It was quite a pleasure hearing Ayaz Amir take a television anchor to task for insisting that a policy on counterterrorism must be produced as soon as possible to solve the problem. No friend of the current government, Ayaz Amir was fair in his assessment that a counterterrorism policy in itself cannot be a panacea for all ills related with the problem of terrorism. The problem is more like a disease which dates back to the 1980s and needs a slow cure, not quick fixes. However, Amir was wrong in imagining that peace will set in with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. There may be more surprises than we imagine. Referring to policy, policymakers and bureaucrats must carefully ponder over its design and adopt a long-term approach.
However, both the government and the media seem to be heading for a quick-fix formula or, at least, putting something on paper that will indicate their resolve to solve the problem (maybe without actually doing so). The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) created under an act of parliament seems to have come up with a draft policy, the executive summary of which was leaked to the press. It seems to be divided in three portions: a) assessment of problem, b) highlighting institutions and capacity building for counterterrorism and c) introducing the narrative of peace and de-radicalisation. Since the subject is vast, I would deal with it in three separate articles beginning with this one, which will deal with the tactical aspects of the problem and related policy.
It is quite clear that people in the country and the outside world are eyeing NACTA expectantly. It is supposedly structured as an institution that will be the epicentre of counter-terrorism in all aspects. This makes it imperative for the NACTA team to engage with all perspectives, which it doesn’t seem to be doing. It claims to have gone around the country, collected secondary and primary information and spoken to people. However, its assessment does not seem to reflect a wide-ranging interaction that would bring varied perspectives together for the benefit of understanding the problem and finding relevant solutions. Thus, the assessment of the problem is limited to what is fashionably heard in government circles. It will help if the NACTA team did a few rounds of discussions with various stakeholders from the government, civil society and experts on the issue. These discussions could be summarised and presented as a background document.
At a tactical level, the paper seems to point correctly towards capacity building like strengthening police and judiciary, improving integration of intelligence and working on reintegration of former combatants who have left the business of jihad, into society. There are two aspects of capacity building. First, the government will have to commit resources for capacity building. It is not a secret that through the years of fighting the war on terror, Pakistan has invested very little in its law-enforcement organisations. The police require training and better equipment. There is an urgent need for information sharing amongst various intelligence agencies and need to procure new technologies for forensic testing and other capabilities. All of this will require resource commitment, which is a major political decision for parliament to take.
Second, capacity building must include a clear definition of roles and authority. One lesson learnt from the leaked Abbottabad Commission report is that the military unduly exercising authority where the police should, creates problems. There should be empowerment and de-politicisation of the police to make things work.
Third, no amount of training or weapons and facilities can bolster the morale of law-enforcement agencies, especially if it has nosedived the way it has in Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that what the police need is assurance that the governments will fight terrorism and not make compromises. Through the years, the police have lost hundreds of good men because successive governments didn’t have the will to fight. Be it Karachi or Jhang, men got sacrificed at the altar of pragmatism. Men remember how, for example, Malik Ishaq got numerous witnesses, including a senior police officer killed because no one was willing to move against him and the police had no real protection. Allegedly, the officer, who killed one LeJ terrorist leader, Riaz Basra, cut a deal with the government and settled abroad after he had done the job. Interestingly, in Basra’s case, the higher officials used the sectarian card to finally get their man.
We also know that there is sufficient infiltration of jihadi networks in the police department and security establishment. There are senior police officers in Punjab (serving and retired) who go around fixing appointments for Hafiz Saeed and other militant leaders. The question is, how will NACTA deal with this? It is important to build professionalism as a capacity where law enforcers are ready to protect the state and its citizens irrespective of their cast, sect, gender or ethnicity.
A clean and professional police force is as critical for counter-terrorism as a professional judiciary. I have spoken with judges from lower courts who were extremely bigoted in their thinking. But then there is the fear factor due to which judges will not touch militants. Thus, the anti-terror court judge who convicted Malik Ishaq fled the country like the one who sentenced Salmaan Taseer’s murderer to death. This is not just about providing protection to a judge as long as he/she is there but to their family as well, and even after they are not hearing a particular case. All of this will cost money.
At a time when all state institutions are experiencing a meltdown due to their acute politicisation and weakening of the state, building capacity is not just about acquiring modern tools. A law enforcement set-up that takes sides and is ideologically motivated is extremely dangerous. NACTA would probably benefit from making a short-term versus a long-term strategy to deal with the problem. As it builds the will, professionalises and ideologically neutralises law enforcement and the judiciary, there should also be a plan of who will deal with militancy in the short term.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.
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Get all the Ulema together and get them to condemn terrorism. That is the solution.
The administrative challenges being thrown up to the administration of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan by terrorism and the groups of terrorists who enjoy a patronage from political leaders as well as support from the locals in various provinces viz. Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir. There is an infiltration within the ranks of the defence and internal security forces which is one of the major hurdles being faced in countering terrorism. The newly elected government faces the challenging task of implementing counter terrorism exercise through the defence and internal security agencies. However, a blame game or a simply critical approach may not and never is the solution. The defence forces especially the army and the internal security agencies especially the provincial police need to work together as well as singly as and when required in order to counter this threat against humanity. The police as a department does require to be trained in handling the problem and reformed with regard to improving their contact and network among the people whose support becomes essential in any counter terrorist operation and so is the case with the army. There are areas wherein the army has been active which should have been the area of work of the police wherein the task of handing over the authority of implementation of the operation to the police by the army should be done in cautious manner so that the objective of this handing over and the ultimate goal of countering terrorism is not jeopardised. The issue of police reforms becomes all the more essential in this context as this institution has a considerable work to do in order to gain the support of the masses. The army after all is not a law and order implementing institution in any nation which is the role of the police department; the executive arm of the judiciary; hence the earlier the police in the various provinces of Pakistan is reformed to take up the challenge the better shall it be. The withdrawal of The United States of America from Afghanistan is a move being considered by the US keeping in their geo-strategic and economic as well as political interests in consideration hence the brunt will there after have to be faced by the nations of Asia especially those who are neighbours of Afghanistan. The need to bolster the image of the security agencies and defence forces is equally needed but along with it a strong diplomatic offensive against terrorism is required to be initiated by the Government of Pakistan bringing in an international pressure against the fundamentalist groups that are active in the country and have infiltrated the ranks of the defence forces and internal security agencies besides having created their fanatic influence in society. This will require stern steps to be taken if terrorism really requires to be countered and democracy is to take shape in the nation.The exercise is long drawn, challenging, tardy and drawing conclusions at this juncture may not be all that prudent. Pakistan as a nations has to stand up against terrorism then alone is peace has the remote possibility of becoming a reality.
The Police have been the fall guys and have been held responsible at times unfairly. First and foremost apprehending criminals and terrorists should be the sole responsibility of the Police, not the Military or Intelligence Agencies. Intelligence agencies cannot be allowed to make arrests or make people disappear, if they do they should be arrested and prosecuted. It should be the Police job to secure the scene of crime as well as site of Drone attack, within thirty minutes. No Institution in the country can interfere with them or stop them, without ifs and buts. The power to transfer Police should be withdrawn and their minimum tenure in their posting should be three years. Secondly, family of Police killed on duty must be given full salary till his day of retirement and suitable lump sum ex gratia amount. Every Police station must have sufficient beat constables on permanent patrol duty, keeping a close tab on movement of strangers within their beats. Legislation must be passed with penalty for making hate speeches being minimum ten years. Hate speech to be defined as a call to violence against any religion, sect, individual or country. Training and filling vacancies in the Police department must be done on a war footing and the latest equipment must be provided to them. Association with any terror group including providing shelter, arms, finance, and logistical support, must be a non bailable offence. A start has to be made somewhere and very fast as time is running out.
We are expecting army role from you Ma;am, as no one knows Pakistan army better than you as well as their policies.
This is classic insurgency and guerrilla tactics. They slowly test the waters and gain strength. They start attacking from the weakest point and gradually move upwards from there.
The SOP is surprise and stealth. They can mingle with the local population, so very hard to detect. They can attack at will after getting close to the target - the surprise component. Even if you catch one operative, its very hard to convict him and have to release him, unless there are laws like AFSPA, that is operational in Kashmir right now.
At the end, the state will be, literally, bleeding from a thousand cuts.
This is the same tactic Pakistani Establishment taught LeT, JeM,etc in its Jihad in Kashmir in 1990s.
It was defeated or is under control for few important reasons: 1) India sealed off the LOC. The training, arming and other logistic support was from Pakistan, so cut off the source and it goes a long way. Pakistan refuses to attack North Waziristan and not to forget the Taliban in Afghanistan do not hesitate to train and arm their brethren in Pakistan.
2) India deployed a heavy force in Kashmir. Pakistan's Army has itself said its India centric, so thousands are deployed along the border and LOC with India. Pakistan just doesn't have the resources and will easily reach the limit.
3) India didn't have to deal with sympathisers within its own ranks. Pakistan's society, where the Army draws its recruits from, is heavily radicalised. So, there will be people who will feed info the TTP and risk any anti-insurgency operation.
Pakistan can do 2 things which will immediately boost its anti-insurgency capabilities: 1) Give up its claim in Kashmir. Anyway, the superior power India will not give it up any time soon. Status quo has not changed in the past 65 years, it won't the next 65 as well. This will free up thousands of soldiers and they can be deployed in insurgency hit areas, which is virtually all of Pakistan.
2) Arrest all anti-India Terrorists and the propaganda in the Pakistani Text Books, this will enable India to move its troops away from the LOC and Pakistan will have even more resources to fight Terror.
So basically most of the solutions has to do with India, if Pakistan has to maximise its resources in fighting Terror. China has not helped much in the past 10 years, it will not do so either. US will just cut its losses and run from Afghanistan.
If Pakistan doesn't take drastic steps, the invisible no-turning-back line will be crossed. After that Taliban take over will be an inevitability.
The land of mayor of Islamabad Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is shrinking fast. Unless he gets his all apparatus act fast, TTP will be knocking at Raiwind and Abpara doors and asking for bhatta soon!
Ayesha has done justice to her reputation. The terrorism cannot be eliminated as long as the politicians shelter them, security agencies covertly support them, military value them and judges fear them. Ayaz Amir is hugely wrong is believing that once the US pull out of the area, terrorism will evaporate. That is wishful thinking. With US gone, no drones to worry about, lack of US intelligence inputs, TTP will take on the Pakistani state as never before. There are no good Taliban either. They must all be eliminated or made to fear the power of the state. A whole new paradigm is needed to solve this problem or a holocaust of the nuclear proportions could visit the country.
Pakistan government has repeatedly acknowledged that it has connections with terrorists organizations but it does not control them.
It is very clear Pakistan government sees more benefit from terrorism than losses.
At the heart of any effort to roll back terrorism are two things: (1) the civilian side of the government must demonstrate it can deliver on voters' bread-and-butter issues, and (2) the military side of the government gives up jihad-thru-non-state-actors. Both are tall orders, given past history. Capacity and intentions are questionable in the case of both civilians and khakis.
So what about policy? Who has the power, will, and authority to implement its decisions? Who has the opportunity and authority to get around the rules and who can be held accountable for doing so? Don't these things matter more than the details of policy? What's the point of counter-terror policy if groups of thugs are left free to wreak their will simply because some MP or notable says so?
sane writing. But who is reading?
Nothing would happen if you don't punish the 93,000 mega-terrorists in uniform of 1971. They are the 'mother of all terrorism' of present day Pakistan.
A good piece. Ayesha Saddiqa has done tremendous work to bring certain Leaks into viewers notice. This article is first step to look into the solutions of terrorism. Waiting for the next two pieces on the subject. Army working parallel or super superfluous on police powers is little vague better if it is explained more deliberately in some other work. I would also request the author to touch upon the ongoing army sacrifices in FATA and Swat in anti terrorist operations. A piece to read. Tahir
yawn as always. you write serious things. best to engage your audience while writing it.
A very balanced and pragmatic Op Ed by ET, thanks for that. I agree with the writer in all aspects. Suffice is to say that we need a true secular democracy both in letter and spirit. Unless we go the way Turkey had gone we have very little hope to overcome the scourge of fanaticism and resulting terrorism.
Nice piece of writing as always. Countering Terrorism is itself a science and a policy cannot be formulated without proper cohesive approach from all impacted elements and stakeholders in Pakistan. However having a clear agenda is also important for countering terrorism and Pakistan lacks one surely. Infact in Pakistan the situation is totally ridiculous because this country lost over 50,000 of its citizens to Al Qaeda supported militants after 9/11, suffered a $70 billion economic loss but still is unable to pass an Anti-terrorist legislation banning Al Qaeda. This goes to show what Pakistan's priorities