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ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday held out the assurance that security remained its priority and decided to establish a panel to oversee the execution of the troubled National Action Plan (NAP).

“Restoration of complete peace and tranquillity shall remain the top priority of the government and all the state institutions... It was agreed to establish a high-level task force to monitor the progress of implementation of the National Action Plan,” said a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) at the conclusion of two days of civil-military deliberations on lack of progress in the implementation of NAP.

The new body would include senior officials from the security agencies of both the federal and provincial governments, but its exact composition is yet to be finalised.

Regarding the military’s view that threat to internal security was morphing due to growing nexus between hostile foreign intelligence agencies and local militant groups, the meeting reviewed the subversive actions of external agencies and decided to “scale up the existing efforts to neutralise hostile elements through a coordinated and focused approach.”

Body set up to ensure NAP implementation

NAP, which was initiated in December 2014 after the Army Public School tragedy, has struggled to take off and the government has often been criticised for not going all out for its implementation. It is said that there was no activity on various elements of NAP during the past couple of months.

The NAP review meeting had been planned for weeks, but the Quetta hospital bombing brought renewed focus on the failure of state institutions to reduce the threat posed by the extremist and militant organisations. As the civilian and military leadership sat to finalise the plan to resuscitate NAP, Quetta was again jolted by a roadside bomb targeting a police van escorting a Federal Shariat Court judge, but luckily there were no deaths.

The military has been conducting since Wednesday night combing operations in the suburbs of Quetta, which reportedly have strong presence of extremist religious groups.

Besides lack of governmental focus, the problematic area in the NAP implementation has been the inaction with respect to madressah reforms, banned organisations, terrorism financing, Fata reforms, capacity building of civilian law enforcement agencies and updating of criminal laws.

The meeting, according to a source, held extensive deliberations for two days on each of these neglected areas under NAP.

The prime minister directed that no effort be spared to ensure complete and effective implementation of the plan. He stressed the need to take result-oriented and time-bound action with a view to completely eliminating and eradicating the menace of terrorism from the soil of Pakistan, the PMO said.

Military has been upset that on the one hand civilian agencies have failed to complement its counterterrorism actions that provided relief from terrorism, on the other it gets to face the criticism after security incidents.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan went to great lengths in the National Assembly on Wednesday to negate the impression about intelligence agencies’ failing to deliver.

The same defence of intelligence outfits was also incorporated in the statement on the review meeting, which said: “Intelligence agencies perform a vital role in guaranteeing national security and safeguarding national interest for which they will be provided all necessary resources and support.”

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2016