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Key decisions on hold till new COAS takes charge

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The government is set to speed up progress on a number of crucial issues, including highlighting the Kashmir dispute, preventing civilian causalities along the Line of Control (LoC), repatriation of registered Afghan refugees and implementation of the National Action Plan following consultations with the new army chief in the coming days.

Options to highlight Kashmir amid heightened hostility with India will figure high in the meet-ups between the civilian leadership and new military command in the near future, insiders told The Express Tribune.

Army-chief-designate Lt-Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has a vast experience of security management at the eastern border. On account of his sound understanding of issues involving Pakistan and India, he is thought in ruling circles as the ‘right man’ to directly deal with such matters.

The government recently decided to reach out to Hurriyat leaders and map out a two-pronged strategy envisaging official steps and political options to keep Kashmir in the global spotlight. The decision has not as yet materialised as the government is inclined to hold consultations with the new security brass first, insiders said.

At the LoC, the government and security command’s priority would be to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population evacuated to safer locations due to unprovoked Indian firing. Focus would be on increasing rescue and relief operations across the LoC, the officials said.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Syed Yousaf Naseem, head of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Pakistan chapter, hoped the security establishment, federal government and AJK government would effectively take up Kashmir issue to foil India’s bid to divert international community’s attention from its worst human rights violations in the occupied valley. “Politically and diplomatically, Hurriyat leadership offers every possible assistance on Kashmir issue.”

Repatriation of over 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan is another issue the government would be discussing with the new power set-up in military. Contrary to reports suggesting that the government has decided to repatriate them by next year end, informed government functionaries say no such decision has been notified till date.

“Public reiterations and media briefings apart, there’s no progress on the ground,” commented an official privy to the development. He said Minister for States and Frontier Regions Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to defer a decision on repatriating registered Afghan refugees till the new military establishment took charge, in order to take the latter’s input first.

Although Afghan refugees were not among the 16 items on the agenda of the November 23 cabinet meeting, State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had said the huddle decided to repatriate them by December 2017. The federal government had on November 2 put off a decision on a comprehensive strategy in this regard, extending refugees’ stay till December 31, 2017.

Sources said the proposed extension would only be given after exchanging notes with the new army command. “The military has an important role in maintaining security at the western border. Any decision without taking the security establishment into the loop is virtually impossible,” the government official said.

In addition, decisions taken by the NAP Implementation Committee last month also await implementation. On October 14, the panel decided to set up a central record office to share information about terrorists, militants and other criminals in the ‘shortest possible time’.

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