Significant Decline in NSC Meetings in Second Year of PTI Government

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August 17; As the second year of PTI Government concludes today, a significant decline is seen in meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC).

During his second year in office, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan has convened and chaired just one (1) meeting of the NSC. This is a sharp decline of 83% in contrast to his first year in office when he had convened and chaired six (6) meetings of the NSC.

It should also be noted that during his second year in office, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened 46 meetings of the Federal Cabinet compared to his first year in office when he chaired 52 meetings of the Federal Cabinet. Rule 20 of Government of Pakistan Rules of Business calls for a weekly cabinet meeting which translates into about 52 meetings per year.

At the moment, Rules of Business of the NSC do not specify how regularly NSC should meet. It is important that rules are framed that define at least a monthly periodicity of the NSC meetings, if not weekly. Similar forums around the world meet on a weekly basis.

Even though Prime Minister convened only one meeting of the NSC during the year, he held five (5) one-on-one meetings with the Chief of Army Staff and 20 other interactions in which Chief of Army Staff was present. However, Minister of Defence was only part of 3 or 12% of these 25 interactions.

During his first year in office, when Prime Minister Khan convened 6 NSC meetings, he had met and interacted with Chief of Army Staff a total of 41 times and Federal Minister for Defence was present in only 13 or 32% of the 41 meetings held between Prime Minister and Army Chief.

Of the three successive Prime Ministers who have served as chairpersons of the NSC since 2013, the average number of NSC meetings held per year by each is highest in the case of Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at 17 meetings on average per year, followed by Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan who has only held, an average, 3.5 meetings per year. The average number of NSC meetings held per year stands lowest at 2.25 in the case of Mr. Nawaz Sharif under whose tenure the NSC was first formed.

The only meeting of the NSC convened by Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan during the year was held on March 13, 2020, after a lapse of nearly 7 months since the earlier meeting held in August 2019. The meeting was held on the emerging public health threat of coronavirus pandemic and the NSC took the decision to create a National Coordination Committee for COVID-19 (NCC).[1]

Despite the NSC’s decision to create a National Coordination Committee for COVID-19 (NCC) on March 13, later, as announced by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was also established to work as a nucleus for one-window operation to manage coronavirus with Commander Army Air Defence Command as its Chief Coordinator. [2]

When Pakistan began facing the threat of locust, a National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) has also been established by the Pakistan Army under Army’s Engineer in Chief as its Chief Coordinator. [3]

The creation of the NSC in 2013 provided a crucial forum of consultation on national security issues between the civil and the military leadership, which owing to peculiar history of Pakistan, do not always see eye to eye on important national issues. The continued dormancy of the NSC, however means, that there is little, if any, interest in making it an institutionalised forum of consultation between civil and military.

While the number of NSC meetings convened by Prime Minister Imran Khan during year 1 signalled a somewhat positive trend, the second year has shown that Prime Minister has not made any serious effort to activate and effectively use the NSC in institutionalising regular consultation on national security agenda. While Prime Minister Imran Khan regularly convenes federal cabinet meetings, same frequency and focus is absent from activating the NSC.

No Minister was appointed by Prime Minister Khan during the first year of his term to oversee the National Security Division (NSD) that serves as the secretariat of the NSC. However, in September 2019, Prime Minister created a Strategic Policy Planning Cell (SPCC) in the NSD and appointed Dr. Moeed W. Yusuf as its first chairperson for a period of two years. [4] According to the terms of reference (ToRs) of the SPCC, it was set-up to operate as an intellectual hub for evidence-based policy inputs on issues relevant to the NSC. In December 2019, the portfolio of Dr. Yusuf was changed and he was appointed as Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, with the status of Minister of State. [5] Strangely, however, the press release section of the NSD does not show any activities by Dr. Yusuf.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz, former Federal Minister, who was instrumental in designing and forming the first-ever National Security Committee complete with an independent secretariat, also served as the first National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif. While Mr. Aziz envisaged NSC to meet regularly, he has also expressed disappointment that his efforts to hold at least 1 meeting of the NSC every quarter did not succeed.[6] In October 2015, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Nasser Khan Janjua was appointed as National Security Advisor and served under both Prime Ministers Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi until he resigned from this post in June 2018.[7]

Since the formation of the much-needed NSC, the biggest concern surrounding the body has been an almost willful neglect towards its institutionalization in key national issues. While Pakistan has not had any let up on national security concerns since the formation of NSC, its pro-activity as a forum of regular consultation on national security agenda has not improved. In most cases, NSC meetings are not convened for months on end and when called occasionally are mainly in response to some crises and are not on weekly basis as is the practice in most other established democracies.

Set-up in 2013, National Security Committee is the principal decision-making body on National Security matters in Pakistan. [8] It is fashioned after National Security Councils that exist in many other countries around the world but which function as key advisory institutions chaired by elected heads of government and, in almost all cases, meet on a weekly basis. While Pakistan’s National Security Committee includes as members Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and three Services Chiefs alongside key federal ministers, [9] National Security Councils around the world do not always have services chiefs as members, including the NSC in neighbouring India.

References

  1. PMO (2020) Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the National Security Committee meeting, especially called to review the current status of and Pakistan’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Available at: https://pmo.gov.pk/press_release_detailes.php?pr_id=3344 (Accessed 15 August 2020).

  2. DG ISPR (2020) 1 April. https://twitter.com/OfficialDGISPR/status/1245344582029713411 (accessed May 04, 2020)
  3. ISPR (2020) Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, visited National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) Rawalpindi today. Available at: https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=5726 (Accessed 7 July 2020).
  4. Abbasi, K. (2019) Moeed appointed planning cell chief. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1507417 (Accessed 15 August 2020).
  5. Dawn (2019) Dr Moeed Yusuf appointed special assistant to PM on national security. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1524136 (Accessed 15 August 2020).
  6. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob. 12 July. https://twitter.com/ABMPildat/status/1281963154247946248 (Accessed 15 August 2020).
  7. Siddiqui, N. (2018) National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua resigns. Available at: https://www.dawn.com/news/1416424 (Accessed 15 August 2020).
  8. NSD (2020). National Security Division. Available at: http://www.nsd.gov.pk/index.php?page=nationalSecurityDivision (Accessed 15 August 2020).
  9. NSD (2020) National Security Committee. Available at: http://www.nsd.gov.pk/index.php?page=nationalSecurityCommittee (Accessed 15 August 2020).


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