Apex Committee affirms elimination of terrorism linked to political stability, economic recovery

Published February 24, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the Central Apex Committee in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the Central Apex Committee in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

The Central Apex Committee (CAC) on Friday affirmed that eliminating terrorism from the country was interlinked with economic recovery and political stability.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office issued today, the meeting was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad and was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, federal ministers, chief ministers, senators, heads of sensitive civil, police and military institutions, chief secretaries and other high-level officials.

The CAC meeting reviewed terrorist incidents in detail, particularly the Peshawar Police Lines blast, the Karachi Police Office attack and the subsequent situation. The press release added that representatives from sensitive institutions briefed the meeting on the KPO attack and the facts that had emerged so far about the situation.

“The meeting agreed that the elimination of terrorism, economic recovery and political stability are interlinked.

“Pakistan cannot afford internal instability. National unity and collective struggle are the need of the hour. In order to achieve these goals, a national consensus should be created and obstacles should be removed,” the press release reads.

The meeting affirmed that national security and protection of the people’s life and property was a basic constitutional duty which had to be performed with “national spirit, sincerity, focus and best ability”.

The CAC paid tribute to law enforcement agencies and officers for “showing unprecedented courage and bravery against terrorism across the country” and also paid accolades to those martyred.

The meeting also deliberated on the issue of the non-availability of funds sanctioned in the past for Karachi’s police and security and directed that “obstacles in the way of completion of all projects related to police, counter-terrorism department and security should be removed without delay.”

“The federation will provide full support and assistance to the provinces in fulfilling the responsibilities of peace and order,” the press release added.

The CAC also reviewed the progress on the National Action Plan’s implementation and the decisions taken in a previous apex committee meeting.

The meeting was also informed about the progress on measures to make stages of investigation, prosecution and punishment effective against terrorists.

The CAC meeting comes as terrorism in Pakistan has been rearing its head again. Over the past few months, the law and order situation in the country — especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan has worsened — with terrorist groups executing attacks with near impunity across the country.

Since the talks with the banned militant group Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) broke down in November, the militant group has intensified its attacks, mainly targeting the police in KP and areas bordering Afghanistan. Insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the outlawed TTP.

Last Friday, the Karachi Police Office was attacked by TTP militants, leaving five people dead and 17 others, mostly law enforcers, wounded. Last month, a powerful suicide blast in a mosque in Peshawar Police Lines killed 84 people and injured many others.

In the apex committee meeting on Feb 3, PM Shehbaz had said it considered proposals for revision of the NAP and approved a slew of measures to improve the investigation, forensics and working of the CTD.

The committee had 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.

Formulation of SOPs for ‘emergency situations’

The press release stated that the CAC also deliberated on the media’s role, particularly social media, during terrorist incidents and operations of security forces.

The meeting was briefed that during the course of security operations, information can be aired on the media which benefits terrorists and their facilitators, impact the operation and endanger the lives of officers.

It was recommended in the meeting that guidance should be taken from regulations and standard operating procedures governing terrorism and cyberspace in other parts of the world so the appropriate procedures can be formulated, in consultation with media houses and relevant stakeholders, so that rumours, misleading information or spreading fear in emergency situations can be prevented so as not to create problems for security operatives.

“The meeting also decided that a focal person should be assigned the responsibility to provide facts to the media and public in an emergency situation,” the press release reads.

Nacta is ‘dormant institution’

Earlier in the day at the meeting’s outset during his address, the prime minister said the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had become a “dormant institution”.

Elaborating on the formation of the National Action Plan, he said the previous PML-N government had invited stakeholders for a “comprehensive discussion” which led to the plan’s formation.

The prime minister said he had similarly invited all stakeholders after the Peshawar Police Lines attack but “despite that, they (PTI) felt it inappropriate to arrive and till today their attempt is to resolve matters in the streets”.

PM Shehbaz said that the group still wanted to take issues to the streets, adding that there was a “full attempt to deteriorate matters which is condemnable, especially when Pakistan is facing economic challenges”.

At the meeting’s outset, the prime minister addressed the KPO attack and paid tribute to the Sindh police, Rangers and army for the “bravery” with which they tackled the situation and prayed for the martyrs.

Gratitude to ‘very friendly nation’

PM Shehbaz also expressed gratitude to a “very friendly nation” for providing assistance to Pakistan even before the finalisation of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to resume a lifeline needed to avert default.

“There is an allied country of Pakistan, we were all thinking that they were waiting for the IMF agreement and then they would play their part but that allied nation a few days ago conveyed to us that ‘we are giving you [this financial help] straight away’, and these things can never be forgotten.

“There are many such sincere contributions of theirs in the past for Pakistan,” he said while addressing an apex committee meeting in Islamabad.

He did not name the country, the extent of the assistance that was provided, or when the said assistance took place.

The prime minister added that the IMF deal would be finalised in a week to 10 days.

The prime minister said that negotiations with the IMF would soon be successful but economic difficulty would still persist in the form of “very stringent” conditions by the Fund.

The government is in a race against time to implement tax measures and reach an agreement with the IMF as the country’s reserves depleted to around $3 billion, which experts believe is enough for only 16 or 17 days of imports. The agreement with the IMF on the completion of the ninth review of a $7bn loan programme would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.2bn but also unlock inflows from friendly countries.

Yesterday, President Arif Alvi signed off on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023, generally known as the mini-budget, bringing into effect tax measures which will raise an additional Rs170bn in the next four and half months to meet the last prior actions agreed upon with the IMF.

A well-placed source had earlier told Dawn that Pakistan and IMF will sign the staff-level agreement on Feb 28. This will be followed, according to the source, by the IMF executive board meeting expected in the first week of March.

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