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Pakistan Today Editorial – 19th December 2015

Ch Nisar on NAP

Is he holding it back?

What Ch Nisar said in the NA was partly claims, partly self-defence and partly promises.

One needs to give Nisar credit for getting rid of some of the dead wood and the black sheep in the interior ministry. It would however be too much to claim that the working of the departments under the ministry is altogether efficient and corruption free. To take just one example, passport mafia is still active in big cities. While the common people have to stand for hours in long queues to complete the procedure of applying for passports, those who can pay the agents who work in collaboration with the office staff can get this done without hassle.

Except for two or three, the rest of the twenty objectives of NAP remain unimplemented after a year. This helps the terrorists to prosper. Punjab was specifically mentioned in NAP as it was the birthplace and a haven for a number of major terrorist outfits. The provincial government which was required to ensure that there was no space left for terrorism in the province failed to do it. While the provinces were required to play an important role in implementation, it was the responsibility of the interior minister to provide guidelines and oversight and ensure full compliance. There is a perception that Ch Nisar, once a strong supporter of talks with Taliban, remained double-minded about the utility of the NAP. Whatever the reason, it goes to Ch Nisar’s discredit that after agreeing to act as the focal person he showed laxity in the performance of the crucial mission assigned to him.

Ch Nisar’s past record creates doubts about the fulfillment of the promises he has made. It is not enough to set up the joint intelligence directorate. What needs to be ensured is that various agencies shed their past reservations about intelligence sharing and work not as rival organisations but as a unified body. The federal government has belatedly released the funds needed for NACTA. It is time to put the centerpiece of the government’s security policy into action.

The Saudi alliance

Now we are in

Of late, the foreign office not only seems forever behind the curve in interpreting crucial international developments, but has also lost the ability to wrap its non-committal positions in proper diplomatic ambiguity. Its attempt, on Thursday, to justify the sudden shift from being surprised at Riyadh’s including Islamabad in its anti-terror alliance to accepting being a willing part of it – and even denying the initial position altogether – is just one such example.

In the same press conference, the FO spokesman said “we maintain close contact with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” then went on to admit that the “extent of our participation in various activities of the alliance” had yet to be worked out. So, is it an alliance in name only? Or do we reserve the right to opt out, after willingly becoming part of it, if there is a clear divergence of interest or policy? And is there even common ground (with the Kingdom) on the definition of terrorism? Will we also, like them, also include certain outfits – like a Lebanese militia presently battling ISIS and AQ – as well as pro-democracy, pro-rights groups, who stage protests, that the al Saud consider terrorists? Or will the FO, then, too put out statements about our “close brotherly ties” and Pakistan’s resolve to eliminate terrorism “anywhere in the world”?

More importantly, why did the government not route this matter through parliament? Now it has only itself to blame for chatter that the last experience – concerning the Yemen War alliance – did not sit well with friends ruling Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The PML-N leadership seems to struggle with the fact that such decisions have long term implications, and come with associated costs. Joining this alliance, for example, will hurt our relations with countries that see it as counter-productive, especially Iran. It could also come in the way of the growing relationship with Russia. Such matters should not be decided in haste. The government must learn to follow proper procedure.

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