Apex Committee expresses ‘unflinching resolve’ to protect people of Pakistan

Published February 3, 2023
A meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar on Friday. — PMO
A meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar on Friday. — PMO

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday that the Apex Committee, which met in Peshawar earlier today, had expressed “unflinching resolve to protect the people of Pakistan at any cost”.

“Those who attack innocent citizens will be brought to justice. We will not allow anti-terror gains to be reversed,” the premier said.

The meeting was convened in Peshawar in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in the city’s Police Lines Area that claimed the lives of 101 people, mostly policemen.

Pakistan has been hit by a wave of terrorism, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but also in Balochistan and the Punjab town of Mianwali, which borders KP. A terror attack also reached as far as the peripheries of Islamabad.

January was the deadliest month since 2018, in which 134 people lost their lives — a 139 per cent spike — and 254 received injuries in at least 44 militant attacks across the country.

Taking to Twitter after the meeting concluded, the premier said, “The meeting reviewed the security landscape and agreed to adopt a uniform policy between the federation and provinces.

“It considered proposals for revision of the National Action Plan (NAP) and approved a slew of measures to improve investigation, forensic and working of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD),” he said.

“Media, religious scholars and political leaders have a fundamental role in creating national consensus against terrorism. The state will adopt [a] zero tolerance policy against terrorism,” PM Shehbaz said, adding that the meeting also agreed to establish an implementation mechanism for the decisions taken.

Committee agrees on adopting uniform strategy

Friday’s meeting was attended by the prime minister, Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, federal ministers, political, military and religious leaders and the police chiefs of all the provinces. Representatives of state institutions also briefed the meeting on the overall security situation and operations against terrorists.

A press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office at the conclusion of the meeting said that the participants reviewed recent terrorist incidents, particularly the Peshawar blast, in detail.

The committee agreed that the federal and provincial governments would adopt a uniform strategy to eliminate terrorism and ordered an effective strategy to be prepared in this regard.

“The meeting also agreed to eliminate all sources of support for terrorists within the country and directed effective screening in this regard. The meeting also decided that zero-tolerance for all types and forms of terrorism would be the national motto. National consensus will ensure the implementation of these decisions,” the press release said.

The handout said that the meeting decided to immediately construct a CTD headquarters in KP, in addition to a modern forensic laboratory. Furthermore, the statement said a Safe City Project would also be launched in the province.

On border management control and immigration system, the meeting considered the steps to be taken against terrorists regarding their investigation, prosecution and punishment.

“It was agreed that all the organs of the state must work in perfect harmony, cooperation for the eradication of terrorism. Legislation will be made as per the need in this regard,” the statement said.

The meeting also reviewed the implementation of the National Action Plan and suggestions for improving it in light of the current situation.

Additionally, the huddle gave “in-principle approval” to proposals regarding the upgradation, training and provision of arms, technology and other necessary equipment to the National Counter-Terrorism Authority, CTD and police.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General (IG) Moazzam Jah Ansari briefed the meeting on the investigation and progress of the Peshawar suicide attack. He informed the participants that the method of the attacker’s arrival and the route by which he came were identified through video footage.

The participants assured the nation that the terrorists who shed the blood of Pakistanis would be “made a lesson [and] those who attack innocent Pakistanis will be punished in any case”.

The moot demonstrated a firm commitment to ensure the safety of life and property of the nation “at any cost”, the press release said, adding that the nation’s “hopes and trust will be fulfilled”.

The Apex Committee also paid tribute to law enforcement agencies and martyred security personnel for “showing unprecedented bravery and bravery against terrorism” and reiterated the resolve that their sacrifices would not be in vain.

The meeting appealed to all segments of society, particularly the media, to refrain from spreading baseless speculation and exhibit national responsibility towards treating terrorist incidents.

It also urged the scholarly and religious community to use their relevant forums to put an end to terrorism and raise public awareness about the impermissibility of such acts.

PM calls for national unity to become ‘one wall’ against terrorism

Earlier in the day, PM Shehbaz called for national unity against terrorism “or else history will not forgive us” as he addressed the Apex Committee meeting.

As he began his speech, he called for unity across the political spectrum and expressed frustration at the criticism levelled against the federal government from opposition parties in the wake of terrorism.

“Over 80 people who were praying at the mosque were subjected to martyrdom barbarically,” he said. “We are here to express sympathies with their families and this is the purpose of the meeting.

“This [act of] terrorism managed to breach the security check post and reach the mosque. We should not feel hesitant in admitting the facts.”

He said it was being asked how terrorism — which had been eradicated a few years ago — let this happen. However, he hit back at the “conspiracy theories” that spread in the wake of the attack.

“In the wake of this incident, undue criticism was seen on social media. This is certainly condemnable. The occurrence of the incident due to security lapses will be probed. But saying this was a drone attack and similar related accusations were uncalled for in this tragic time.”

He said he was certain that the entire Pakistani nation was thinking about how the menace would be tackled in future. “What measures will be taken to stop this terror wave? It is the need of the hour that provinces and the Centre along with the leaderships of political parties take ownership and shun their differences, be they political or related to any religious reasons.

“We should unite and tackle this.”

He said this was the “moment which makes or breaks a nation”. He vowed the country would “collectively” overcome this challenge. “All resources will be mobilised. This meeting reaffirms our aim to sit together until this menace is eradicated.”

The prime minister said in the past years, operations Zarb-i-Azb and Raddul Fasaad “broke the back of terrorism” and sacrifices were rendered in its wake. “Our friends and foes give testimony to this,” he added.

“Eradicating terrorism which had spread across four provinces was not easy. Many people lost their lives confronting terror. Our police and armed forces gave huge sacrifices. Our citizens were on the frontline.”

He said history would always remember the martyrs and their sacrifices. “And such sacrifices cannot be forgotten.”

However, he called for avoiding “criticism for the sake of criticism”. “We have to talk about [taking] responsibility.”

He said following terrorist acts in Bannu, Nowshera and Peshawar, the Centre was at the receiving end of criticism for “not supporting us” and “there is a dearth of resources”.

PM Shehbaz said: “I want to tell you that Rs417 billion were given [to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2010] and I want to give credit to the then federal government of the PPP and leadership of the four provinces that they achieved the NFC award.”

He said Rs417bn were given to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in these 13 years “but where did this money go”.

“We had formed CTD [in Punjab] for Rs2.5bn and similar forces should have been formed here. We built Safe City for Rs14bn. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had Rs417bn, they should have built safe city centres and satellite forensic labs. Nobody would have questioned them.”

He vowed that despite the economic challenges to the country, his government was with the province. “The terms that we have to meet with the IMF are beyond imagination. Despite all these problems, the Centre is with you. We will strengthen CTD to the best of our abilities; we are here to serve you.”

He again returned to questioning how the Rs417bn was spent and said if “one-fourth of the amount was spent on the purpose (counter-terrorism) then people would be sleeping soundly”.

He said: “If only this would have happened, but it did not. We now have to move. Terrorists have no religion, they attack humanity. And there could nothing worse than this.”

He again called for unity. “We have to avoid differences and become one wall [against terrorism]. The political leadership has to take ownership. All constitutional institutions have to unite people and if we don’t do this, our purpose won’t be fulfilled.”

He said he also invited religious leaders yesterday for the meeting and the All Parties Conference (APC) on Feb 7. “I asked all of them despite differences — if there are any. If we do not act now, history will not forgive us.”

“Those who spread cruelty inside Pakistan; you are taking steps to settle them [here], but to improve the country’s fate, you are not ready to shake hands with your own people. But these double standards will not work.”

Without naming the PTI, the prime minister lamented that militants were “brought here to be settled” but they were not willing to work together for the country’s future.

“According to my information, terrorists have not occupied any area. They do not have an inch in their control. They roam about here and there. But there is no place in their possession. If this is the instance, this is welcoming. But who brought them here? This is the question that the nation is looking for the answer to.”

Compensation for Peshawar attack victims

Meanwhile, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported that the prime minister announced a compensation amount of Rs2 million for the martyrs of the Peshawar blast and an amount of Rs0.5m for the injured.

In a separate report, the state broadcaster said Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had also announced a compensation package of Rs1m for the martyrs and Rs0.5m for the injured.

PTI slams PM’s remarks, says ‘govt must show some seriousness’

PTI leader and former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser “condemned” the remarks of the prime minister for allegedly “trying to prove Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police incompetent” and asked the government to “show some seriousness” before seeking cooperation from all stakeholders.

In a video message posted on his official Twitter account, Qaiser said the party’s government in the province had contained terrorism “to a greater extent”, adding the strategy employed by the former provincial administration had succeeded.

He said the KP leadership of the party had repeatedly been warning of an impending wave of terrorism “however, instead of devising an effective policy a situation is being created to clamp down on opponents”.

Qaiser claimed that the funds meant for KP had been withheld by the government. “Rs230 billion are to be given to the province.”

“We are ready for national unity but the government must review its approach and show some seriousness. We are willing for all kinds of sacrifices, however, the government’s seriousness is a prerequisite for it,” the PTI leader added.

Earlier in another video message, Qaiser said the PTI could not have come to the meeting today as the PDM was “carrying out a complete crackdown and political vendettas” against the party.

He said: “Secondly, as a party, we could not have come as according to the party, the PDM is conducting a whole crackdown and political vendettas against the party.”

However, he added that after receiving the invitation last night through former speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khursheed and Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan were told to attend the meeting and represent the PTI.

“So, the PTI government officials — GB chief minister and that of Kashmir — were told to attend the meeting as they were the apex party members and we said that they will represent us.”

The PTI leader remarked that it was “quite late and after 11pm [when] no one was available” but Imran had been contacted on the matter.

He went on to assert that the government’s “responsibility is to create an environment [of unity] and currently, we need national unity. We definitely believe in national unity and are proud of our policemen for giving huge sacrifices for the nation”.

Regarding the still-pending response to the premier’s invite to the PTI chief for the all-parties conference to be held next week, Qaiser said: “I want to clarify one thing: the government should first review its behaviour.”

He said the party had not yet “held final consultations” regarding the decision to attend the conference but the party’s spokesperson would respond once Imran and the senior leadership reach a decision.

Earlier, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the prime minister would chair an important meeting of the Apex Committee in Peshawar today.

Television footage showed the prime minister and other stakeholders taking their seats at the Governor House in Peshawar.

The committee, which was formed in 2015 for each province following the Army Public School attack to oversee the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, will meet at the Governor House and comprise all stakeholders, including law enforcement and intelligence officials.

In a tweet, the minister said that the meeting will discuss anti-terrorism measures.

All stakeholders, police, rangers and senior officers of sensitive institutions were participating in the meeting.

Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan reiterated his disapproval of the incumbent government and held it responsible for the spread of terrorism.

He accused the government of “destroying the economy, democracy and the rule of law.”

“And when I look at terrorism being allowed to spread under my nose, I wonder how Shehbaz Sharif can be so shameless!” the ex-PM tweeted.

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