Need for a counter-terror authority

Published: June 29, 2010
The writer works in the development sector  (

The writer works in the development sector (

Is it not appalling that despite being a terror-struck nation and a frontline state in the war against terror Pakistan still lacks a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy? Whilst most internal conflicts are rooted in ethnic or socio-economic deprivations, this is not the case with the Taliban insurgency. The bone of contention is strictly political in nature and this is often overlooked by many. A contextual understanding of the conflict is essential in order to formulate a precise counter-terrorism strategy to respond to these challenges.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan is poles apart in its structure and ideology as compared to other sectarian and extremist groups in Pakistan. One of the key factors behind its success is the homogeneity it offers. The aims are simple: create chaos and establish a parallel regime wherever possible. Possible recruits vary from students of religious seminaries to criminals and drug cartels. Sympathisers are embraced with open arms and loyalists are awarded generously.

We need to chalk down an elaborate programme to fight religious fundamentalism. Contrary to popular belief, our counter-terrorism strategy does not solely rely on overt military actions. Rather, it uses the intelligence apparatus to take advantage of differences between militant leaders and prevent them from uniting toward a common purpose. The state’s policy is vague when it comes to fighting terrorism: we pledge to fight the Taliban. However, one view is that as long as the militants adhere to a code approved for them by the establishment and refrain from toppling the regime within Pakistan, they are free to operate against targets outside Pakistani borders. This is why militant factions such as the Haqqani network or the Hafiz Gul Bahadur faction in North Waziristan remain untouched due to the delusional “strategic depth”. We cherish our eroded sovereignty but we fail to curtail cross-border terrorism. Sovereignty comes with the burden of state responsibility.

The first step in this realm would be to recognise the legitimacy and severity of this conflict. The next step is taking ownership of this war — our academia and intellectual circles should emphasise that this is a war for our survival. The perception that Pakistan is fighting a “foreign war” needs to be strongly negated. This war is not against American forces deployed in Afghanistan, it is a war against aims to radicalise our society and establish an extremist model of governance which is inspired by the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The government has shown firm commitment to fight this war — a commendable step was taken last year in December when the president promulgated the National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta). The body was mandated to devise a counter-terrorism strategy that should address short, medium and long-term goals and devise action plans for their implementation. In addition to this, the European Union had pledged 15 million Euros for empowering Nacta. However, these plans could not materialise and Nacta remains shelved in the bureaucratic cesspool. Institutional rivalry between intelligence agencies is common as they compete for excellence, wary of the fact that better inter-agency cooperation can produce early warnings about anticipated terror attacks. It is high time that the envisioned National Counter Terrorism Authority becomes functional with tangible authority to implement its policies. The recent sacking of General McChrystal demonstrates the importance of a proper chain of command, and as the saying goes: “War is too serious a business to be left to generals alone.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Jun 29, 2010 - 3:20AM

    “War is too serious a business to be left to generals alone.” Yes but our generals don’t even think that they are fig thing a war. The only war that they are willing to fight is the one that will come from the Eastern borders. The troubles on the Western front are a product of their own creation and allies in the Haqqani network. They are going to “deliver” the Haqqanis to Karzai to insure that Pakistan maintains its influence in Afghanistan. No war here. Just that 30000 odd thousand Pakistanis have died, millions are uprooted, but we still bargain and negotiate and treat the killers as our allies. So a national well organized strategy to tackle terrorism will remain a pipe dream as the powers to be dont even think that there is a problem. They are busy milking the status-quo to insure their influence and power. Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jun 29, 2010 - 6:50AM

    National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was established last year. Former DG FIA Tariq Khosa was made the DG. Talk to any NACTA guy, he’ll tell you that the ISI lot isn’t willing to let go of its status as the leading authority and body on CT and is holding on to its cards. NACTA hasn’t started functioning yet. Say thanks to ISI.Recommend

  • Jun 29, 2010 - 10:39AM

    “War is too serious a business to be left to generals alone.” O no! The generals like to hold on to the belief that ‘Wars are won on the tables of generals’!! Besides, when they say they have flushed the ‘terrorists’ out from Orakzai we MUST believe them! So what if our people still continue to die in Orakzai or the other agencies where ‘peace has prevailed’!Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Jun 29, 2010 - 10:53AM

    @shahid. Has a valid point here. In greed of continuous power, institutions have put the security of this country on stake. The author rightly mentions that we require a counter-terror strategy as we have entered the ninth year in this war but still lack one.Recommend

  • Amna Zaman
    Jun 29, 2010 - 11:00AM

    Rightly mentioned so we do need a good counter strategy through which we can eradicate terrorism from the country completely. Unless we do not get this to perfection, we will not be able to defeat the Taliban.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Jun 29, 2010 - 1:18PM

    Firstly, it is very aspiring to see young and new writer coming forward and raising voice against such a sensitive issue. Hats off to this young writer. I believe he has articulated the dire need of comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy very well. Being run by elected representatives now, we must involve everyone in this process and develop a strategy that doe not only address the issue but curtails the reasons causing it.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jun 29, 2010 - 4:46PM

    The National counter terrorism authority if empowered can bring consensus in the war against terror, we need to have both short-term and long-term strategies and as it is important to devise non-violent solutions which are able to address radicalization of society Recommend

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