Pak parliament passes counter-terrorism authority bill

Pakistan's parliament has passed a bill for setting up a new organisation that will integrate counter-terrorism efforts by different bodies in the wake of criticism of civilian law enforcement agencies by the powerful army.

The bill for establishing the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was passed by the National Assembly or lower house of parliament yesterday after incorporating some amendments suggested by lawmakers.

NACTA, to be headed by the Prime Minister, will "unify and orchestrate national counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures" by several existing organisations.

"Establishing the authority was necessary in view of the nature and magnitude of terrorist threats. It would present strategic policy options to the government to be considered and implemented by stakeholders," the bill said.

Besides the premier, the board of NACTA will include the Interior, Finance and Defence Ministers, the Chief Ministers of all provinces and the chiefs of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau , Military Intelligence and Federal Investigation Agency.

The authority will be assisted by an executive committee headed by the Interior Minister, and a national coordinator and a deputy will execute the board’s policies and the government’s instructions  NACTA will also be responsible for conducting scientific studies on extremism and terrorism.

It will coordinate with law enforcement agencies for taking action against elements involved in terrorism and extremism and play a key role in preparing national counter- terrorism and extremism strategies.

The authority will receive information and intelligence and disseminate the data to relevant stakeholders to "formulate threat assessments with periodical reviews to be presented to the federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and extremism", the bill said.

The bill is the latest in a series of anti-terrorism laws authored by the outgoing Pakistan People's Party-led coalition government.

It must be passed by the Senate or upper house of parliament to become law. NACTA will be established within 90 days of the bill receiving presidential assent.

In recent weeks, civilian law enforcement agencies have been repeatedly criticised by the army for failing to control banned groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out a string of attacks on the minority Shia sect that killed some 250 people.

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