Leaking of details from army chief's in-camera briefing angers Senate chairman

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani criticised lawmakers for allegedly leaking details of the in-camera briefing by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, saying they had violated the sanctity of the upper house by doing so.

Taking notice of the details from the session being made public, Rabbani said Rule 225 prohibits the publicity of an in-camera session.

“If we keep up with the same attitude, no one will be able to take the house into confidence,” the chairman said, adding that senators should know that in-camera sessions are not spoken about in the public.

For allegedly breaching the privilege of the Senate, Rabbani forwarded the matter to the House Business Advisory Committee.

Rabbani tasked the committee, which will include leaders of the house and opposition in Senate and parliamentary leaders of all political parties, to investigate the matter and devise a strategy for future in-camera sessions to prevent similar situations.

Objecting to the chairman’s remarks, Senator Nauman Wazir of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had held a press conference after the session.

Rabbani responded by saying that the ISPR chief had spoken generally, without revealing details of the briefing.

Senator Saud Majeed of the PML-N said media representatives had surrounded committee members from all sides and they later released news regarding the in-camera session.

The Senate chairman hit back, saying it was the journalists’ job to provide news to the public.

“The oath to not leak the news was taken by members [of the committee], not the media [representatives],” he said.

Rabbani said he could not even think about controlling the media. He said no sanctions could be imposed on the media, but they could be imposed on senators.

Speaking at the in-camera session of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Bajwa had reaffirmed his commitment to democracy and the rule of law and categorically denied the military’s role in destabilising the civilian government, media reported.

The army chief, who originally came to brief the legislators on national security issues, deliberated on a wide range of topics from politics and frayed civil-military ties to counterterrorism operations and foreign policy.

He was accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Military Intelligence Director General Maj Gen Asim Munir. The session continued for nearly four-and-a-half hours.