Panamagate takes its toll on security issues

Crucial meetings to review counterterrorism operations yet to take place

Sardar Sikander April 08, 2017
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif works on his official plane as he travels to Karachi to inaugurate the M9 motorway between Hyderabad and Karachi, Pakistan February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

ISLAMABAD: Political pursuits appear to have taken precedence over issues of national importance as is evident from the fact that key initiatives taken in the ongoing counterterrorism drive are awaiting the prime minister’s nod.

The federal government seems to be occupied in dealing mainly with the political challenges amidst uncertainty surrounding the fate of the ruling PML-N’s leadership in the crucial Panamagate case.

As a consequence, important meetings between the government and security establishments to review progress on the ongoing counterterrorism operations are yet to take place, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Rifts in Balochistan coalition govt stir PML-N concern

The last meeting between the civilian and military leadership, with the premier in the chair, was held on March 13.

Since then, related meetings to review progress on the ongoing countrywide Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, National Action Plan (NAP), the resumption of functioning of military courts, population census and related issues have not been held.

Government sources shared with The Express Tribune that one of the main reasons the prime minister and his government were not focussing on key security issues was the PML-N leadership’s overwhelming reliance on political activities -- in a bid to attract public support in current circumstances -- a move widely seen as linked to the Panamagate issue.

Ruling PML-N puts rumour mill to rest

“Not only security issues, but there’re a host of other administrative issues and government-related matters that need the PM’s urgent attention and intervention, only to be kept lingering,” said a well-placed source privy to the related developments.

“It looks like the situation is not likely to get better till the dust surrounding the Panama leaks is settled.”

Another government official, having sound knowledge of security issues, said the PM apparently not paying attention to the security-related matters was also linked to some ‘thorny’ areas involving the relationship between the civilian side and the security brass.

“At a time when the demands to make the controversial story probe public have started echoing—and reports are doing the rounds that the security establishment wants the government to take action against those behind the controversial story—it is deemed suitable to keep a safe distance—the situation is volatile,” the source explained the government’s policy.

A preparatory meeting between government and military officials, which was to be presided over by the PM, was on the cards ahead of the launch of the population census to chalk out broader modalities of the countrywide headcount drive before it was cancelled at the last minute, the insider said.

“Such developments create misunderstandings between power centres. The government may have its own compulsions to adopt a laidback approach on security issues but these kinds of moves often backfire.”

PML-N looks to make inroads into PPP’s powerbase

In August, the PM set up NAP Implementation Committee headed by his National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua and comprising top civilian and military security and government officials.

In October, the meeting decided to set up a central record office for speedy sharing of sensitive information between security agencies about terrorists, militants and criminals in the ‘shortest possible time’.

However, no headway has since been made in this regard despite the fact that the committee has long submitted its recommendations to the PM.

Neither has the committee lately held any meeting, nor the PM received any briefing to discuss related issues and approve the recommendations.

PM’s Adviser Ameer Muqam denied that Sharif was oblivious of security issues.

“The PM gets regular updates on the progress on given issues by the authorities concerned. The issues of national security demand secrecy. It’s not necessary to share each and every detail with the media regarding key security matters due to the reasons of confidentiality. Just because something is not making headlines in the media does not mean it doesn’t exist,” he told The Express Tribune.

Panamagate in focus as judges return to capital

On the controversial story probe, he said, “The issue is under discussion at the appropriate forums. Right now, it’s not for me to offer a public comment.”

Another senior PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, admitted that apparent lack of coordination between the government and security brass could give rise to a communication gap which, he said, could eventually fuel misunderstandings.

“But it’s not something very serious. The situation keeps taking turns and eventually, things will be under control.”


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