By: Asim Nawaz Abbassi/Editor
ISLAMABAD: As the second year of PTI Government concludes today, a significant decline is seen in meetings of the National Security Committee (NSC). This analysis was made by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (PILDAT), an independent, and not-for-profit indigenous think tank focused on political and public policy research and legislative strengthening.
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. 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.
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 second year Trend of NSC Meetings 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.
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.
Set-up in 2013, National Security Committee is the principal decision-making body on National Security matters in Pakistan. 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. National Security Councils around the world do not always have services chiefs as members, including the NSC in neighbouring India.