• Calls for consensus on ‘sensitive matters’

• Crackdown on sensationalism, fake news on social media to be launched

• PM offers Imran chance to sit together ‘for the sake of future generations’

ISLAMABAD: The country’s top civil and military leadership have forged a consensus that terrorism, economic revival and political stability are interconnected and without political stability and economic progress, there can be no peace.

A meeting of the Central Apex Committee was held on Friday, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The committee — which comprises top civil and military leadership — met against the backdrop of the Feb 17 attack on police headquarters in Karachi and the Jan 30 attack on Peshawar’s Police Lines mosque.

The moot was attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, federal ministers, chief ministers of all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK prime minister and other senior officials.

PM offers Imran chance to sit together ‘for the sake of future generations’

According to a handout issued after the meeting, the participants vowed to safeguard national security as they stressed the need for national harmony on both economic and security matters.

The meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s House, also called for building ‘national consensus’ on critical issues like terrorism as it mulled options for addressing growing instability before it boils over.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Sharif once again extended an olive branch to the PTI to sit together to find solutions to the current crisis.

A source privy to the meeting said that it was also decided to launch a crackdown against those creating undue sensationalism and fear through social media.

Security officials briefed the participants about the overall security situation, progress in the investigation into high-profile attacks and the operations against terrorists.

During the meeting, the attacks in Peshawar and Karachi were reviewed in detail.

The Sindh police chief informed the participants about the attack.

The meeting also decided to issue funds approved in the past for Karachi police and directed that initiatives to build the capacity of the police, CTD and other security agencies should be expedited.

The federal government would extend full cooperation and assistance to the provinces to maintain peace and security, the handout added.

The participants hailed the law enforcement agencies including the army, Rangers, Frontier Corps, Counter Terrorism Department and police for showing exemplary bravery and courage in the face of terrorism and paid tribute to the martyred officers and jawans.

The participants also reviewed the implementation of the National Action Plan and the progress on criminal justice reforms for making investigation, prosecution and punishment more effective, the handout said.

Role of social media

The meeting also took cognisance of the role played by social media, especially during ongoing terrorist attacks.

The participants were briefed that during live operations, critical information was spread through social media which ended up benefiting terrorists and their facilitators.

This imperils the lives of soldiers and security officials participating in the operation.

It was suggested that an SOP should be devised on this issue, taking guidance from regulations regarding the use of cyberspaces at times of terror attacks in other countries.

A consultation should be held with media houses and all relevant stakeholders for devising suitable SOPs to follow during emergencies.

The participants also agreed that in case of an attack, a focal person should be appointed to release facts to the media and public.

The prime minister said Pakistan was facing economic challenges and expressed hope that the situation would improve after matters with the International Monetary Fund were finalised in near future.

He added that the government was compelled to accept strict IMF conditions and the coalition parties “had put their political interests at stake” for the sake of the country.

He said cooperation from friendly countries was no less than Allah’s blessing, but the foremost priority should be to put our own house. “Otherwise, no one would come to help us.”

Olive branch to PTI

While the post-meeting handout emphasised consensus, the prime minister in his opening remarks criticised the PTI for opting out of a key meeting held after the Peshawar attack.

“A political party did not accept the invitation for the meeting,” the PM said, adding that the group “wanted matters to be decided on the roads”.

“It will be beneficial for us if we sense the gravity of the situation so that our next generation will realise that the national leadership, with its collective efforts, took the country out of the crisis,” the PM said.

He urged all political forces to set aside personal likes and dislikes and forge national unity to alleviate poverty and make Pakistan “an economic tiger”.

The prime minister said after the attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014, the national leadership had formulated a National Action Plan.

He said the then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif had also invited all the national leaders.

PM Shehbaz added security agencies were making utmost efforts to ensure the security of citizens.

“We must realise the sensitivity of this situation for the security of our future generations.”

He recalled that Pakistan had sacrificed around 83,000 lives to restore “peace for the world.”

After the apex committee’s meeting, the prime minster and the army chief also held a one-on-one meeting .

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2023

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