In the context of a contentious debate in political circles over the conduct of elections in Punjab in mid-May, the top civil and military leadership reaffirmed their commitment to thwarting terror threats and vowed to re-launch the National Action Plan (NAP) within 15 days to crush militants reportedly coming in from Afghanistan.
Without directly blaming the previous PTI government for the resurgence of terrorism in tribal districts along the Afghan border, they agreed to launch new multi-pronged and comprehensive operations, as well as joint diplomatic, security, economic, and social efforts to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
A committee constituted for the purpose would give its suggestions to implement the policy and define its parameters within two weeks.
The decisions were decided during a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The meeting was attended by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmad Baber, Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, four provincial chief ministers, and federal cabinet members.
The NSC’s decision to begin a large operation two days after the government officials refused to obey the court judgment regarding the May 14 polls may significantly reduce the odds of elections in Punjab.
Against this backdrop, PTI Chairman Imran Khan stated in response to the NSC meeting that the administration wished to pit the country’s armed forces against the nation rather than the judiciary.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of Information, told Dawn that the staging of elections in Punjab was not on the agenda of the NSC meeting, which is why the matter was not discussed in the huddle of civil and military authorities. She did, however, confirm that a new NAP-style campaign against militancy would begin within the next 15 days.
Previously, the country experienced the implementation of two similar schemes, the first during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s government in 2002 and the second during the previous PML-N regime in 2014.
“NSC approved a multi-pronged comprehensive operation with the support of the government and the nation to eradicate the menace of terrorism from the country with a new resolve, determination, and valor,” according to an official press release published by the PM Office.
“The committee declared that the recent wave of terrorism was the result of a soft corner and the absence of a well-thought-out policy against the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which was declared a terrorist organisation but, contrary to public expectations and wishes, terrorists were allowed to return without any hindrance under the previous policy.” “Dangerous TTP terrorists were released from jails in the name of rebuilding trust,” it said.
“It was noted that the return of dangerous terrorists from Afghanistan, as well as the support of various terrorist organisations to them, harmed peace and stability, which was the result of innumerable sacrifices and continuous efforts,” the official notification read.
It was the 41st meeting of the security committee, which follows the one convened following the devastating terrorist attack on the Peshawar Police Lines on January 2, 2023.
While emphasising comprehensive national security, it was claimed that “people relief” was of primary importance. The government was informed at the forum that steps were being taken in this regard. The summit also praised the security forces sacrifices and efforts to ensure the nation’s enduring peace.
The NSC reaffirmed its determination to continue operations till terrorism is eradicated from Pakistan.
The committee also strongly condemned the growing hatred and division in society, as well as attempts to spread foreign-sponsored poisonous propaganda on social media against state institutions and their leaders in order to achieve hidden goals, claiming that such efforts were threatening national security.
While expressing resolve to foil the adversaries’ vile schemes, the NSC stated that every effort would be taken to sustain the peace that had been earned by the supreme sacrifices and constant efforts of the martyrs.
In its January meeting, the NSC reiterated its commitment to “zero tolerance” for terrorism.