Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has put the country’s top security czar back in the saddle to lead the 20-point national counterterrorism strategy and ensure its implementation.
The ‘dismal’ progress of several components of the National Action Plan (NAP) prompted the prime minister to consult with his close advisers, following which he decided to task Minister for Interior Affairs Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan with the crucial job, sources in the Interior Ministry and the PM Office said.
In the wake of severe criticism by the military and opposition parties over the government’s performance, Nisar has emerged as the only minister to defend the Nawaz administration. The security czar also presented his ministry’s progress report in the lower house of parliament during its current session and responded to many tricky questions that proved to be a face-saving move for the government.
Nisar was distanced from the NAP for three to four months. “But now he is back in control,” said an official, referring to the development that Prime Minister Nawaz has also curtailed the powers of the religious affairs and finance ministries, the Economic Affairs Division and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) as far as NAP’s implementation is concerned.
The Interior Ministry has started a fresh exercise to review all 20 points of the counterterrorism strategy. Nisar has already announced that he would soon fill in the parliament on their progress point-by-point. The Religious Affairs Ministry was previously tasked with coordinating with seminaries on registration, curriculum and other related issues. However, the job has now been reassigned to the Interior Ministry. A top official in the Interior Ministry said that the Religious Affairs Ministry had been unable to make any progress on its task.
Nisar has also been empowered to block all channels that fund terrorism in the country. He has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other relevant departments to start probing everyone detained in connection with terrorism to find out their sources of income.
Previously, the Ministry of Finance was tasked with the responsibility. The ministry was unable to understand the facet of terror funding because the issue is subject to the FIA’s investigations, said an official while sharing the details of a recent huddle chaired by the premier. “Only hundi and hawala cases cannot be listed as terror financing.”
Meanwhile, Safron Minister Lieutenant General (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch has sought the Interior Ministry’s guidance to deal with reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Afghan refugees and other matters. Moreover, Interior Ministry, which is already overseeing the process of registration of international non-governmental organisations, has recently extended the deadline by a month for those groups that have yet to register with the Interior Ministry.