April 07; PILDAT welcomes the holding of meeting of the National Security Committee that took place on April 06, 2016 after a gap of almost one year and six months. The earlier meeting of the NSC was held on October 10, 2014.
Given the multiple national security challenges that beset our nation, regular and institutionalized consultation between the elected civil and military leadership at the forum of the NSC is an urgent and consistent need. Countries facing far fewer and lesser serious security challenges have set weekly periodicity of meetings of similar forums. PILDAT has regularly maintained that the NSC should at least meet monthly, if not more frequently.
However, the presser issued by the Prime Minister’s Office stating that the Premier chaired the ‘5th meeting of the National Security Committee of the Cabinet’, raises certain serious questions. Terming the forum a Committee of the Cabinet is misleading, given that Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and the three Services Chiefs are members of the NSC but are not members of the Federal Cabinet. Does the name attributed in the press release reflect a careless approach by the Government or it shows Government’s changed thinking? It is worth noting here that the Federal Government has already changed the nomenclature of the Committee twice already. The forum, which was initially launched and named as Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) in August 2013, was renamed as the National Security Committee on April 11, 2014. It was understood that the name of the forum was changed due to the very reason that membership of the Committee was not based only on Federal Cabinet Members. If this is a case of an oversight by the leadership, it only communicates the lack of seriousness that is associated particularly with regards to this forum, and generally with regards to institutionalization in matters of national security. If it reflects a change in thinking, it is indeed equally problematic and technically flawed to name the forum as a Cabinet Committee.
Needless to say, the NSC is a critical forum of consultation on national security issues. Terming it as ‘the principal decision making body on matters of national security’, as its current status is, encroaches upon the powers of the Federal Cabinet. It is also worth noting that the model of Pakistan’s NSC is an anomaly in terms of its “decision-making” role. PILDAT research shows that all similar bodies working around the World are only consultative in nature and their recommendations are not binding. If Pakistan indeed wishes to give the NSC decision-making powers, whether or not it is recommended, its existence should be backed by a legislation, and not just an executive order, as is the case at the moment.