Category Archives: ISLAMABAD

NAP body led by NSA merely administrative

ISLAMABAD: The newly constituted National Action Plan implementation committee is merely an administrative body and both the interior ministry and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) will continue to have an oversight role in the plan’s implementation, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Formation of the new Implementation Committee of the National Action Plan, headed by National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Naseer Khan Janjua, was formally announced on Monday by the Prime Minister’s Office.

In addition, the interior minister said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also formed a committee, so there were “13 committees on [NAP implementation]”.

While he did not specify what the remit of each of those committees was, at least 15 committees were formed to execute NAP when it was first announced.

On Dec 27, 2014, the government announced the composition of these committees, which included ministers, senior government officials and top military officials, such as directors general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Operations.

But committees tasked to deal with matters, such as the persecution of religious minorities, registration of madressahs, sectarianism and media curbs, were kept under civilian control.

Of these, the interior minister was designated as the head of at least 11 committees and was widely regarded as the government’s ‘point man’ on NAP implementation.

Nisar also tells NA agencies have made progress in Quetta blast probe, denies Barrett was ever charged with espionage

In addition, an umbrella committee, headed by the PM himself, was formed to supervise the overall implementation of the plan and included federal ministers for interior, finance, planning, information, defence and Safron, the KP governor and the PM’s adviser on foreign affairs.

Responding to questions from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs Dr Arif Alvi and Dr Shireen Mazari, the interior minister insisted, “[NAP implementation] is a shared responsibility, and we can only reach a decision after everyone sits together.

“Transparent and proper progress on NAP is only possible if the chief ministers attend the monthly high-level security meeting chaired by the PM. There, targets should be set, a consensus should be reached over contentious issues and the committee should be given a month to work on the nitty-gritty of implementation.”

Stressing the need for coordination with the provinces, he recounted that of the 20 points of NAP, nine exclusively dealt with provincial domains, while eight were related to federal ministries, such as religious affairs, finance, Safron, education, IT and information and broadcasting.

Two points are specifically assigned to the interior ministry and two others are shared; responsibility for the Karachi operation is shared with the Sindh government and the task of SIM verification is shared with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), he said.

He said that in order to ensure proper implementation of NAP, “Decisions should be taken at the leadership-level, one month should be devoted to monitoring, and then, at the next month’s meeting, it should be reviewed who is fulfilling their responsibilities and who isn’t.”

“This committee has nothing to do with parliament, I am available to brief parliament whenever needed,” he said in response to Dr Arif Alvi, who asked why there was no parliamentary representation in the newly-constituted committee.

Quetta bombing

The interior minister also praised the role of the agencies while updating the house on the investigation into the heinous attack at the Civil Hospital in Quetta. “We have made a lot of progress, but all of it is down to intelligence input. We have picked up a few people, but it is still too early to say anything.”

Stressing that the matter was a top priority for all security and intelligence agencies, he told the house the provincial government had provided two pieces of evidence: “A photograph and fingerprints”.

“The photo showed a young boy, who [it turned out] had nothing to do with this incident, while the fingerprints belonged to a victim of the bombing who belonged to Pishin district,” the minister said.

He also said there are no solid leads in terms of DNA evidence or biometric and facial recognition.

“We found part of a severed head, but it could not be confirmed whether it belonged to the bomber or someone else. The head is also damaged in such a way that it is virtually unusable from an evidentiary point of view,” he concluded.

Blacklisted US citizen

The minister’s remarks came after PTI’s Dr Mazari, on a point of order, asked about the case of US citizen Matthew Craig Barrett, who had managed to sneak into the country despite being persona non grata.

She demanded to know how Barrett managed to get a Pakistani visa within 48 hours and why a man who had been accused of being a spy in the past was not being charged with anything.

“Not in 48 hours, he was granted a visa in 24 hours, which is an even bigger sin,” was the minister’s measured response.

“There are people who have to wait [a long time] to get their visas, so how was Barrett’s processed so quickly,” he observed, adding that Barrett had not completed the visa form and left blank the question about whether he had been deported in the past.

“The inquiry report I have received up to now indicates that it was the concerned visa officer’s fault.”

However, he vehemently denied the impression that Barrett was a spy or that he was ever accused of espionage. “In 2011, he was found wandering near Fateh Jang and engaged in a scuffle with security officials when he was stopped.”

Saying that he had reviewed case records from 2011, the minister maintained that no maps were recovered from his possession, nor did security agencies pursue charges of espionage.

“His father-in-law, who is a lawyer, argued his case before the Supreme Court and he was deported on the orders of the court,” the minister said.

However, when Golra police produced Barrett before Civil Judge Kashif Qayyum on June 11, 2011, a representative of the Jhang Bahtar police from Fateh Jang district had told the court that the US citizen had been booked by them on May 14.

He was charged under Sections 123 and 186 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deal with ‘Concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war’ and ‘Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions’, respectively.

Arrests have been made in connection with Quetta blast: Nisar

ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Tuesday that suspects had been arrested in connection to the recent acts of terrorism that had taken place in Quetta. 

Speaking at the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar said that some arrests had been made related to the recent Civil Hospital Quetta blast and a few connections had also been identified. Nisar revealed that some fingerprints had been obtained from the scene of the blast however, these belonged to a victim and not the terrorist himself.

Nisar further said that a boy was made out to be a suspect but in reality, he had nothing to do with the attack. He stated that the pictures obtained from the scene of the blast had also not been fruitful in identifying the attacker. Chaudhry Nisar further revealed that the head of the suspect was found but it could not be identified due to the condition it was in and no advancements could be made in the DNA of the suspect as well.

Addressing the Mathew Barret issue, Chaudhry Nisar said that an investigation was being carried out regarding how the American had been issued a visa in 24 hours. Nisar said that Mathew had obtained the visa on account of the negligence of the visa officer.

He further stated that police had arrested Mathew for roaming in a prohibited area. Nisar said that the FIR that was registered against Mathew did not mention anything related to spying.

Talking about the National Action Plan committee, Nisar said that it would ensure implementation on the plan and revealed that it had been decided to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers in the next couple of days.

NA passes bill to provide for ECP members’ salaries

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday passed a bill regarding the salaries, allowances and perks of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members, which were being drawn without legal cover since 2011.

Before the passage of the 18th Amendment in 2010, four sitting judges — one from each province — used to be picked for appointment as members of the ECP.

After the appointment of retired high court judges as ECP members in 2011, there was an understanding among political parties that they should draw salaries equivalent to the high court judges.

But both the previous PPP government and the incumbent PML-N had failed to get the required legislation passed after the passage of the 18th Amendment, which repealed the law that used to govern the salaries of ECP members.

Payments over past five years have been made provisionally

Bypassing the finance ministry, the ECP had asked the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) to provisionally disburse salaries to ECP members and the practice continued until the expiry of their five-year term in June this year.

The salary package of each ECP member comes to around Rs800,000 million, including a salary of Rs527,270, judicial allowances worth Rs207,207 and house rent to the tune of Rs65,000. This means an amount of around Rs192 million had been received by ECP members in absence of any legislation to this effect.

The Members, Election Commis­sion (Salary, Allowances, Perks and Privileges) Bill 2016 was moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad and passed by the house, amidst criticism from the opposition benches.

When the speaker put the bill to a vote, opposition members opposed it with a big “No”. Dr Shireen Mazari of the PTI sought a vote-count, which momentarily panicked the treasury benches, who tried to bring in all ruling party lawmakers present in the galleries. Upon counting, it emerged that 72 members of the treasury benches had voted for the bill. But when the speaker once again asked for a vote, nobody stood up to oppose the law, knowing that the opposition was in no position to defeat the bill.

Dr Mazari was one of those who vociferously opposed the bill, saying that it was a mockery of parliament. “To me the passage of the bill is tantamount to justifying murder,” she said.

PPP parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar said that although passing this law after paying salaries to ECP members was legally anomalous, it was the only way to settle the matter once for all.

A Senate committee had shot down a proposed bill to provide legal cover to salaries of ECP members in April, sending it back to the National Assembly to clarify how and why it had been declared a money bill.

PTI files reference for PM’s disqualification

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday filed a reference against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his disqualification as a member of the National Assembly.

The PTI’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader in the National Assembly, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chief Whip Dr Shireen Mazari and senior leader and MNA Dr Arif Alvi handed over the reference to Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in his office.

Before presenting the reference to the speaker, Mr Qureshi chaired a parliamentary committee meeting of his party to get the reference’s approval.

In a statement released by the media wing of the PTI, the party said the reference was part of the party’s efforts against the background of the Panama Papers leaks involving the prime minister.

Talking to reporters after filing the reference, the PTI leaders said that enough evidence was available whereby the prime minister had allegedly lied both inside and outside the Parliament House about property his sons and daughter owned in London.

Citing Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, they said the prime minister fell under the criterion to be disqualified as a member of the National Assembly.

It may be recalled here that on similar grounds, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had already filed a reference with the speaker against PTI chairman Imran Khan.

Having two references on his table, it will be interesting to see how the speaker deals with both of them.

Under the Constitution, if the speaker doesn’t take action on a reference, after one month it automatically gets transferred to the Election Commission of Pakistan for necessary action.

Army launches operation along Pak-Afghan border in Khyber Agency

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army announced the launch of an operation along the Pak-Afghan border in Rajgal valley on Tuesday.

An Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said the operation was launched “to reinforce troop deployment in Rajgal valley to effectively check and guard against” movement across the porous border in Khyber Agency.

The operation targets “movement on high mountains and all-weather passes in Khyber Agency,” the statement said.

Rajgal valley is located in northern Tirah in Khyber Agency.

Despite heavy military presence on both sides of the border, cross-border movements of militants (in both ways) have been a major area of concern. Investigation into the Bacha Khan University Attack in January established that the mastermind, planners and handlers had used Afghan soil and telecommunication network for executing the deadly strike.

The government has been under persistent pressure from the military to accelerate the steps that were required for an effective execution of its counterterrorism strategy ─ known as the National Action Plan (NAP), a policy agreed by consensus by all political parties after the December 2014 Army Public School tragedy.

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif in a statement released by the ISPR on Friday warned that lack of progress on NAP was affecting the consolidation phase of Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Earlier this month, Pakistan opened a gate at Torkham, one of the busiest crossing points between the two countries and used by 15,000-20,000 people and hundreds of vehicles daily.

Clashes between Pakis­tani and Afghan security forces over the construction of the border gate left four soldiers dead on both sides, including Frontier Corp’s Major Ali Jawad Changezi.

Work on the construction of the gate and allied facilities began in 2014, but Afghan reservations over border regulation kept causing delays.

Further south in Balochistan, Pakistan also completed a 500-kilometre long trench along the porous border to stop the movement of smugglers, militants and other anti-social elements.