ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the Senate on Wednesday the government had no option but to extend the period of stay of Afghan refugees in the country despite having serious reservations over the matter.

Briefing the upper house of parliament on the progress made on the National Action Plan (NAP) in the last six months, the minister said the deadline for the return of Afghan refugees to their country was Thursday (today). But it was not possible for the government to simply “throw out” the three million people.

Chaudhry Nisar said his ministry as well as the provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochis­tan had “serious reservations” over grant of extension to the stay of Afghan refugees, but the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) did not support the idea of sending back the refugees forcibly.

He said the Afghan government had constantly been pressing Islamabad to extend the stay period of the refugees.

Earlier, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani allowed members to put specific questions to the interior minister. The senators not only asked questions, but also criticised the government over its alleged failure to implement NAP fully and properly.

The minister placed before the house a four-page document containing statistics and highlighting achievements of the government in implementing NAP, which had been agreed upon by all major political parties at a conference held soon after the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar last year.

He said the government had been able to dismantle the terrorist networks in the country, but complete elimination of the militants’ facilitators and sympathisers would take time.

“The war is not over yet,” he said, adding: “The situation has not become normal but it is heading towards improvement.”

The minister claimed that “satisfactory progress” had been made on 15, out of 20, points included in NAP. There had been slow progress on five points, one of them regarding the return of Afghan refugees to their country. The other four points, according to the minister, were Fata reforms, revamping the criminal justice system, re-emergence of proscribed organisations with other names and the legislation to deal with cyber crime.

Chaudhry Nisar said the KP governor had initially been tasked to carry out reforms in Fata, but now the prime minister had formed a committee under Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz for the purpose.

He said the cyber crime bill had been pending before the National Assembly for a long time. It should be passed as early as possible.

Praising intelligence agencies for pre-empting several major terrorist attacks through better coordination, the interior minister said the proposed Joint Intelligence Directorate (JID) would start functioning by the end of June.

He informed the house that Rs1.06 billion had been released for the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta). He said the service rules of Nacta had been finalised and the authority would be reinvigorated in the next two months.

The minister refuted claims made by certain senators that some activists of banned outfits had contested the recently-held local government elections in Sindh and Punjab.

The minister admitted that a lot was still needed to be done to restore complete peace in the country, but claimed that improvement had been made in the overall security situation. He attributed the “success in the war on terrorists” to the unity among all political forces.

Chaudhry Nisar tried to dispel the impression that the elected government had no say in security-related issues. Without naming anyone, he said some people were bent upon ridiculing the civilian government in every matter.

“No doubt, the military has its contribution in the war on terror, but please give some credit to the civilian leadership as well,” he said, adding that mere military operations were not a solution to the problem of terrorism.

He said the implementation of NAP was not the sole responsibility of his ministry and that he had only been appointed as NAP coordinator in his individual capacity. He said eight ministries, the army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) and all provincial governments were also responsible for NAP’s implementation.

The minister said NAP was an agenda for the country’s security and no one should do politics over it. “Doing politics on NAP is like playing with the country’s integrity and security,” he declared.

Responding to criticism by certain members, mostly from the PPP, on the issue of Lal Masjid, the minister said he had no “prosecutable evidence” to proceed against Maulana Abdul Aziz. He said the Maulana and his wife had denied all allegations levelled against them.

“Please put your money where your mouth is,” Chaudhry Nisar said, asking opposition members to bring any evidence against Maulana Aziz. He blamed the previous two governments for not taking any action against Lal Masjid cleric despite launching a bloody operation in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2015

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