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> Study Visit of Pakistan Parliamentary Defence Committee to United Kingdom concludes
   Study Tour of Pakistan Parliamentary Defence Committee to the UK
 
UK Study Visit
May 03, 2009
Islamabad

   

The Study Visit to United Kingdom for the key members and staff of the Parliamentary Defence Committee of Pakistan was organised by PILDAT (www.pildat.org) to provide an opportunity to key members of Pakistanís Parliament to interact with the Defence Committee of the House of Commons, UK and learn about the ways and means through which House of Commons engages in parliamentary oversight of the security sector in UK.

 
 

Senior members from the Defence Committees of the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan were part of the delegation. The Study Visit was lead by Honouarble Mr. Faisal Karim Kundi, MNA, Deputy Speaker National Assembly (NA-24 D.I.Khan, NWFP, PPPP) and included Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, MNA; Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence (NA-213 Nawabshah-I, Sindh, PPPP); Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, MNA, Member National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence (NA-17 Abbottabad-I, NWFP, PML-N); Senator Prof. Khurshid Ahmad, Member Senate Standing Committee on Defence & Defence Production, (North West Frontier Province, MMA); Mr. Iftikharullah Babar, Additional Secretary, Senate of Pakistan, Secretary Senate Standing Committee on Defence & Defence Production; Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director of PILDAT.

 
 

As part of the overall visit, the Pakistani delegation met and interacted with the House of Commons Defence Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee Ė the two key committees which were the real target of the study visit. In addition to these key interactions, the delegation met with the UK Minister of State for Armed Forces Rt. Hon. Bob Ainsworth, MP in the UK Ministry of Defence and had a candid exchange of views on issues ranged from UKís involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistanís security concerns and issues, racial profiling of Pakistanis and the relationship of the Ministry with that of the Defence Committee. The delegation interacted with a host of UK Parliamentarians in addition to meeting members of the Defence and Intelligence Committees that included Mr. Edward Davey, MP, Lord Lee of Trafford, DL FCA, Baroness Hooper, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Mr. Mohammad Sarwar, MP among others. The Pakistan delegation also witnessed the Question Hour of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the House of Commons following which he also made a statement on UK Governmentís Afghanistan and Pakistan Policy on April 29, 2009.

 
 

Introduction to the Parliamentary Committee System
The Study Visit began with an introduction of the Parliamentary Committee System in UK by Mr. Dorian Gerhold, Principal Clerk of Select Committees, House of Commons and Ms. Jacqy Sharpe, Clerk of the Table Office, House of Commons. The delegation was briefed about the role, remit and powers of the Committees in House of Commons.

 
 

Briefing on the Foreign Affairs Committee
Dr. Robin James, Clerk of the Foreign Affairs Committee, briefed the Pakistani delegation about the role, remit and recent areas of focus of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Foreign Affairs Committee, which was at the moment, visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan, was carrying out a review of UKís involvement in the region.

 
 

Bi-lateral Defence Relations Ė UK & Pakistan
In a meeting with Rt. Hon. Bob Ainsworth, MP Minister of State for the Armed Forces, UK, the delegation had a candid exchange of views on issues ranged from UKís involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistanís security concerns and issues, racial profiling of Pakistanis and the relationship of the Ministry with that of the Defence Committee. Mr. Ainsworth shared details of UKís defence cooperation with Pakistan. A discussion on the presence of UK as part of coalition forces in Afghanistan and how it was perceived inside Pakistan also took place.

 
 

Briefing on the Work, Remit and the Conduct of Hearings of the House of Commons Defence Committee
Mr. Mike Hennessy, the Clerk of the Defence Committee, met and interacted with the Pakistan delegation ahead of the delegationís interaction with the Defence Committee to brief on the role and powers of the Defence Committee.

 
 

Hearing of the Defence Committee
The delegation also attended a hearing of the Defence Committee on the topic of ĎReadiness and recuperation for the Contingent Tasks of Today.í The Secretary of State for Defence, Rt. Hon. John Hutton who was present to give oral evidence to the committee also had a brief chat with the Pakistanís Parliamentary delegation discussing the level of support and cooperation the British Ministry of Defence was providing to the Pakistan Armed Forces.

 
 

Meeting with Chair and Members of the Defence Committee

Following the hearing, the Chairman and Members of the Defence Committee of the House of Commons UK held detailed interactions with the delegation of Pakistanís Parliamentary Defence Committees. Rt. Hon. James Arbuthnot, MP and Chairman of the Commons Defence Committee (Con) met for a detailed discussion and exchange of views and experiences with the Pakistan delegation alongside members of the Defence Committee who included Mr. David Crausby, MP (Lab); Ms. Linda Gilroy, MP (Lab); Mr. Dai Harvard, MP (Lab); Mr. Bernard Jenkin, MP (Con); Mr. Brian Jenkins, MP (Lab); Mrs. Madeline Moon, MP (Lab) and Mr. Richard Younger-Ross, MP (Lib Dem).

The discussion included various strategies adopted by the Defence Committee to oversee defence sector in UK. Interactions were also held on what role could the Pakistani Committees play given the peculiar civil-military relations in Pakistan and the perceived hesitation of the defence sector in submitting to the oversight of elected representatives. The 3 and a half hour long interaction covered various aspects of oversight.

Briefing on the Intelligence and Security Committee

In another one of they key meetings, the delegation of Pakistanís Parliamentary Defence Committees met and held interactions with the Chairman and members of the UK Intelligence & Security Committee here. Dr. Kim Howell, MP and Chairman, including Ms. Dari Taylor, MP, Member, Mr. Ben Chapman, MP and Ms Emma Louise Avery (Clerk of the Committee) met with the Pakistan delegation.

The discussion revolved around the special place and constitution of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which, unlike a Commons Select Committee, is a Special Committee, and examines the policy, administration and expenditure of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The delegation was informed that the committeeís remit includes examination of the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and the Intelligence and Security Secretariat, which includes the Assessments Staff in the Cabinet Office. The Committee also takes evidence from the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which assists the Committee in respect of work within the Committee's remit. The Prime Minister, in consultation with the leaders of the two main opposition parties, appoints the ISC members. The Committee reports directly to the Prime Minister, and through him to Parliament, by the publication of the Committee's reports. The Members are subject to Section 1(b) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 and have access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The Committee takes evidence from Cabinet Ministers and senior officials Ė all of which is used to formulate its reports.

Briefing on UK Parliamentary Procedure including Parliamentary Questions, Prime Ministerís Question Time, Debates and the Role of the Speaker

Mr. Liam Laurence Smyth, Clerk of Bills in the House of Commons, UK briefed the Pakistani delegation about various procedures of Commons and the role of the Speaker and secretariat.

Prime Ministerís Question Time

The Pakistan delegation also witnessed the Question Hour of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the House of Commons following which he also made a statement on UK Governmentís Afghanistan and Pakistan Policy.

Lunch with UK Parliamentarians

The delegation was hosted at a luncheon by Pakistani-Origin Parliamentarians Mr. Mohammad Sarwar, MP and Lord Ahmed of Rotherham.