Speakers at a seminar organised on Saturday under the banner of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) termed the establishment of a cabinet committee on national security as a positive step towards peace and stability in the country and stressed that the committee play the role of an advisory body to formulate a comprehensive national security policy.
The speakers agreed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be the final and decisive authority regarding security matters.
They said that any matter requiring consideration should be openly debated upon in the parliament.
Lauding the prime minister’s decision to include both civilian and military high-ups in the proposed cabinet committee, they said that in the future, all national security stakeholders should be on the same page so that peace could be restored in the country.
Allama Sidiq Azhar briefed the audience about the topic and also provided a historical background of the National Security Council (NSC), saying it was a vital initiative taken by the prime minister as the need for devising a ‘national anti-terrorism policy’ was increasing with the every passing moment.
He said the gap between the political and military leadership in the past had prevented the formulation of such an institution.
Former ambassador and foreign relations expert Khalid Mahmood said a cabinet defence committee was formed during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government but it had cabinet ministers as members and three army heads, including the joint chief of army staff, were only invitees.
He said all formalities and work on the establishment of a secretariat for the proposed cabinet committee was being done rapidly.
He said the immediate responsibility of the committee was to devise a national security policy that would help formulate the country’s foreign policy.
Another speaker, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi emphasisised the need to decide the basic functions of the committee, adding that in the absence of clear direction, the committee would not be able to fulfill the needs for which it was being formulated.
Regarding the legal position of the committee’s formation, he said, “Basically it is a cabinet committee and as all four supreme commanders of the army have been declared its members, the prime minister must pass an executive order or take the matter to the parliament.”
He said that as the committee would have its own secretariat and would require a budget, the matter would ultimately be decided by the parliament.
SAFMA member Imtiaz Alam lauded the prime minister for this initiative and emphasised that the committee play an advisory role only, with the prime minister being the decisive authority, otherwise the committee could turn into a ‘supercabinet’.