As the weeks and months pass, the criticism regarding the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) grows ever louder and more pointed. In the days and weeks after the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, there was a sense that the nation was prepared to cut the government some slack in terms of a response. Not anymore. There has been some serious foot-dragging, particularly in respect of what might be termed the more ‘sensitive’ aspects of implementing the NAP. It now appears that in response to repeated prods, the government may be at last activating the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta). Nacta was originally set up in 2009, but remained largely inert. It was not until the 2013 Nacta Act that it began to show signs of life and now, in 2016, there is a move to enact new policy measures in order to make it more effective in tracking proscribed individuals and organisations, as well as cutting off funding for terrorist groups.
Like much of the NAP, the activation of Nacta may be wishful thinking. There has never been any serious attempt to empower the organisation, its funding has been paltry, its operational framework unclear. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar made a blustering reply to questions after attending a meeting that discussed antiterrorism financing. He said that the problems that Nacta faced in pursuing miscreants were “the same that any new organisation faces after its establishment”. Considering that Nacta has been in existence for seven years, this is something of a stretch. The State Bank of Pakistan has not exactly been expeditious either, with the governor saying that he “needed more time” to finalise recommendations regarding terror financing and overall no agency or individual holding the levers of power appears overly anxious to get seriously tough on those that fund terrorism. It is true that Rs1 billion of al Qaeda money has been frozen under a UN resolution, but a mere Rs3.5 million in the account of terrorism — very small change indeed. By all means activate Nacta — but do it for real this time and stop pussyfooting around.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2016.