing of the Ministry of Defence; the proposed changes were openly accepted. He then put forth a question, that why is it that there is no position of Director General for the Military Lands and Cantonment department. Ms. Sethi responded to this question by stating that the service structure of the specified division is such that a specific Director General is not required, a number of federal and additional secretaries are instead appointed who take forth the assigned duties. The Chair added to this that there is no hard and fast rule on there being a separate position, however there should be no rule suggesting that the Director General will only be from the military ranks.

Senator Tahir Mashhadi praised the leadership of the Chairman and suggested that the MoD must also defend its departments from public bashing, since the nature of armed forces is such that they cannot speak for themselves. One great misperception is that regarding the defence budget, the general narrative is that the budget allotted to the armed forces is excessive and comes at the expensive of the country’s development. However in reality this is not true and it should also be noted that the deployment of armed forces has increased exponentially over the years, but the increase in budget is minimal. He further raised a question from the MoD, asking why haven’t there been any elections in the Cantonment Boards. Tackling the question, Ms. Sethi said that although the idea is lucrative because it would result in more public representation, however, the fact remains that the running of the CBs is with the military and it is much convenient for the armed forces to handle them without the complexities of elections.

Senator Sehar Kamran in her short statement mentioned that our national approach is the beauty of our nation; despite all the challenges this country has faced over the years, our national spirit has helped us overcome these difficulties every time.

Senator Zafar-ul-Haq mentioned how Pakistan has been termed as a security state instead of a welfare state, but with India on one side and Afghanistan on the other, the implication comes naturally. In such times, a new relationship between military and civilian groups is a sign of renewed confidence. Several forces are currently working against the integrity of Pakistan, and these challenges have grown on the back of poor governance, add to that the increasing dividedness between the different citizens of this nation. Therefore we need a level headed approach via a visionary leadership. If this Committee performs its duties then it can be an initiation of the salvage of Pakistan, and this is something that we owe to our future generations. Chair person, Senator Mushahid Hussain added that the military has shown tremendous respect for civilian institutions and leadership, and this is a very optimistic sign. He went on to state that national security is no longer restricted to F-16s and battle tanks; instead energy, education and economy are some of the new lines on which national security is based.

After all the members had their say, the Chair person took the floor and mentioned that when we mention ‘combatting internal threats’, the militants are one step ahead of us, that is the reason we are now trying to strengthen relations between the ‘khaaki and mufti’. Over the years, Pakistan has lost more of its people in the fight against terrorism than Afghanistan has; based on this fact the Chairperson asked whether there is a cohesive counter terrorism strategy for the Ministry of Defence. The Secretary, Ms. Nargis Sethi replied that in 2009 an organization for counter terrorism by the name of NECTA was formed however it never really took off. She added that the Ministry of Defence cannot formulate a cohesive strategy in isolation and that other institutions also need to step in with this regard. Senator Mushahid then inquired about the updates on the investigation regarding the Bhoja air crash which occurred earlier this year. To this Ms. Sethi mentioned that a world renowned investigator, Group Captain Mujahid is looking into the accident, he has looked into eighty eight other air crash investigations prior to this one. Lastly, the Chair asked what the PIA needs to do in order to become the professional airline that it once was. The chairman of PIA, Mr. Qamar, took on this question and gave a comprehensive reasoning to the state of PIA, accounting it mainly towards the lack of funds. He mentioned that last year’s statistics show that 64% of the traffic was on short routes, and for such routes smaller aircrafts are required which have better fuel consumption. However, PIA has a majority of medium and large sized aircrafts which are expensive to run and maintain and hence at full seating capacity give only around a 13% profit margin. Hence there is a need for narrow body small sized economical aircrafts such as the 737 series or the Airbus 320 series. PIA is currently evaluating these aircrafts and undertaking a bridging agreement by getting them on lease for short term basis. But they need to have their own aircrafts for the long run and this will take up to a year. The chairman went on to express his frustration towards people comparing PIA with airlines such as Emirates or Etihad; he said that they forget that PIA is a government institution and hence has to follow several regulations that these private companies do not.

Mr. Babar raised another important issue, informing the Committee and the MoD about a land in Nowshehra where the High Court judge gave the decision in the favor of the raise of compensation. The issue was marked by the MoD and they promised investigation into the matter.
In the end, the Chairman, Mr. Mushahid Hussain Sayed announced the future plans of the SSC on Defence and Defence production, including the review of the defence budget, the plan to visit the service Headquarters, a briefing on the report by the Joint Chief of Staff containing the information about the NATO’s reverse movement, a briefing by the DG SPD Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, a visit by the Senatory contingent to the Pakistani peacekeeping forces in Africa, visit by the members of SSC on Defence and Defence Production to the graves of the recipients of Nishan-e-Haider, a visit to Waziristan, monthly briefing to the Defence Reporter’s Forum, the report of the SSC on Defence and Defence Production, Defence policy document: the Strategy Paper by the end of the year. With a resolve to make the Civil-Military relations more harmonious, the meeting came to an end around 1 pm.

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