ISLAMABAD: The National Security Committee will meet on Friday (today) to review counter-terrorism preparedness and chalk out a strategy in the wake of rising terrorist attacks, an official told Dawn.

The decision to convene the meeting of the NSC — the principal decision-making forum on foreign policy and national security — was taken in a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir on Thursday.

The meeting between the two took place a day after the corps commanders’ conference at the General Headquarters where the surge in terrorism incidents dominated the agenda.

An important element of the military’s statement issued after the corps commanders’ conference was that the terrorist threat would be eliminated “as per the aspirations of the people of Pakistan”.

Army to seek ‘political ownership’ of any new operation

This showed that the army, with its readiness to act against terrorist groups, needed political ownership of any new counter-terrorism operation that may be launched.

The coalition government, which has so far shied away from tough decisions, was, meanwhile, finding it difficult to commit to any large-scale kinetic operation amidst economic turmoil and ahead of impending elections next year.

However, it is expected that the military’s advice would ultimately prevail in light of the urgency of the situation.

Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country has worsened, with terrorist groups like the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant Islamic State group, and Gul Bahadur Group executing attacks with near impunity across the country.

Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the TTP.

The incident at the Khyber-Pakh­tunkhwa police’s Counter-Terrorism Dep­art­ment interrogation centre in Bannu and the botched suicide bombing attempt in Islamabad not only set off alarm bells in the power corridors but also left several countries worried about the security of their nationals.

The US, UK, Australia and Saudi Arabia have issued advisories, asking their nationals to restrict movements in Pakistan and avoid non-essential trips.

The other issue the NSC will deliberate upon, according to a source, is the rise in cross-border attacks from Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban have long seen Pakistan as their bridge to the international community, but they aren’t ready to relent on the traditional Afghan position on the nearly 2600-km-long border separating the two countries.

These differences in the status of the border have often led to military skirmishes with loss of lives on both sides.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, at the weekly media briefing on Thursday, talked about the border incidents with Afghanistan.

“We are engaged with Afghan authorities on issues related to security and border management. Afghanistan has given certain assurances and we hope the promises made will be honoured,” she said without telling what assurances had been extended by Taliban authorities.

Meanwhile, on the advisories issued by some of the foreign missions, the spokesperson reassured that Pakistani security agencies were “fully capable of and prepared” to protect their citizens as well as foreign nationals residing here.

“We attach the highest importance to the safety and security of all foreign diplomatic missions in Islamabad, and have assured them of our full support and cooperation,” she maintained, adding those trying to disrupt peace in the country “would be strictly dealt with by our law enforcement authorities”.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2022

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