02/27/2014, 00.00
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Islamabad draws up national security policy to counter Islamists

by Jibran Khan
For the first time ever, the Cabinet will submit a national security policy to Parliament to stop violence and terrorism. The text will be examined by the two chambers before the signature of the President. The interior minister calls for "suggestions" for an effective policy. The Prime Minister warns the Taliban if the dialogue fails, the army is ready to intervene.

Islamabad ( AsiaNews) - The Pakistani government has tabled a bill in Parliament to put a stop to the violence that for too long has bloodied the country and ensure a lasting peace to the people. Over the last 14 years, four different executives and as many summits have failed to draw up a framework policy to combat violence. With yesterday's presentation of a new National Security Policy, Islamabad seems to have taken the first step in the right direction, even if the process is a lengthy one and the decree must pass the scrutiny of both Houses, before ending up on the desk of the President for ratification. For years Pakistan has been one of the hotbeds of the war on terror.  The Asian nation has recently initiated peace talks with the Taliban, who, however, have not stopped their attacks and suicide bombings.

Presenting the bill, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated that it will strengthen Pakistan against internal threats and those from abroad, particularly terrorism. Meanwhile, the prime minister has formed four different committees that include leading figures of the opposition, military experts, members of intelligence and security. They have the task of working on the draft of the Policy, to enact a text that is as effective as possible.

Addressing the Parliament, minister Ali Khan pointed out that the bill is subject to debate and suggestions, while he was also hoping for a quick approval. The government has concluded its work and approved the text unanimously on February 25. It includes a series of measures (concerning counter-intelligence, intelligence, police and judiciary) designed to "eradicate terrorism" from the country. "We welcome all the stake holders- concluded the minister - to give suggestions, not only criticize but present a solution where they feel fit".

The policy of combating terrorism is divided into three parts: He further explained that the policy is divided in 3 major parts, day to day policies, strategic and operational parts. The first part deals with the day to day operations, which will be kept classified. The strategic part of the policy sets out rules for how to use various options available to the government including dialogue, military operation and use of force and negotiation simultaneously. The third part focuses on identifying threats and responding accordingly.

The main focus of the policy will be to form a structure for a joint communication between the intelligence agencies and the security agencies to strengthen information sharing. Addressing the Parliament Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that "the government has promoted a policy of sincere dialogue" with the Taliban , who "have not discontinued" their activities. He added that if the Islamists fail to respect the ceasefire , the army will respond in an appropriate manner .

With more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and the second largest Muslim country after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are about 20 per cent of the total. There are also small communities of Hindus (1.85 per cent), Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).  Violence against ethnic or religious minorities has been on rise in recent years with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main targets.


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