ISLAMABAD, Nov 28: After about three years of foot-dragging, the federal cabinet finally approved on Wednesday the draft of National Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill 2012.
The authority, set up through an executive order during the latter part of 2009, remained ineffective in the absence of mandatory legal cover.
Although the cabinet gave its nod to the bill, some ministers were not happy with the idea of setting up the authority in the presence of a number of other agencies working to curb terrorism.
According to sources, one of the ministers was of the opinion that there was a need for capacity-building of the people already working in intelligence and security agencies, instead of setting up another body. The minister wondered what good the body would bring to the country if the people working on the ground were not adequately equipped.
“On the face of it, this counter-terrorism authority looks like a supra-national entity with no clear mandate,” intoned another minister disapproving the idea of setting up the NACTA.
The minister said there were Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and special units within police to deal with terrorism. And the military establishment has its own wings to counter terrorism. The only need was to improve coordination between these agencies and improve their operational strength, the minister argued.
And there was a minister from Karachi who was of the view that unless the county dealt with the increasing radicalisation of society, these agencies wouldn’t make any difference. “The only way to stop a young mind from becoming a suicide bomber is to educate him, to stop him from falling into the hands of extremists, not by setting up these counter-terrorism organisations.
They would only prove to be an extra burden on an already depleted national kitty,” the sources quoted the minister as saying.
After an in-depth discussion on the NACTA bill, the cabinet decided to take it to parliament for another round of discussion before converting the bill into an act of parliament.
The idea behind setting up the NACTA was to reinforce counter-terrorism efforts in the country. At the time of establishment of the authority, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said it would work as a think-tank and conduct research and propose measures to chalk out a counter-terrorism action plan after consulting all stakeholders.
He said the authority would have an intelligence wing which would operate in collaboration with other agencies to strengthen the intelligence network.
Briefing the media on the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said all available institutions were putting in their efforts to curb terrorism, but there was a need for better coordination among these institutions and the NACTA was intended to address this need.
In reply to a question about the Supreme Court’s directive to the government for recovery of $120 million from Karkay, a Turkish ship-mounted power plant, he said such interventions created problems for the government, but “we have to comply with court’s orders”.
APPRECIATION: It was one of the rare cabinet meetings when the ministers across political parties praised Interior Minister Rehman Malik for his efforts to maintain law and order on Ashura day. Among them were ministers who otherwise never missed a chance to come down hard on him, according to a participant of the meeting.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was all praise for the minister, too.
APPROVAL: The cabinet also approved the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2012. Pursuant to Article 219 of the Constitution as amended under the 18th Amendment, some consequential amendments were required to be made in the representation of the Peoples Act, 1976, and the Senate (Election) Act, 1975, to bring the provisions of the said statutes in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, which the cabinet endorsed on Wednesday.
The cabinet endorsed a draft bill relating to establishment of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre as an autonomous body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Climate Change through an act of parliament.
It also approved the signing of letters of exchange between the Ministry of Defence and Nato.
The cabinet approved holding of negotiations on an agreement for setting up a joint ministerial commission on economic cooperation between Pakistan and Tanzania. It approved the signing of an export credit facility for fertilisers between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and an agreement with Vietnam for cooperation in the field of sports.
An agreement on security cooperation between Pakistan and Iran was also approved.
The cabinet decided to set up Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad.