• Nacta to get central role in counterterror actions, apex committees to be revived
• PTI-led provincial govt held responsible for situation developing in Swat
• Asif says ‘no concrete outcomes’ from negotiations with banned TTP
ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday vowed to respond firmly to resurgent terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and agreed on a plan for revitalising the counterterrorism apparatus.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by ministers, services chiefs, and heads of intelligence agencies, was convened in the backdrop of large-scale protests in Swat against growing insecurity in the scenic valley. It was, therefore, a first acknowledgment of sorts at the highest level of the deteriorating situation.
The NSC’s resolve coincided with defence minister Khawaja Asif’s remarks who, separately, said that recent talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had remained inconclusive and “bore no concrete outcomes”, but added that armed forces were fully capable of containing any threat to national security.
The protests in Swat had been triggered by the killing of a school van driver in Mingora on Monday. The incident coincided with the tenth anniversary of the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
“The [NSC] meeting made it clear that the blood of every citizen of Pakistan is very precious and the law will deal strictly with anyone involved in shedding it,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
The participants of the meeting said that state institutions and people were united for the protection of life and property of citizens; safeguarding geographical integrity of the country; and upholding the rule of law. Attainment of these goals, they asserted, would be “ensured at every cost”.
It may be recalled that the federal cabinet too, at its last meeting, expressed concern over the situation and worried that it could reverse the gains made against militancy through a series of counterterrorism operations.
Prime Minister Sharif, a source said, wanted that a comprehensive plan to be put in place to fix the problem.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was here this week to express solidarity with flood victims, also put her weight behind the protests.
“I add my voice to thousands of people protesting for peace in Swat. Monday’s attack on a school bus full of children is a frightening reminder that our people must not be forced back into lives of fear and terrorism,” she tweeted.
Among the various steps agreed by the NSC for dealing with the situation, the return of the Nawaz Sharif-Gen Raheel Sharif era apex committee was agreed.
“The meeting decided to form the Apex Committee at the central level, which will be chaired by the prime minister,” the PMO said.
The participants decided to give the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) a central role in the new counterterrorism strategy, instead of putting the armed forces in the lead.
Nacta, it was said, will work with the provincial Counter-Terrorism Departments (CTDs).
It was agreed that the counterterrorism infrastructure at the federal and provincial levels would be strengthened and law enforcement agencies would be equipped with modern technology and capacity building of its personnel would be undertaken.
Nacta would also be given a role in the security of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the PMO said.
Member National Assembly Mohsin Dawar, leader of Awami National Party Mian Iftikhar Hussain also participated in the meeting.
The PTI government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, was not represented in the meeting.
Khawaja Asif, who belongs to the PML-N, vowed that PTI governments in Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan would soon be removed as the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance was already working on it.
Asif assails PTI
Also on Friday, while addressing the Arab News Pakistan Annual Conference 2022, Khawaja Asif blamed the PTI-led KP government for re-emergence of terrorists.
“It is very heartening to see public coming to streets on their own for their rights. I feel confident that the situation [in Swat] will be controlled. However, the recent revival of few terrorists is an expected spillover from Afghanistan,” he said.
“The situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is under control and would be tackled amicably in case of any untoward situation.”
He asked the KP government to take cognisance of the situation, adding that federal government would support it in any case.
“We will remove [these governments the way] as we ousted PTI’s government in the Centre,” he disclosed.
The minister in response to a question said the change of command in the armed forces was a matter of sanctity, which should be kept sacred.
KP ‘explanation’ for militants’ presence
On the other hand, a senior official from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, in an informal discussion with reporters on Thursday night, said that not all attacks could be linked to the outlawed TTP, as they had informed the government during the talks that they will claim the responsibility for the attacks they will carry out.
Explaining the role of various branches and splinter groups, he said that many such groups operating in the region were hostile to the TTP, adding that the recent attack on a school van in Swat did not appear to be the work of the banned organisation.
On militants’ infiltration in Matta tehsil, he said a militant commander had apparently come home to inquire about the health of his ailing sister, but since police officers were unaware of contacts between the government and militants, it resulted in a mishap.
Manzoor Ali in Peshawar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2022