Nisar keen to make counter-terror body functional

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ISLAMABAD, June 19: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has initiated in-house brainstorming to make the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) an effective body of his ministry, a government official privy to the development told DNA.
A fully operational Nacta will be the cornerstone of the new national security plan, the contours of which will be shared with members of the parliament in the coming days, according to the minister.

The official said the focus of the reformed Nacta would be effective intelligence-sharing between civil and military agencies to prevent terrorist attacks.

Following the recent terrorist attacks in Quetta, Chaudhry Nisar hit out at intelligence agencies for their lack of coordination, which he believed had been the main reason for their failure.

The minister called for wholesale reforms in the working of the agencies, particularly, whose responsibilities were to protect civilian population from terrorists.

When asked, the official agreed that it would be a challenging task for the new interior minister because similar efforts made in the past had failed to bring about any worthwhile result.

The official said at the moment coordination between the civilian Intelligence Bureau (IB) and army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was virtually non-existent, which needed to be taken care of at the level of Nacta.

He said the IB had also serious logistics and equipment issues vis-à-vis the ISI, which had a far better trained manpower. These are the grey areas which have to be addressed by the new government and not let them unattended as did its predecessors.

The PPP government had set up Nacta through an executive order in 2009, but it remained ineffective under former interior minister Rehman Malik.

In December last year, the previous cabinet approved a bill to give the authority a constitutional cover. The National Assembly passed the bill on March 8.

The bill was transmitted to the Senate on March 11, but it could not be voted upon within 90 days or before June 11. Therefore, the PML-N government will have to initiate it afresh.

According to the bill, the authority was to function through a board of governors presided over by the prime minister and assisted by an executive committee headed by the interior minister with a national coordinator and a deputy to execute the board’s policies and plans and government instructions.

The issue of coordination was also addressed in the bill. “The authority will play a pivotal role by coordinating with all law-enforcement agencies in taking effective actions against those who carry out acts of terrorism and extremism, besides preparing comprehensive national counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies,” says the bill’s statement of aims and objectives.

The authority was supposed to receive and coordinate data/information/intelligence, and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments with periodical reviews to be presented to the federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and extremism.

The official said it depended upon the new government whether it would use the old bill or bring a new one, but the minister appeared determined to make Nacta functional as early as possible.