The federal cabinet approved a number of measures in its meeting on Wednesday, one of them being the approval of a National Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill, which means that the legislation can now go to Parliament for passage. This was disclosed by Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira the same day, in his post-meeting press briefing. The bill is needed for the Authority, announced by Interior Minister Rehman Malik in 2009, but so far not operationalised precisely for want of this enabling legislation. However, though the cabinet was informed that the new body would perform two main functions: strengthen intelligence coordination and formulate policies to end terrorism, the Authority was criticised in cabinet, with some ministers wondering about the need for yet another anti-terrorism body while existing agencies struggle to deliver satisfactory results. This is apart from the obvious one of what took the government so long, especially why it thought to legislate now, at the fag-end of its tenure, when it had taken office in 2008, close to nine years after 9/11 marked the beginning of the war on terror.

Even if the bill is speeded up, it will only come before Parliament just before the coming elections. The government does not want to go into the elections with evidence showing that much more need to be done to control terrorism and the danger of its spread, after nearly five years of the current government’s rule.

The cabinet also approved legislation to amend the election laws. Mr Kaira said that this had been necessitated by the 18th Amendment. Again, the question is likely to arise about timing: the 18th Amendment was passed in April 2010. To delay legislation on something as important as the election laws beyond 2012 is neglectful, to put it mildly. It must not be forgotten that the election laws, under which the coming general election will be held will be determined by the caretaker government. There should have been more promptitude shown by the government if it wanted its legislation to be given the permanence implied by the passage of a bill through Parliament. The proposed Authority should be reconsidered, and the bill setting it up should only be presented if it is found in accord with verifiable and long term goals and objectives, instead of short-term flattering of a few people desirous of lofty sounded titles and plush offices.