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ISLAMABAD: National coordinator of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Ihsan Ghani said on Friday that the militant Islamic State (IS) group posed a real threat to Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference here in connection with a three-day event titled “Islamabad International Counter Terrorism Forum” commencing from April 3, he said IS had a significant presence in Afghanistan, which threatened a spillover into Pakistan.

The Nacta chief observed that the situations in the countries around shaped the regional environment and a bad situation in a country affected its neighbours as well. “We cannot isolate ourselves from the situation in Afghanistan.” He, however, said that fencing of the border with Afghanistan would make a difference.

He said intelligence reports suggested that Pakistan was targeted by the terrorists who used the Afghan territory, while there were also reports about the involvement of Afghan refugees in terrorist activities.

Asked why extensions were given to the Afghan refugees to keep on staying in Pakistan, Mr Ghani said the government could not take unilateral decision and had to take other stakeholders on board.

He said the policy of forced evacuation of Afghan refugees in the 1990s did not work, adding that those who were sent across the border in trucks managed to come back again.

He was of the view that a refugee policy should have been framed in 1979. He disclosed that a refugee policy was on the anvil that would help resolve refugees-related issues. The Nacta chief said NGOs and international organisations were also part of the process to frame the policy.

He said that one of the sessions of the upcoming event would also discuss the Afghan war and its implications.

Answering a question, he said under the Nacta Act, the authority had seven main functions to perform — collect and disseminate data and intelligence and coordinate with all stakeholders for formulation of threat assessment, coordinate counterterrorism and extremism strategies, develop action plan against terrorism and extremism, carry out research on topics relevant to terrorism and extremism, liaison with international entities in areas relating to terrorism, review relevant laws and suggest amendments to the government, and appoint committees of experts from government and non-government organisations for deliberations in areas related to terrorism.

“Nacta has not been given operational role and we cannot assume it,” Mr Ghani said, adding that the government would have to amend the Nacta Act if it chose to give operational role to the authority.

He said Pakistan had suffered huge human and financial losses in its war against terrorism, yet its journey from “victim to victor of terrorism” had no parallel in the contemporary world. “This story of sacrifices needs to be shared with the world. This also necessitates a discussion on upcoming challenges and threats not only to Pakistan’s security but also to the regional and global stability.”

The Nacta chief said it was in this background that the international counterterrorism forum was being organised on April 3-5, which would be made a regular annual feature. He said the theme of the conference this year was “Pakistan’s endeavours and achievements in countering extremism and terrorism (Peace)”.

He said the objective of the forum was to bring together leading international and Pakistani experts, scholars, practitioners, think tanks and opinion makers in the area of counterterrorism to deliberate on the current situation and future challenges and response.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2018