Thursday May 23, 2024

Apex committee vows to remove 'hurdles' in way of national consensus

High-level huddle also stresses country cannot tolerate "internal instability"

By Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
February 24, 2023

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the National Apex Committee in Islamabad, on February 24, 2023. — PM Office
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the National Apex Committee in Islamabad, on February 24, 2023. — PM Office

ISLAMABAD: As the country has been paying a high price for terrorism, the National Apex Committee has decided to remove all "hurdles" in the way of national consensus as it believes the country cannot tolerate "internal instability".

Participants at the meeting — chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the PM Office in Islamabad Friday to review progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) and decisions taken in the previous huddle — agreed that the eradication of terrorism, economic recovery and stability are interlinked.

The premier also emphasised the need for political stability and suggested formulating a strategy to deal with the current wave of terrorism.

The meeting comes a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum visited Kabul to discuss the rise in militant activities, including attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned group.

Participants, during the high-level huddle, also considered the role of media, especially social media, during terror incidents and operations of security forces.

The statement, released by the PM Office, stated that the media broadcasts such information during operations that might benefit terrorists and their facilitators. In turn, it could have effects on the operations and have a "life-threatening impact" on the soldiers involved in those operations.

"It was suggested that [authorities] should seek guidance from prevalent SOPs and regulations around the world pertaining to cyberspace and terrorism," the statement read.

In line with the suggestion, the relevant authorities will hold consultations with media houses and all stakeholders, the statement said, mentioning that steps will be taken to ensure that in emergencies, rumours and speculations can be avoided.

The statement also mentioned that the SOPs would help security forces conduct their activities without hurdles and ensure that people aren't afraid due to news stories based on speculations or rumours.

"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," it added.

Minister for Law Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar informed members regarding the progress on measures taken to make the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of terrorists more effective.

The meeting revisited the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan, especially the Peshawar Police Lines Mosque attack and Karachi Police Office (KPO) siege on January 30 and February 19, respectively.

“Representatives of intelligence agencies briefed the participants on the overall security situation in the country and the operations against terrorists," the statement mentioned.

During the meeting, Sindh Police Inspector-General (IG) Ghulam Nabi Memon updated participants regarding the probe committee's progress on the KPO attack and informed them about the facts which have emerged so far.

Participants of the meeting also paid tribute to various law enforcement agencies, including Pakistan Army, Rangers, Frontier Corps (FC), counter-terrorism department (CTD), and the police for “showing unprecedented courage and bravery against terrorism across the country”.

Another topic under discussion in the meeting was about the non-availability of pre-approved funds for Karachi Police. Relevant authorities were, therefore, directed to ensure that all obstacles causing delay in completion of projects related to Karachi Police, CTD and security should be removed without delay.

The statement further said: “National security and protection of life and property of people is a basic constitutional duty and everyone must perform these duties with national spirit, sincerity, focus and to the best of their abilities.”

The government also pledged to provide “full support and assistance” to the provinces in fulfilling their responsibilities of peace and order.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, provincial chief ministers, Gilgit Baltistan’s chief executive, prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, federal ministers, all chief secretaries from federation and provinces, inspector-generals of police from Islamabad and all provinces, heads of intelligence agencies and military, as well as the national coordinator of National Counter-Terrorism Authority.

Must prioritise national interests: PM

The meeting also holds importance as the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is holding its "Jail Bharo Tehreek (court arrest movement)" across the country — which also requires the attention of law enforcement agencies.

During the meeting, PM Shehbaz slammed PTI — albeit without mentioning its name — for consistently creating instability in the country during such dire times, saying: "Unfortunately, there is still a segment of society that wants to get things done on the streets.”

He said that PTI — which was in power in KP at the time — had refused to attend a NAP meeting following the attack on the APS, adding that the government also invited all the stakeholders to the apex committee meeting after the Peshawar attack, but a “particular party” did not bother to attend the meeting

“They still want to resolve the matter on the streets that were highly condemnable,” he remarked.

He maintained that though the government was compelled to accept strict International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions, the state of Pakistan was above all. Even the government’s coalition parties also put their political interests at stake for the sake of the country and to improve the economic situation.

He said that cooperation by the friendly countries was no less than Allah’s blessing, but the foremost priority should be to put our own house in order otherwise no one would come up for help.

The premier further said that anyone’s ego cannot be supreme when “it comes to national interests”.