ISLAMABAD - Although the PML-N government has virtually discarded much controversial National Security Council (NSC) with broadening the scope and mandate of Defence Committee of the Cabinet under new nomenclature of Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS), yet the fact of the matter is that it has constitutional cover and requires formal constitutional procedure for repealing it from the Statute Book.
Though the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leadership in their private meetings do criticise NSC and dub it as stigma of military dictators who used it as tool to perpetuate their rule and have inroads in the domains of civilian governments, so far no practical steps are taken by the PML-N leadership to formally scrap it through Parliament.
Background interviews with the senior PML-N leaders and information gathered from the party and parliamentary sources revealed that there was consensus in the party that National Security Council (NSC) would be formally struck off for which a constitutional amendment would be moved to repeal the National Security Council Act adopted by the Parliament in April 2004.
A senior party leader and veteran lawyer Syed Zafar Ali Shah said that after the revitalisation of Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the National Security Council, which is already abandoned, has doomed. He, however, added that a constitutional amendment would be required to formally repeal it because it was instituted through an act of the Parliament.
Sources in the Parliament said that PML-N was deliberately delaying its repealing and wanted to see the settlement of some major issues by the end of current year. However, the PML-N leaders termed it an insignificant matter and said that with the broadening the scope and ambit of DCC as CCNS they had virtually dumped it and reflected their policy towards the NSC.
Some of the parliamentarians sitting on the opposition benches were of the view that as NSC was the brainchild of Armed Forces and over the years the military establishment had projected its efficacy, so the PML-N government was delaying it to avoid developing bad taste with the top military hierarchy, otherwise PML-N was having the requisite strength as well as support from other political forces in the Parliament which all wanted to see it formally dumped.
Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians central leader Senator Mian Raza Rabbani on a number of occasions had raised this issue on the floor of the Upper House of the Parliament and grilled the PML-N government from backing out from the Charter of Democracy wherein both the parties had agreed to scrap NSC.
Sources in PML-N said that they were engaged in other matters of urgent importance like power crisis, management of economy and precarious law and order situation in most parts of the country and once they would get time NSC would formally struck off though Parliament.
However, political analysts and observers were of the view that PML-N would come up with some formal bill to rescind the NSC in the Parliament after the installation of new Army Chief, for obvious reasons.
The concept of National Security Council is quite common and a number of countries including United States, United Kingdom, India and many other countries have such apex bodies where the top civil and military brains sit together and evolve policies to meet the national security needs of their respective countries.
But the experience of NSC in Pakistan was not good as when it was first instituted in 1969 and then in 2004, the motive behind was to have military dominance in the governmental affairs and that was the reason it become controversial and invited a lot of criticism and abhorrence from cross-section of society.
It was due to the public resentment when NSC was first formed by the then military dictator Gen Yahya Khan, it failed to get the approval of political leadership and was rescinded in 1974 and late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto laid down the foundation of Defence Committee of the Cabinet.
Later after staging coup d’etat against Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government in 1999, then military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf had constituted NSC but again with mala fide intentions of perpetuating his rule.
The NSC was given constitutional cover in 2004 by puppet government led by PM shaukat Aziz but later in early 2009, then prime minister formally abandoned NSC and reactivated Defence Committee of the Cabinet and since then it had been dormant and after assuming power in 2013 the PML-N government had kept it dormant rather went a step ahead by broadening the scope of DDC and renaming it as CCNS.