ISLAMABAD: Two major political parties — the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) — expressed on Saturday their reservations over the proposed counter-terrorism policy of the government, terming it mere rhetoric.
According to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, serious strategy for talks with the Taliban is missing from the draft policy whereas PML-Q’s secretary general Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has called for adopting a multi-faceted approach instead of an academic or a theoretical one.
Commenting on the reported draft of the counter-terrorism policy of the PML-N government, which has already decided to hold a meeting of all parties on the security issue, the JUI-F chief said mere administrative measures would not effectively end terrorism.
The draft policy renews the government’s commitment to fight terrorism, but reportedly contains no radical shift in the strategy for dealing with the problem other than a rare acknowledgment that ‘enabling environment’ existed in the country for growth of extremism and terrorism.
A brief of the draft policy titled “National Counter-Terrorism and Extremism Policy” reportedly shows that it would have five elements — dismantle, contain, prevent, educate and reintegrate — as against the 3Ds — development, dialogue and deterrence — a strategy adopted by the previous government for curbing militancy.
The Maulana said there was no clear plan regarding talks with the Taliban in the proposed document. He was of the view that the document should have contained a comprehensive strategy and clear roadmap on the talks with the Taliban.
The JUI-F chief, who is believed to have some influence in the militant groups and tribal elders, further said that jargon and emphasis on administrative measures without appropriate political steps would not be a real policy option for combating terrorism. “If the state wants to take administrative measures it can but shunning political option means setting up the national leadership for failure. Therefore, serious and meaningful dialogue should be part of the counter-terrorism strategy,” he suggested.
The Maulana welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s move to convene a conference of political parties, but said that any new conference should not sabotage the “existing national consensus on negotiations with the Taliban”. He said that if the JUI-F was invited to the proposed conference, it would make recommendations in the light of joint resolutions of the previous parliament and the decisions of the last All Parties Conference (APC) convened by his party in February. He called for avoiding “colourful language filled with jargon” in the proposed document.
On his part, PML-Q secretary general Mushahid Hussain Sayed in a statement said the government should “avoid bureaucratic buzzwords like five pillars of state or three Ds (Dialogue, Deterrence and Development)” as had been done in the past. “We have to be practical, not academic or theoretical,” he said.
According to Mr Sayed, the issue of national security policy was a very vast one, spread over the longer term, involving a multi-faceted approach. “But our immediate requirement is a counter-terror strategy to urgently ensure safety and security of our citizens and installations, which we have miserably failed to defend since the initiative lies with the other side, not the state, which has an ad hoc, reactive moment to moment, incident by incident approach,” he said, adding that this approach “can best be summed as the 3 Cs i.e. Condemnation, Compensation and Cribbing, against either your own agencies or the proverbial ‘foreign hand’ which is never identified”. Suggesting that three things should be given top priority for a doable counter-terrorism strategy, the PML-Q leader called for an effective and autonomous lead organisation like NACTA or Anti-Terror Task Force under the prime minister, good lean team led by a top-notch professional like ex-police officer Tariq Khosa and better coordination between civilian and military set-ups, federal and provincial governments, intelligence agencies and police and other law enforcement bodies. “This is not rocket science. If Sri Lanka can do it, why not Pakistan?” he asked.
Apart from Pakistan’s fight against indigenously-driven terrorism and extremism, he said, Pakistan today faced three concurrent conflicts: the American war against the Afghan Taliban, the Iran-Saudi proxy war, plus an ongoing, low-key proxy conflict between Pakistan and India centring on Afghanistan which brought out linkages between Kabul, Kashmir and Quetta. “All these need to be tackled in case we are keen, willing and ready for a really effective national security policy,” he concluded.