Islamabad: The Pakistan government on Wednesday pledged to eliminate militants and destroy terrorist hideouts even as it dismissed fears about the safety of its nuclear assets in the wake of a string of high-profile terror attacks targeting the military.
The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani last evening, decided that defence and law enforcement agencies would be "authorised to use all means necessary to eliminate terrorists and militants".
Describing national security as a "foremost priority", the committee decided that "all arms of the government will ensure that terrorist hideouts will be destroyed using all appropriate means".
The crucial meeting was held two days after a group of Taliban fighters stormed Pakistan`s main naval air station in Karachi, triggering a 16-hour standoff in which they killed 10 security personnel and destroyed two P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft worth over USD 70 million.
The attack sparked concerns round the world about the safety of Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal, but Gilani dismissed such fears as "unwarranted".
He said a full investigation had been ordered into the attack on the naval airbase.
"Concerns have been expressed about the safety and security of our strategy assets. Any speculation in this regard is unwarranted," Gilani said in his opening remarks at the meeting.
"Under the National Command Authority, we have an effective command and control system for ensuring the safety and security of our nuclear weapons and related systems.”
“These arrangements conform with the highest international standards and practices followed by other nuclear weapon states," he said.
Gilani said it was imperative to take "steps urgently to enhance our intelligence capabilities and improve system-wide coordination for averting attacks".
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the PNS Mehran naval airbase, saying it was carried out to avenge the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a US raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 02.
Since bin Laden`s death, the Taliban have also carried out a suicide attack on a paramilitary training facility that killed nearly 90 people and targeted a US Consulate vehicle convoy in Peshawar.
The meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet was convened to review the security situation arising from these terrorist attacks and issues related to regional security and stability, an official statement said.
The Committee decided that coordinated efforts will be made to prevent and pre-empt acts of terrorism.
"The national consensus on eliminating terrorism will be implemented through a well-coordinated and comprehensive strategy with the full support of the people and state institutions at all levels," the statement said.
In his remarks, Gilani said in the wake of the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran on Sunday, "serious concerns are being expressed about our ability to deal with the gravity of problems posed due to terrorism".
These concerns need to be "clearly addressed and all efforts should be made to reinforce our capacity to effectively eliminate terrorism", he said.
Gilani noted that the "fast changing national security paradigm has compelled" the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to meet twice within a month.
"We are here to take a holistic review of the impending threats to our national security with a view to find answers, to put an end to the concerns being expressed regarding the state of security of the country," he said.
"There is no cause for any despondency. However, we certainly need to revisit the steps required to avert and pre-empt such attacks," Gilani said.
The meeting was attended by federal ministers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the three services chiefs and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.