Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Feb 28, 2014

National Security Policy The National Security Policy (NSP) has been born after a ‘full term’ of nine months. On Wednesday, the NSP was presented in the National Assembly by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali. The 100-page document, according to the minister, comprises three parts, one of which is secret since it deals with operational functions, the second deals with strategies to combat terrorism and the third is of a ‘strategic’ nature. Of course we have to take the minister’s word on this since the document has not been released to either the parliamentarians or the public. Again according to Chaudhry Nisar, the only shift discernible in the government’s relying on dialogue alone (at least until recently) is the statement that the government had decided to pay the terrorists back in their own coin by retaliating militarily against any attack from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants from now on. This was hardly news since it has been obvious in recent days that the military has retaliated against terrorist attacks and in particular the gruesome beheading of 23 FC soldiers, by aerial bombing and attacks on terrorist strongholds in FATA, killing, according to the military’s estimates, more than 100 terrorists. Chaudhry Nisar further defined the nature of such retaliatory attacks as resting on the prescription that no matter where a terrorist attack took place anywhere in the country, the terrorists’ headquarters in FATA would be the target, as in recent days. The virtually moribund National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) would be activated as the lead platform for anti-terrorism, the minister told the house, the intelligence network would not only be improved, a joint intelligence directorate would pool data and share intelligence and analysis to provide actionable steps, and a rapid response force laced with helicopters would be raised at the Centre, with similar steps incrementally in the provinces. In addition, an Internal Security Division will be established to strengthen coordination amongst all the civil armed forces of the country. Chaudhry Nisar pleaded for a political consensus to curb the evil of terrorism and objected to the high profile media coverage of the terrorists and their ‘fifth column’ in the media. In reply, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah of the PPP said the minister’s ‘explanations’ of the NSP had only deepened the confusion and failed to clarify whether the government had given up on the dialogue option in favour of an all-out military operation. He reminded the house that all the political parties in the All Parties Conference in September 2013 had backed the government’s dialogue efforts but the government in turn had not taken the house into confidence on the stalling of the talks and the way ahead. He pleaded for an in-camera briefing of the leaders of the political parties. This suggestion was welcomed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was on one of his rare visits to parliament, by saying an in-camera briefing would be arranged, any lacunae left by Chaudhry Nisar’s briefing to the house would be clarified, and the government would welcome any suggestions from the parties that helped fine-tune the NSP. The prime minister commented on democracy as the panacea for all Pakistan’s ills and the guarantee of a brighter future, praising the maturity acquired by the democratic system as compared to about two decades ago. Meanwhile COAS General Raheel Sharif reiterated the military’s ability and commitment to meeting all challenges, internal and external, to the country. He also met the prime minister and briefed him on the recent strikes against the terrorists’ bases. Speculation is now rife in the local media and even in the Washington Post that the decision to take the fight to the terrorists in North Waziristan has been taken and the military given the go-ahead. The corollary to that, if it proves true, will be arrangements to look after the populace that will likely be displaced as a result to ensure they are facilitated and do not succumb to anger against the authorities, which might aid the terrorist recruiting cause. All that can be said at this juncture is that the government so far is only talking ‘containment’ through the declared policy of retaliation against the Taliban’s headquarters for any and every act of terror anywhere in the country. Whether this proves the thin edge of the wedge of an all-out operation remains to be seen. So far, the TTP has rejected the demand for a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire and they or their affiliates are carrying on terrorist attacks here and there. The country therefore seems poised on the cusp of weighty decisions that could make or break the future of Pakistan.

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