Dawn News

Masked Pakistani pro-Taliban militants at an undisclosed location in Swat, Sept 14, 2008. — Photo by Reuters/File

PESHAWAR, May 20: Moving beyond the vague and clichéd 3-D strategy, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has come up with a plan which officials and cabinet ministers say could well serve as the first comprehensive state response to overcome militancy.

The 24-page presentation “Continuing Militancy, Challenge & Response”, unveiled at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti early this month envisages a full state response in terms of governance, deliverance and coordination to overcome the challenges from non-state actors.

“We have to acknowledge that there is a deep-set malaise that will not be cured by a single dose of anti-biotic. We need an aggressive; multiple doses of medication to attack the malaise from all sides,” Secretary Home, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azam Khan, told Dawn.

Mr Khan declined to go into the specifics of the plan he helped conceive but a cabinet minister said that was the most comprehensive strategy he had seen since the ANP-led coalition took office in 2008.

Acknowledging the ideological, material linkages between the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistani militants in bordering tribal regions, the report dispelled an impression that militancy in Pakistan would cease once foreign troops left Afghanistan. “It will not happen,” the report said.

Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain concurred. “The pot will continue to boil long after the fire is put out,” he remarked. “We are facing a well-trained, battle-hardened and indoctrinated and battle-inoculated nemesis,” he said in an interview.

“To defeat them, you need a full state response and not just the use of a mighty force. The militants have ambitions and they have objectives. Force alone is not the answer. All state institutions and departments will have to stand up to the occasion and response by contributing to the strategy,” Mr Hussain said.

The cabinet was warned that if and when foreign troops left Afghanistan, the sense of victory among the Taliban in Afghanistan would galvanise and embolden the militants on this side of the border to take on the Pakistani state.

A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, the participants were told, would serve as the strategic depth for the Pakistani militants, with their Afghan allies morally-bound to support them in their bid to impose their brand of shariah in Pakistan.

“The successful tactics that helped Afghan Taliban to fight the Afghan state would be replicated by Pakistani militants against Pakistan,” they were told.

Highlighting Taliban tactics, the paper likened them to termite that eats the structure from within.

“In the power consolidation phase, they let the super structure remain while going the termite way,” the cabinet was told.

This, they were told, was done by creating social space by guaranteeing security through conflict resolution and quick dispensation of justice and execution; targeting political and tribal elders, targeting public opinion makers, creating terror and targeting law-enforces.

Just in the first three months this year, the cabinet was informed, 139 law-enforces were targeted. Compared with that, militants’ known and registered casualties (dead and wounded) stood at 45 from January to April, 25.Likewise, from February 2010 to August 2011, militants beheaded a total of 47 opponents in North Waziristan alone, the cabinet heard in total shock.

The militants, they were told, had a propaganda wing, a religious wing, a political cell and training and espionage networks.

“In short, all wings of militants structure work towards a common goal to ultimately capture power in a well-coordinated, well-organised, cool and calculated manner,” the cabinet was told.

“As for our response; it’s business as usual, where the right hand knows not what the left hand is doing,” a participant quoted from the presentation.

Intelligence penetration, it said, lacked depth, despite Pakistan being in a state of war for over 10 years, while law-enforcement agencies lacked training, the weaponry and orientation to fight an unconventional war.

Moving beyond the 3-D (Development, Deterrence and Dialogue), a cliché term that lacked clarity, coined by former president Gen Musharraf, the KP cabinet was told that it would take more than just law-enforcement to root out militancy.

All state institutions and government departments would have to respond in a concerted and coordinated manner, it said.

Emphasising that Pakistan needed to learn from other nations on how to deal with militancy; it would also have to make an effort to squeeze finances to militant organisations and mobilise all government departments to gear up their effort in drawing up plans to defeat militants.

The presentation then set out to identify a set of measures that could be taken by the departments of social welfare, Auqaf & religious affairs, information, education, home & tribal affairs, law and justice, revenue, police and the Frontier Constabulary, intelligence and the prosecution to respond in a holistic manner to the challenge.

“To win the war, the government has to show a better face to the people,” the cabinet was told.

Summing up, the cabinet was told that the catch in the whole plan was its implementation. “This is just a pointer,” the cabinet was told.

“Improve it, approve it, assign specific tasks, set time lines, gauge performances against clear benchmarks and go for performance accountability as failure is not an option,” it concluded.

The cabinet approved the recommendations made in the presentation and issued directives to all departments concerned to follow through and implement the plan.

“Minutes of the cabinet meeting have been issued,” a senior government official said. “The ball has started rolling, let’s see where it stops,” a PPP minister in the KP cabinet remarked. “It is a good plan but consistency, perseverance, implementation and accountability are not something we are known for,” the minister said.

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