–NSC meet backs structural reforms, devolution of power for the three federating units
–Concerned ministries directed to work out constitutional, legal and administrative modalities for the merger with KP
–Consensus reached on five-year tax holiday grant to GB
–Top civil-military officials voice concern over India’s LoC violations
ISLAMABAD: The meeting of National Security Committee (NSC) on Saturday endorsed the much-delayed reforms package for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, in addition to the endorsement of autonomy for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as well as Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, backed the demand for autonomy and devolution of power for the three federating units: FATA, AJK and GB. Despite the ruling alliance failing to table the FATA reforms bill in the National Assembly on Friday, the security committee has weighed behind the demand of autonomy.
On Thursday, the federal cabinet had approved moving the 30th Amendment Bill, reiterating the promise made by PM that the government intended to “take reforms to its logical conclusion during the current tenure of assemblies”.
The NSC deliberated the question of the merger of the FATA with the KP. The premier apprised the committee that his consultations on the issue with the leaders of other political parties in the Parliament had reflected a broad consensus on the merger of FATA with KP.
INTRODUCTION OF ADMIN, JUDICIAL STRUCTURE IN FATA:
Weighing all the pros and cons in detail, the committee endorsed that FATA shall be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with the introduction of the administrative and judicial institutional structures and laws of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It directed the concerned ministries to work out the constitutional, legal and administrative modalities for the merger in consultation with all parties in the Parliament. The committee also endorsed the provision of additional well-monitored development funds for the FATA region during the next ten years, with the stipulation that these funds would not be re-appropriated to any other area of the province.
POWER DEVOLUTION IN AJK, GB:
Sartaj Aziz, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan briefed the Committee on the AJK and GB reform proposals. The committee reviewed these proposals from the perspective of their conformity with the aspirations of the people of the AJK and GB.
After detailed deliberations, a consensus was reached on the devolution of greater administrative authority and financial powers to the governments of the AJK and GB.
The committee decided for the retention of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Councils as advisory bodies.
It also evolved consensus for the grant of a five-year tax holiday to Gilgit-Baltistan so as to create adequate incentives for the development of the region and bring it at par with other areas of Pakistan.
Prime Minister PM of AJK Raja Farooq Haider Khan had stirred up a debate related to directives issued by PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on February 15, ordering that the AJK and GB councils be disbanded. The councils were initially designed to act as substitutes to Parliament and the federal government in the absence of a constitutional link with Pakistan.
PAK’S STANCE ON KASHMIR, PALESTINE ENDORSED:
NSC expressed satisfaction on the principled stand taken by Pakistan on Kashmir and Palestine and its articulation at various world forums.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed the committee on the regional and global security situation. The committee resolved that Pakistan would continue to play its role for peace and security in the region and beyond.
According to the initial details, the top civil-military leadership exchanged ideas on several important issues, including the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan as well as India’s aggression on the LoC. The participants of the meeting discussed the prospect of raising Indian violations of the LoC on relevant diplomatic forums.
The members of the meeting were also briefed on the measures being taken by the armed forces in preventing terror financing. The premier was told that Pakistan is fulfilling its responsibility in the light of The Financial Action Taken Force’s (FATF) recommendations. The decision to place Pakistan on the ‘grey list’ will be taken in June while the federal government has been working with the FATF to build an “action plan” to plug the deficiencies identified by the watchdog.
Meanwhile, a compliance report was submitted by the government to the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) — a sub-group within FATF — detailing the steps taken thus far and those that will be taken in the future to bring Pakistan’s financial, regulatory and legal landscape into compliance with the watchdog’s requirements.
On Friday, a meeting was convened at the Foreign Office to review the proposed actions which are to be discussed with APG joint working group in Bangkok next week. This was the last in a series of meetings taking place within the government as officials race to meet the June deadline by when Pakistan will be placed on the FATF grey list.
According to initial reports, the NSC meeting also voiced concerns over the recent White House statement in which the United States (US) said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s statements regarding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks was an inflection point for the country. Pakistan ‘must do more’ against militant groups that threaten regional peace, and attack international forces in Afghanistan, the White House further said.
The NSC officials raised reservations over PM’s deviation from the last statement of NSC where Abbasi came out in support for the ex-PM even though the civil and military leadership had denounced Nawaz’s remark on Mumbai attacks, sources added.
LIBERALISATION OF VISA:
The Ministry of Interior presented details of the measures it had formulated to liberalise the visa regime, in particular for tourists and businesspersons. Reviewing these proposals, the NSC officials instructed the ministry to further refine its proposals and submit them for consideration in its next meeting.
The 23rd NSC meeting, second of this week, was held at the PM House in Islamabad, was attended by the Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Director General of ISI Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar and other senior civil and military officials.
The meeting resumed after a brief adjournment and lasted for five hours, sources informed.
MONDAY’S NSC MEETING:
Before the Saturday’s session, the NSC had last met on Monday to discuss the situation arising out of the controversial remarks of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The NSC meeting had categorically rejected former premier Nawaz Sharif’s recent remarks on the 2008 Mumbai attacks, unanimously terming them “completely false and misleading”.
The military’s media wing had confirmed that Monday’s NSC meeting was “suggested to (the) prime minister to discuss recent misleading media statement regarding Bombay (Mumbai) incident”.