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> Defence Committee of the Cabinet remained dormant and under-utilised by the PPPP Government
   
  • 12 meetings in five years, a poor showing
  • Reactive rather than proactive
  • No permanent secretariat as promised by PPP Manifesto
  • Still managed by military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat
  • No Defence and National Security strategy despite the challenges
 

April 07, 2013
Islamabad


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Islamabad; Defence Committee of the Cabinet remained dormant and under-utilised by the PPPP Government. PILDAT in its report on the Performance of Defence Committee of the Cabinet analyses that keeping with its past trend of being reactive rather than proactive, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet met only three times in 2012-2013. A look at the 5 year performance of the DCC shows that despite serious internal and external security challenges facing Pakistan, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet met on an average only a little more than twice in a year from March 2008 to March 2013. The DCC held one meeting in year 2008-2009, two meetings in 2009-2010, one meeting in 2010-2011, five (5) meetings in 2011-2012 and three meetings in 2012-2013. Under the premiership of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, DCC met only once.

 
 

The DCC is the highest body in the country in which top civil and military leadership sits together to discuss important issues of Defence and National Security. It signifies the supremacy of elected civilian leaders in interpreting national interests and in laying down the broad parameters of defence and foreign policy.

 
 

For the highest decision-making body on defence, DCC has remained largely dormant and under-utilised throughout the past 5 years. One of the major weaknesses of the DCC has been lack of a dedicated permanent secretariat of the DCC as pledged under the CoD by the ruling PPP. Its re-active posture, that too only for selective incidents, does not indicate an effective role of the DCC.

 
 

Three (3) meetings of the DCC were held during the one-year period between March 2012 to March 2013 and all of the meetings focussed on one issue, i.e., re-opening the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) for Afghanistan-bound NATO supplies which were shut down in response to NATO’s unilateral attacks on Pakistani check posts at Salalah in November 2011. The GLOCs were re-opened nearly 8 months after their suspension. This was the first time in five year history of current Government that important decisions of closure of NATO supply and its resumption were taken in the DCC. July 3, 2012 marks the third and the last meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet in the last year of the PPP Government in which decision to re-open the GLOCs was taken after the US issued conveyed that it was 'sorry’ for the Salalah incident.

 
 

The DCC, however, failed to meet in response to major incidents including a high-profile security breach in which militants infiltrated into Minhas Air Base at Kamra, on August 16, 2012[1] as well as an attack on Peshawar airport on December 15, 2012[2]. Reportedly, defence installations have been attacked sixteen (16) times in the country since 2009.[3] Militants have attacked across the country at will and despite their increasing ease and efficiency to target defence installations, in addition to civilian sites, the DCC has failed to develop and approve za National Security Strategy in 5 years since 2008.

 
 

In January 2013, media reports suggested that Pakistan Army has undergone a paradigm shift in its decades-old policy by describing homegrown militancy as the “biggest threat” to national security. According to media reports, a new chapter has been added to the Army Doctrine that would now also include threats posed by sub-conventional warfare, ongoing activities of Taliban militants in the restive tribal regions and unabated terrorist attacks on government installations in major cities are posing a real threat to Pakistan’s security.[4] However, since the DCC last met in July 2012, nothing has been reported of its meetings held during the period to have discussed or approved Army’s ‘paradigm shift’. Key questions have resultantly emerged of the authority and democratic control on defence. If the Military’s doctrine, and its reported ‘paradigm shift’, have not been thoroughly deliberated and decided upon, what is the legitimacy of the reported change and the democratic control on defence which is supposed to be exercised by the DCC?

 
 

Recognising that an effective Defence Committee of the Cabinet is the key to establishing democratic control on defence and the only forum to arrive at a civil-military consensus on sensitive issues of defence and national security in Pakistan, PILDAT, together with its Dialogue Group on Civil-Military Relations, reiterated the following recommendations to the Government, Parliament and leadership of major political parties for strengthening the DCC:

  1. A periodicity must be set for the meetings of the Committee. Minimum essential periodicity should be once in every two months. It is preferable, though, to meet every month Similar bodies in other countries meet on a weekly basis and meetings are chaired by the Prime Ministers

  2. The Cabinet Committee must have an independent and dedicated secretariat under the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan as pledged in the Charter of Democracy

  3. Appointment of a full-time civilian National Security Advisor (NSA) by the Prime Minister of Pakistan could be useful to coordinate National Security-related functions in the Prime Minister's Secretariat and establish its coordination with other security agencies within the government. The secretariat of the DCC must be placed under the civilian National Security Advisor

  4. A dedicated think tank comprising eminent national security experts from the field of defence and national security must be set-up to support the work of the Committee. A multi-tier approach may also be useful to include private sector in the consultative process.

  5. Apart from an Eminent Persons Council there should be another Support Council coordinated by the National Security Advisor comprising the Services Chiefs, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Cabinet Secretary, the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and the Finance Secretary. The Eminent Persons Council should also be coordinated by the National Security Advisor to ensure that the two Councils work in tandem with each other.

  6. The proposed secretariat of the DCC would also set up a coordination and oversight mechanism for the intelligence agencies in the country.

  7. As is the practice with cabinet committees, apart from cabinet ministers of Finance, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior, etc. as members of the DCC, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Services Chiefs and heads of civil and military intelligence agencies should only attend the meetings of the DCC upon invitation.

  8. The Cabinet Committee must set a periodicity to conduct a Defence and Security Review of Pakistan based on a National Security Strategy of Pakistan.[5]

 
 

As Pakistan faces a General Election in May 2013, PILDAT recommends that activating the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, assisted by a permanent and dedicated secretariat, should be one of the first agenda items of the elected Government which will take charge after the Election. In view of the complex internal and external threats faced by Pakistan, it is imperative that policies and decisions relating to these are arrived at based on research-based deliberations.

 
 

Reference:

1. Shaheryar Popalzai and Nabil Ansari, "Tehreek-i-Taliban claim 'revenge' attack on Kamra airbase," Express Tribune, August 16, 2012, http://tribune.com.pk/story/422821/attack-on-paf-airbase-live-updates/

2. Militants attack at airport in Peshawar, nine killed, Dawn, December 15, 2012, http://dawn.com/2012/12/15/three-blasts-heard-in-peshawar/

3. 16 defence installations attacked since 2009, The News, February 07, 2013, http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-86977-16-defence-installations-attacked-since-2009:-Defence-Secretary-

4. New doctrine: Army identifies ‘homegrown militancy’ as biggest threat, Express Tribune, January 03, 2013, http://tribune.com.pk/story/488362/new-doctrine-army-identifies-homegrown-militancy-as-biggest-threat/

5. PILDAT Recommendations that were shared with the Government, Parliament, Leadership and Manifesto committees of major political parties in September 2012 can be accessed at: http://www.pildat.org/publications/publication/CMR/PILDATRecommendationsonImprovingCMRSeptember2012.pdf