ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee at PM House on Monday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chairs a meeting of the National Security Committee at PM House on Monday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: The country’s top national security body on Monday conceded that progress on key elements of the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism was still found wanting, and ordered the finalisation of the long-delayed National Security Policy.

“The National Security Committee (NSC) observed that while fair progress had been made in the implementation of the NAP, certain areas such as policy and institutional reform, needed more commitment and attention,” the PM Office said in a statement issued after the meeting of the highest civil-military coordination forum.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was attended by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and senior officials.

The review of the 20-point NAP by the top civil-military body coincided with the third anniversary of the plan, put together by the political leadership through a consensus in the aftermath of the Army Public School tragedy.

Janjua instructed to finalise long-overdue National Security Policy

At the time, NAP came to be seen as the expression of a national resolve to defeat terrorism, but over the past three years, civilian and military leaders have often traded blame for patchy progress on implementation of the agreed-upon strategy.

The military has always believed that it did more than its civilian counterparts to accomplish the goals set out under NAP.

The PM Office statement did not explain the exact extent of inadequacies in NAP implementation, simply stating that “policy and institutional reform” needed greater emphasis. As part of the institutional reforms, the National Counter Terrorism Autho­rity (Nacta) was to be made effective, a joint intelligence directorate was to be set up, and a coordination mechanism for the implementation of measures was to be made functional.

However, not much progress was made on any of these institutional mechanisms. Similarly, madressah reforms remain a pipe dream, while Fata reforms are being held up due to political expediency.

On the policy side, the government is yet to come up with a policy on countering extremism and has not yet shaped a much-touted counter-narrative in this regard.

NSA Janjua was given the responsibility of monitoring NAP progress in Aug 2016.

Another admission of failure came in the shape of directions for the national security adviser to finalise the National Security Policy, which has been in the works for years. “The National Security Commit­tee tasked the national security adviser to finalise the National Security Policy at the earliest after taking all stakeholders on board,” the PM Office statement said.

A draft of the policy has already been prepared, but officials at the National Security Division are said to have been sitting on it for nearly two years now. Little is known about what has so far been done to overcome the shortcomings in the prepared draft.

These questions, as always, are accentuated after terrorist attacks, such as the one targeting a Methodist church in Quetta on Sunday. The NSC condemned the attack, saying it was against “the fundamental tenets of peace and tolerance taught by Islam”.

The NSC was also briefed about the emerging situation in the Middle East, especially in the wake of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The committee said Trump’s unilateral decisions would not be accepted by Pakistan.

The committee decided that Pakistan would “continue to impress upon the US its moral and political responsibility towards a just and fair resolution of the issue, and the need to revoke the steps taken”.

On GCC-Iran ties, it was decided that efforts for unity among Muslim states would be intensified.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2017

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