Pakistan needs to clearly categorize its internal conflicts and reform the civil services to move forward in terms of rule of law and democracy in the country in 2013.
These were the recommendations of experts at a consultation in Islamabad on Friday. The consultation was organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) to reflect on Pakistan’s performance in 2012 in the areas of economy, energy, rule of law and democratisation.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi, advocate of the Supreme Court and an expert in international law, said the country’s Anti Terrorism Act of 1997 might not hold for some of the country’s present-day conflicts. He said the law was established for issues such as sectarian violence. But in some of the current conflicts within the country, there are people who are trying to subvert the constitution of Pakistan. “This a very different context and this is where the 1997 Anti Terrorism Act becomes obsolete,” Soofi said.
He said the government has failed to categorise its internal conflicts. The conflicts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan and Karachi have different legal features but the government is tackling them with the same stick, he said.
Soofi said the current government has also failed to clearly label the enemy. They are labelled anything from “miscreants” to “terrorists” and “nonstate actors”, he said.
“There is no clear description of the adversary,” Soofi said. He termed this “inability” of the state to describe its enemies a “serious failure” of the policymakers.
He said the government could use Article 5 (obedience to Pakistan’s constitution) and Article 256 (no one can raise a private army) of the constitution to justify military action against groups trying to gain control of the state’s territory. Then, under Article 245, the fundamental rights of the citizens are muted during the military action, he said.
But the federal government has not made this argument when the judiciary asks it about the arrests and detentions of suspected terrorists.
“This lack of clarity is creating problems and it is the basis of the standoff between the judiciary and the executive and also between the judiciary and the military,” he said.
Soofi, however, appreciated the government for passing the Fair Trial Bill 2012, which, he said will enable law enforcement to move from the responsive to the interceptive action.
In terms of the judiciary’s role in 2012, he said the legal community might nitpick against the Supreme Court’s suo motu notices, but the masses have welcomed the apex court’s judicial activism.
The future of devolution
Daniyal Aziz, the former chairman of the National Reconstruction Bureau, said the 18th Amendment is a major achievement, but without civil service reforms and restructuring of the provinces the benefits of devolution cannot translate to the local level.
Aziz said that technically the provinces should have shed their duties to the local governments and adopted the federal level functions and duties. But, no fresh local government elections have only caused half of that transition to take place.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s unitary civil service has not devolved to the provinces, he said. The civil service is threatened by powers going to the local governments and has opposed their creation, Aziz said. It has also led to re-establishment of ministries at the federal level and opposition to local governments at the province level, he said.
The empowerment at the local level might also help counter insurgency efforts, Aziz said. He said experts believe 80% of counter insurgency efforts should be composed of political interventions, which are most effective at the local government level.
The CRSS also released its “Pakistan Security Overview 2012” report at the consultation. The report, based on data gathered from media reports and interviews of law enforcement personnel, identified target killings as the most common type of violent attacks in Pakistan during 2012. The target killings resulted in the deaths of 1,754 people, followed by military operations and bomb blasts that killed 1,626 and 653 people respectively.
The report stated that FATA witnessed the most number of deaths — 2768 persons — in the country in 2012. Sectarian violence claimed 336 lives during the year, according to the report.
The CRSS is an Islamabad-based research and advocacy organisation focused on security, radicalization and governance issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2012.