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Cabinet approves national security policy

February 26, 2014

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet approved on Tuesday the much-awaited and talked-about national security policy.

However, on the insistence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan the sitting agreed to formally unveil the policy document in the National Assembly on Wednesday (today) instead of announcing it through the media.

“Since it’s a brainchild of Chaudhry Nisar, he wants a grand opening,” quipped one of his colleagues in the cabinet.

According to a source privy to the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will also grace the National Assembly with one of his rare appearances.

An official handout said: “The cabinet unanimously approved the national security policy. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar will give detailed policy statement on the approved security policy on Feb 26 on the floor of the house.”

The prime minister and Chaudhry Nisar are reported to have instructed the cabinet members and officials of the Prime Minister’s Office not to make any statement on the nitty-gritty of the security policy before its presentation in the National Assembly.

However, titbits of information gleaned from various sources suggest that setting up of a joint intelligence directorate and conversion of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) into a powerful decision-making body are the mainstay of the first-ever national security policy of the country.

Chaudhry Nisar had on many occasions said that a meaningful intelligence sharing between civilian and military agencies would be ensured in the new policy.

The proposed regime envisages a key role for Nacta. The body is to plan and oversee everything which comes under the realm of ‘counter-terrorism’, with top civilian and military leaderships on its list of members.

The policy carries broad guidelines for dealing with increasing extremism and sectarian strife in the country, improvement in anti-terrorism laws and speedy prosecution and conviction of terrorists.

Irfan Siddiqui, special assistant to the prime minister on national affairs and coordinator of the four-member government committee, briefed the cabinet on the events which led to the breakdown of peace talks with the negotiators nominated by the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

In no-nonsense terms, he explained that members of the TTP committee -- Maulana Samiul Haq, Prof Mohammad Ibrahim and Maulana Abdul Aziz -- were completely helpless and had nothing in their hands which could persuade the Taliban leadership to agree on an unconditional ceasefire.

“In so many words, Mr Siddiqui said it would be a futile exercise to hold talks with the TTP through its present committee, even if tomorrow Taliban agree to an unconditional ceasefire,” said another source privy to the meeting.

The cabinet unanimously upheld the government committee’s decision that there would no talks with the TTP unless it renounced violence and announced an unconditional ceasefire.

The meeting was told that the ongoing military action against militants was a first phase and would continue in coming days.

The prime minister told the sitting: “I have given strict instructions to the military leadership to avoid collateral damage, but the state is left with no option other than to react after the militants continued their attacks on security forces and civilians.”

DISPLACEMENT: When the Minister for States and Frontier Regions, retired Lt Gen Ghulam Qadir, informed the meeting that people had started moving out of North Waziristan as a result of air attacks, the prime minister directed him to coordinate with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor and monitor the situation in liaison with the interior ministry. “The internally displaced persons should get best possible assistance from the government,” he ordered.

Akram Durrani and Maulana Ghafoor Haideri, the two JUI-F ministers without portfolios, did not attend the meeting. Referring to the security policy, JUI-F spokesman Jan Mohammad Khan Achakzai told Dawn: “A historic document is being presented, but we have not been taken into confidence.” Likewise, he said, the party was not on board on the issue of talks with Taliban and now military actions.

Since details of the policy will be made public in the National Assembly, the press statement mostly related to economic issues discussed at the cabinet meeting.

According to it, the prime minister said the government was determined to overcome challenges and steer the country out of crises. He said the situation was improving and the economy was showing steady progress. The GDP is showing visible progress and will further improve in the days to come.

“All necessary steps will be taken to restore peace and put Pakistan on the track of progress and prosperity,” he said.

Referring to the economy, the prime minister claimed that the government’s prudent energy policy had produced good results. “Electricity and gas supplies are better than the previous year. This is because of better planning and management of power supply. We are hopeful that the condition will get better in future.”

According to Mr Sharif, foreign investors were showing interest in Pakistan. China has pledged to invest about $50 billion in different projects in five years. Chinese investment of $35 billion will be in the power sector, including solar, wind and hydel projects.

He said projects of national importance, including the Karachi-Lahore motorway, 10 coal-based power plants in Gaddani Power Park and upgradation of Raikot-Haripur section of Karakoram Highway, would be executed with the assistance of the Chinese government.

The prime minister underlined the importance of enhancing national security for safeguarding the life and property of the people and further building the trust of foreign investors in Pakistan.