Taking advantage of the newly acquired political space on the matter of terrorism, the federal cabinet has unanimously approved the country’s first national security policy. A brainchild of Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, the exact details of the policy remain unknown. However, there are reports confirming considerable enhancement in the role of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta). Introduced by former Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Nacta has been largely ineffective till now. One of the reasons cited for its inability to become functional is the disagreement over the civilian-military role in the body. Mr Malik wanted a civilian in-charge and was reluctant to appoint a military man to lead Nacta. Does the current interior minister hold similar views regarding civilian oversight? If so, has he successfully conveyed the message to all stakeholders to their satisfaction? Effective implementation of an overarching counter-terrorism policy can only be carried out by a coherent, smooth-functioning and carefully navigated authority.

Despite rampant militancy, successive governments have failed to create a platform for effective intelligence-sharing. All intelligence agencies working under civilian and military command should assist each other to dismantle the growing terrorist network across the country. For this purpose, a joint intelligence directorate will be set-up to boost necessary cooperation.

The cabinet also took the trouble to approve the ongoing surgical strikes targeting militant hideouts in the tribal areas. The government’s demand of unconditional unilateral ceasefire from the TTP was reiterated, and once again linked with the resumption of peace talks. The government must take a clearer stand on the issue if it wishes to steer the nation through difficult times ahead. Currently, it appears one step behind. Jets strike first, and the government approves later. It has been consistently reactionary in its decision-making. Even now, through its almost defensive stance, the ongoing military exercise is being considered entirely retaliatory. That may be politically favourable for the Prime Minister, but it is certainly a compromise on the position a state must operate from.

The government shouldn’t hide behind the doctrine of “self-defence” or its armed forces. By doing so, it appears weak and indecisive despite press releases stressing the opposite. When taking on militant extremists or anyone else challenging its writ, the state is not required to provide elaborate justifications. It simply sends the wrong message. The government has tried its best to appease and accommodate, and still received body bags in return. Therefore, it is now time to adapt an offensive approach. By talking about operation and talks in the same breath for political expedience, it is undermining its own position. The pressure is surely going to mount up in the coming days and only a far more confident and decisive political leadership will be able to sustain it.