ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has disclosed that there are “serious threats to life” to the country’s 20 politicians, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and the government has already issued “high alerts” to all of them.
Talking to reporters after his maiden visit to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) headquarters on Monday, the minister said all those politicians facing threats had been asked to take steps for their safety.
He said there were four to five politicians, including those belonging to the opposition, who had already survived attacks in recent years.
“These politicians have been issued high alerts. They (the politicians), especially Maulana Fazlur Rehman, have been told to protect themselves,” Mr Ahmed said.
Rashid attends briefing on working of Nacta
Praising the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies, the minister claimed that there had been 40 to 50 per cent decline in the killings in terror attacks in the country over the past three years. Providing statistics, he said 584 people were killed in terror incidents in 2018 while the number reduced to 482 in 2019 and 357 in 2020. This year, he said, only two incidents of suicide attacks had been reported.
He said there were major threats to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. However, he said, the country’s armed forces, police and other law enforcement agencies had foiled a number of terrorist attacks and defeated sinister designs of anti-state elements. He said Nacta averted major terror attacks, including the one on the Karachi Stock Exchange, by providing advance information.
Mr Ahmed said he wanted to further improve Nacta’s system and he would try to get more funds released for the Authority to fulfill its financial needs.
He termed the decision of the Pakistan Peoples Party to approach the Election Commission for holding by-elections on different vacant seats of national and provincial assemblies a “positive sign” in politics. He said this showed that there were differences within the opposition ranks. He said there was a possibility that the by-polls would be held on the vacant seats on the dates on which the opposition was planning to make advancement against the government.
He predicted that the Pakistan Democratic Movement would participate in the coming Senate elections as its leadership knew that their absence from the House would enable Prime Minister Imran Khan to make such a legislation, which would close doors of parliament for money launderers and corrupt elements once and for all.
The minister accused the opposition parties of putting lives at risk for personal gains by holding political gatherings amid the second wave of Covid-19.
The pandemic, he said, was becoming dangerous all over the world. He said the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia had even suspended flight operations due to Covid-19.
He criticised Pakistan Muslim League-N supremo Nawaz Sharif for maligning the army and the judiciary.
Mr Ahmed said that Mr Sharif always remained in confrontation with the army and judges. He said Mr Sharif had buried his own politics due to his confrontational posture. He said it would be better for the PDM to show maturity by reviewing its politics of agitation and saving the public from the deadly virus.
A handout issued by the ministry of interior said that Mr Ahmed was briefed on the functioning, organisational structure and mandated role of Nacta as per the law.
The minister was told that Nacta was a fully functional body and was operating as per its legal framework.
“The authority is acting as a pivot for coordination and collaboration among different stakeholders, including civilian and non-civilian intelligence agencies,” it says, adding that Nacta has made contribution in Countering Financing of Terrorism through leading Pakistan’s FATF response on international forum.
“We believe with this intervention, Pakistan will finally come out of the (FATF) grey list,” said one of the Nacta officials during the briefing.
The minister was informed that a bi-annual policy review on the National Action Plan was being circulated among the stakeholders to improve response of the state in countering terrorism and extremism and it had improved the response at provincial and national levels.
The Research and Development Branch of Nacta has been issuing Pakistan Journal of Terrorism Research on bi-annual basis wherein quality research articles are being contributed by national and international scholars on terrorism and extremism.
The Nacta’s Outreach Branch has started activities to engage constructively the youths across the country by initiating a number of intellectual and creative activities, including competitions among youngsters of different age brackets. Quality intelligence assessment on terrorism has been prepared and disseminated to all stakeholders on quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis for improving gaps in kinetic field.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2020