DEMOCRACY is not all about elections. It is about the mandate given by the people. It is a trust. Those politicians who, in the last five years, frequently faltered in fostering the rule of law and promoting good governance have been punished by the electorate.
The traditional politics of patronage and nepotism has met with stiff resistance from a new and motivated class of young and educated citizens whose message is loud and clear: merit, the rule of law and good governance should have primacy. Peace and good order will lead to development. Therefore, internal security fault lines should now get the highest attention by the soon to be installed elected governments.
Terrorism, sectarian violence, insurgency and religious extremism are major challenges that can unravel the state of Pakistan. Great expectations have been raised and people will be justified in asking the following questions: will the PML-N–led federal government provide an institutional mechanism in the formulation of policies on national security and terrorism? Will the civilian-military disconnect on such policies be addressed? Will merit and the rule of law be the priorities of the new government?
The answers to these public concerns should be provided immediately as people will not cater for a honeymoon period for those experienced politicians who are about to form the government in the centre. The following measures are proposed for an institutional and coherent response to the internal security challenges.
One, institutional civilian control over security matters should be established through the Parliamentary Committee on National Security which may comprise representatives of all the political parties in the new parliament. It should play a major role in providing a national security framework that reflects the will of the people of Pakistan. Open and in-camera hearings on national security issues should be a regular feature of the parliament’s oversight.
Two, the civil-military disconnect should be overcome through the Defence Committee of the Cabinet that ought to meet regularly and deliberate on national security issues. At present the DCC does not have a secretariat. There is an urgent need to create an office of a national security advisor who should be a professional and a technocrat responsible for putting together a national security policy and strategy. A retired diplomat or a retired intelligence service chief may be appointed, who should directly report to the prime minister and the cabinet.
Three, the National Counter Terrorism Authority should be placed under the prime minister instead of the interior minister. The services of an experienced and professional police officer may be utilised for Nacta to come up with national counterterrorism and counter-extremism strategies. This would be a key civilian institution responsible for coordination between the federation and the provincial stakeholders dealing with the twin menace of terrorism and religious extremism.
Four, an independent national accountability commission should immediately replace the existing National Accountability Bureau. The head of this commission should be a retired police officer, a retired judge, or a retired civil servant of impeccable integrity and known for the qualities of fairness and impartiality. An anti-corruption drive can be launched against the mafia dons who are icons of corruption and known to all and sundry.
Five, an independent police complaints authority should be established by the federal government. It should be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court and should look into complaints of police corruption, high-handedness and the misuse of authority.
Six, the Federal Investigation Agency should be headed by a serving and one of the senior-most police officers who should depoliticise the agency and deal effectively with organised crime having inter-provincial or international ramifications.
Seven, all intelligence agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau (IB), should operate within a legal and constitutional framework. There should no political cells for covert manipulations in a true democratic dispensation. The IB should also be headed by a police officer of unimpeachable integrity so that this politically tainted civilian intelligence agency can become a professional organisation in support of other law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism and organised crime.
Eight, outstanding civil servants of impeccable credentials should be appointed as federal secretaries in a drastically reduced number of divisions in the centre. Similarly, the chief secretaries in the provinces, appointed by the prime minister with the concurrence of the chief ministers, should ensure that the provincial administrations deliver services with professionalism, impartiality and integrity.
Nine, political neutrality of the police and maintenance of law and order must be ensured by selecting police chiefs known for their impartiality, courage and professionalism. They should be provided a secure tenure of at least two years.
Ten, an apolitical commission for human rights should be constituted to safeguard the interests of minorities, women, children and disadvantaged sections of society.
And finally, a peaceful, stable and prosperous Pakistan can be delivered through responsible and accountable leadership, a culture of respect for human rights, institutions for good governance and, most important, the sanctity of the rule of law.
The writer is a retired police officer.