ISLAMABAD – Heralding a major shift in its tactics to tackle terror, the government on Wednesday unveiled the main features of much-awaited ‘National Security Policy’ in the National Assembly and reiterated its resolve to bring peace in the country at all costs.
Considering it a difficult task to handle the worsening law and order situation in the country, the PML-N-led government urged the political parties to join hands to root out extremism.
The government side, over the reservations of main opposition parties, also assured that there was no confusion in the government policy and all parliamentary leaders will be invited to discuss the way forward.
Sharing the major components of 3-pronged national security, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said this would have three dimensions – secret, strategic and operational.
The first part of the policy (to be kept secret) would be under the executive control and deal with day-to-day affairs with secrecy as required by the situation, he said, adding that the second dimension will purely be strategic – dealing with the planning to proceed and operate. The third part, he said, will be operational – relating to actions.
The interior minister said that since the days of former president Pervez Musharraf, security forces would respond to any terror attack in the area where it had occurred, but under the new policy, the forces will respond by targeting militants in their hideouts.
Nisar further said that National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is being made a premier counter-terrorism authority and a Joint Intelligence Directorate will be set up for effective coordination among intelligence agencies.
The minister also announced to make a ‘Rapid Response Force’ which will work under the police establishment, saying that this will initially be started from the federal capital, with recruitment of 500 personnel. The force will have access to airfields to ensure immediate response.
Assuring clear intentions of the government to eliminate terrorism, he said that an internal security division would be set up for coordination of civil armed forces.
He said that about the security policy the government had two options – either to rule in the same old fashion sans any effort for change or demonstrate commitment to root out extremism. He said the government chose the second path. He said that tactically they had four options in the given situation: First, let things stay as it is and maintain status quo; Second, hold talks; Third, go for operation; and last, to carry forward dialogue and strategic action side by side.
Nisar also went into the details of over half a month long peace talks process and recent terrorism incidents. Sharing information about the FC men’s killing by the Taliban and other such recent incidents, he said the government decided for strategic strikes to go side by side the dialogue with those who desired dialogue. The minister said that precision airstrikes are a result of shift in the policy.
“It was decided by the prime minister that dialogue will be halted to further review the policy,” he said. He assured that it was clear direction from the government to avoid collateral damage. He also urged the political parties to be united to eliminate the extremism in the country. “There is need to be united to deal with this menace as it is not an easy task,” he added. Nisar also regretted that previous government had not focused on national security policy.
Taking the floor, Leader of the House Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made it clear that this policy is not a final document and could be improved with the recommendations of the lawmakers. “It is not the policy of government or any specific political faction but everybody should contribute to it,” he added. Inviting proposals and a healthy discussion in the House, he also urged to stand united to counter the challenges facing the country.
In response to the reservation raised by Leader of Opposition in the NA, he said there is no confusion in the government policy against extremism. “If someone thinks that it needs more clarity then we welcome suggestions,” he added.
Nawaz said they all have rendered sacrifices for democracy and the atmosphere in this House is different from those of the 90s. “It is beauty of democracy that we speak on national issues with clarity of thought… If there will be any need to clear the confusion we will even do that,” he said, and lauded the efforts of interior minister and his team for preparing the policy.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah asked the government to take parliamentary parties’ leaders into confidence about its policy to deal with militancy. “Take us into confidence, I assure you that we won’t make any undue demand, rather we are with you for the sovereignty and integrity of the country,” he said expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s stance.
“There is a need to clear the mist about its policy. Is the government continuing dialogue or has it decided for military operation,” Shah asked. He further said opposition had given mandate to the government for its decision to deal with terrorism issue.
The House with the consensus of the opposition parties decided to discuss at length the 100-page ‘National Security Policy’ in the House from next week. Ch Nisar said that the draft of the policy will be laid soon in the House.
The house, during the question hour, witnessed a heated debate between opposition and treasury benches when Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali shared that there was 100 percent electricity theft in many areas of Sindh including Larkana, Shikarpur and Kankot. PPP lawmakers Aijaz Jhakrani and Imran Zafar Leghari said that it was fault of the government if it was unable to deal the theft cases.
To a question, the minister said work on Tarbela extension project has been initiated which will add 1,420 megawatt of electricity to the national grid within three years. He said that loadshedding is being carried out equally in all the areas.
The House also passed a bill to repeal the federal court act 1973 (the federal court (repeal) bill, 2013). A motion to amend the law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Ordinance 1979 was also laid before the house.