ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday paid a rare visit to the head office of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the quest for consensus among all stakeholders on the proposed new national security policy.
At a five-hour marathon briefing, the premier was reportedly informed by the agency’s top brass about all internal and external security challenges faced by the country. The issue of peace talks with the Taliban was also broached.
Prime Minister Nawaz called for increased coordination between intelligence agencies.
Nawaz is the first prime minister to visit the highly-fortified ISI headquarters in recent years. He was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other senior officials.
Although nothing was officially said about the premier’s closed-door briefing, according to a security official ISI Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam provided the security establishment’s input on the new national security policy that the government is planning to unveil at an upcoming all parties conference.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani also attended the briefing, the official told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
“The ISI chief dispassionately and candidly gave the prime minister a briefing on all important matters of national issues,” said the official. “The security establishment informed the government about various aspects of security challenges including prospects of talks with the Taliban.”
According to the official, it was up to the government to take a decision regarding dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. “As of now our operation against militants is still ongoing,” he maintained.
With regards to external challenges, meanwhile, the ISI chief briefed Prime Minister Nawaz on the current regional situation, including efforts to seek a political solution to the Afghan conflict.
In his remarks following his briefing, Premier Nawaz stressed on increasing coordination between intelligence agencies on matters of national importance. According to sources, under the proposed new national security policy the interior ministry will act as a coordinator among the intelligence agencies of the country.
According to sources, the prime minister is scheduled to visit the interior ministry today (Friday) for its input on the national security policy. He is also likely to visit the General Headquarters in this regard ahead of the APC.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior military official said the premier’s visit to the ISI HQ indicates the government’s intention to deal with security challenges on a priority basis.
“This is a positive sign that the civil and military leadership are joining their heads against the backdrop of enormity of the security challenges,” the official maintained while requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
When contacted, PM’s Adviser Sartaj Aziz refused to offer any comment on the high-level briefing. “It was a very sensitive issue and I can’t comment on it,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.