ISLAMABAD: An early morning suicide attack close to the army’s general headquarters overshadowed the sitting of federal cabinet held later in the day to discuss an internal security policy for the country.
The special meeting was convened on Monday to take up the much talked-about national internal security policy but its approval was deferred because of the suicide attack.
The two back-to-back Taliban attacks on security forces – the first inside the Bannu garrison on Sunday – have raised a new question whether the government should hold with talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or draw a clear line against militants.
“The attack on FC troops in Bannu cantonment, and now the killing of army personnel at a stone’s throw from the GHQ cast heavily during deliberations on the internal security policy at the cabinet meeting,” a participant told Dawn. He said that most of the ministers were of the opinion that the government should adopt a hard line. “Had the two suicide attacks targeting security personnel not taken place, the cabinet would have approved the internal security policy,” a government official said.
At a press conference on Sunday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Information Minister Parvez Rashid would gave a detailed briefing on the new policy, but it did not take place.
Senator Rashid, who is also spokesman for the prime minister, rejected a perception that the government was moving at snail’s pace in formulating the internal security policy which many analysts said was turning out to be political albatross for the ruling PML-N.
“America consumed two years, UK even more than that in coming up with their internal security policies, but we have presented its draft within eight months which our predecessors couldn’t do even in years,” the minister said, adding that a half-baked policy wouldn’t serve any purpose and, therefore, suggestions were sought from cabinet members.
Another government official said that if discussion was any guide it was quite obvious from Monday’s cabinet meeting that the government had made up its mind to take on hardliners within the TTP militarily and the decision would be made part of the internal security policy. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Every second minister who spoke at the meeting contended that TTP’s increasing attacks had pushed the government on the back foot and, therefore, options other than talks should also be kept open.
Most of the ministers suggested to the interior minister that the policy should be categorical in terms of dealing with the TTP. Chaudhry Nisar asked them to give their suggestions in writing so that these could be incorporated in the final draft of the policy.
Since the new policy is aimed at dealing with terrorism in the country, the government is left with no option, but to be specific how it wanted to deal with terrorists, the official said.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar sounded caution regarding expenditures on reforming the internal security set-up which Chaudhry Nisar had put at Rs28 billion in the first year.
Mr Dar, according to the official, said the interior division shouldn’t forget the country’s poor economic health and should only come up with a workable plan.
Centralisation of intelligence gathering by military and civilian intelligence agencies and upgradation of law-enforcement agencies were key features of the policy.
Not in so many words, the mood of the meeting was also clear from the official handout on the meeting. “Pakistan is facing a serious security situation and to address the extraordinary situation, we need to take extraordinary measures,” Prime Minister Sharif said.
Referring to the spike in terror attacks, he said that a number of developments had taken place since an all-party conference held in September and the government was closely watching them. “We would keep political parties informed of these developments and take them into confidence.”