Commendably for him since coming to office Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has regularly been holding meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC), the right forum for the civil and military leadership to sort out any differences on issues of mutual concern and be at the much clichéd ‘same page.’ Friday’s meeting of the committee was particularly important coming as it did following Abbasi’s and Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif’s visits to the US, where the latter, during his public interactions, made some unnecessary comments on domestic matters that did not go down well at home. Friday’s event may have provided the civil and military leadership with an opportunity to present their respective perspectives, and move on together to deal with the challenges at hand.
Pakistan faces a two-front threat it never confronted before. On the one hand, as the committee noted, India continues to commit worst atrocities in Occupied Kashmir and repeated violations of the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, breaching the ceasefire agreement in the current year 873 times that have claimed 40 civilian lives and wounded 148 others. On the other hand, in its new policy towards Afghanistan and South Asia, the US has assigned India a greater role in Afghanistan, which can only further embolden New Delhi to increase subversive activities in this country. That fear is not without a basis considering Indian National Security Adviser’s publicly stated strategy of “offensive defence” which, as per his own explanation, aims at undermining Pakistan’s internal security and economy as well as exploiting its political difficulties, especially in Balochistan, to cause the country maximum pain. It is a challenging situation for the policymaking circles, calling for finding the path forward without making compromises on the key issues of national concern: principled support for the oppressed Kashmiri people and security interests.
Towards that end, the government seems to be moving on the right track. The case of Indian security forces’ gross human rights violations was forcefully projected by the Prime Minister and Ambassador Dr Maliha Lodhi at the recent UN General Assembly session, and by Pakistan’s representative at the Human Rights Council. It must be continually raised at all relevant international forums as well as meetings with world leaders. As regards the situation in the wake of new US policy, the Foreign Minister has been visiting important players in the region with a stake in Afghan peace, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, where he had a sympathetic hearing. Also, the government has wisely decided to stay engaged with the US as well as Kabul government for the resolution of the Afghan conflict. On the domestic front, the need for a course change on dealing with extremist elements too is being emphasized, though bringing it up in hostile foreign settings by Khwaja Asif has been quite unhelpful. It is hoped the PM, unlike his predecessor, will make regular NSC meetings a tradition, leading to a coherent, proactive policy response to changing geo-political realities.