A high-level EU delegation recently met with a number of Pakistani officials as part of the EU’s counterterrorism strategy. The EU delegates underlined the need for improving human rights conditions, judicial reforms, law-enforcement and the need for a more legal-justice approach, rather than a criminal-justice approach.
The initiation of a formal counterterrorism dialogue between Pakistan and the EU augurs well and underscores the concerns that the 27-member European bloc has on Pakistan. Until recently, and particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, most EU states usually tagged along with what the US would do with regards to Pakistan, especially on matters relating to counterterrorism. Essentially, Washington led and determined the direction of strategies in these areas.
Pakistan remains sceptical of whether the EU can separate itself from America’s predominance as far as counterterrorism is concerned. Islamabad wants the EU to look at issues such as the Afghan refugee problem and narcotics as part of a counter-terror strategy for the simple reasons a) that militants and terrorists in Afghanistan feed off the dividends that accrue from the drugs trade, and b) refugee camps are a major source of terrorism in Pakistan.
Islamabad also believes that until Afghanistan’s economy transitions from one of being driven by war to a normally-functioning economy, no counter-terror strategy will succeed. At the same time, EU member states seem to have finally woken up to the realisation that they need to chart their own way for dealing with a country as pivotal as Pakistan. Two reasons for this rethink in European capitals are the hopeless circumstances in Afghanistan and terrorist violence in Pakistan.
One would hope that the EU strategy will look at the malaise and its roots, rather than treating just the symptoms.
As for Pakistan, the police and lower judiciary require comprehensive reform. The police is the primary tool for fighting terrorists in urban centres and the courts are where they are to be prosecuted. This basically means that without adequate funding and training, a supportive legal framework and certainty of enforcement of punishments, no counter-terror or counter-insurgency strategy will work.
Finding a remedy to combat increasing radicalisation or putting up solid defences against terrorist forces cannot happen in isolation, especially when much of today’s Pakistan is the direct product of the anti-Soviet jihad.
Recently, I met a very senior civil servant in Peshawar who said that it would be difficult for us to fix our problems unless we “went back to our religion”.
A brilliant career officer, the officer’s words were surprising because while there is absolutely nothing wrong in being religious, surely the solution to the country’s problems is not as simple as that.
It showed that even senior officers of the state thought that fighting terror and militancy was as easy as practicing one’s faith. While the latter is a very admirable route for an individual, it is not a substitute for a state putting in place effective policies against terrorists.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2012.