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Anti-terrorism strategy for KP on back burner

Published Sep 05, 2013 08:44am
PTI chairman Imran Khan criticised the (federal) government over inability to formulate a viable and holistic anti-terrorism policy and said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could no longer pay the price of not having a counter-terrorism policy. — File photo
PTI chairman Imran Khan criticised the (federal) government over inability to formulate a viable and holistic anti-terrorism policy and said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could no longer pay the price of not having a counter-terrorism policy. — File photo

PESHAWAR: The present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has put its predecessor’s counter-terrorism strategy in the restive province on the back burner.

‘Checkmating terrorism, a counter-terrorism strategy (CTS),’ which is about how the provincial government departments could deal with terrorism sticking to their respective roles, was approved by the last provincial cabinet on May 2, 2012.

The ANP government had formulated the strategy during the last year of its term in office, so it failed to implement it.

However, the current PTI government seemingly doesn’t care two hoots about its enforcement.

According to experts, until the newly-elected cabinet overturns CTS or replaces it with a new one, it is binding on the government to implement it.

When contacted to know if his government wants to implement the strategy or scrap it, provincial information minister Shah Farman promised to get back shortly for official version.

However, he didn’t fulfil the promise.

While the discussion on formulating a national security policy and comprehensive counter-terrorism policy are underway at the federal level, the CTS approved by the last Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government almost a year ago awaits implementation.

Only the last month, according to media reports, PTI chairman Imran Khan criticised the (federal) government over inability to formulate a viable and holistic anti-terrorism policy and said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could no longer pay the price of not having a counter-terrorism policy.

He, however, failed to make a mention of the delay in the implementation of the provincial CTS by his party’s government.

Provincial chief of PTI and Speaker of the provincial assembly Asad Qaisar, too, gives the impression by news statements that the government is unaware of the anti-terrorism strategy formulated by its predecessor for the province.

The strategy could be implemented for peace in the troubled province without making any special budgetary allocations for it.

When asked if he’s any knowledge of the provincial CTS, Mr Asad Qaisar said a consultative process was underway with the federal government for the formulation of a policy against terrorism.

“We (PTI) want all parties to be on the same page,” said Mr Qaisar.

He gave the impression that he’s confused foreign policy with counter-terrorism policy.

“(Formulation) of foreign policy and anti-terrorism policy is the responsibility of the federal government and the provincial government could not do much on it,” he said.

Lately, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan would have own counter-terrorism policy, while there would be a national security policy, too.

The government while planning to take all political parties on board during the formulation of the anti-terrorism policy is also considering the option of holding peace talks with militants.

The foreword of CTS, a copy of which is seen by Dawn, states it is important to note that embarking on negotiations with militants and terrorists or not holding such negotiations did not alter the basic premise and action plan of the strategy.

“When and if such negotiations are held, the strategy would hold equally good in the pre-negotiation phase, during negotiations, and in the post negotiation phase, especially in case of failure which is more likely in the light of the past experience of agreements worked out with terrorists/militants. It is wise to be prepared for the worst case scenario.”

Under the law, in absence of any coherent policy at the national level, the anti-terrorism policy approved by the previous cabinets legally binds the provincial government to implement the approved CTS unless it rejects or amends it.

The strategy pointed out that the most important aspect of how to ensure implementation of the strategy could be summarised in three words ‘Ruthless Performance Accountability.’

According to it, during the last decade or so, terrorist outfits have been smoothly following their agenda but the government’s response has been weak or rather business as usual.

A footnote of CTS says basic contours of the strategy were shared with the federal government, civil and armed forces and intelligence agencies in May last year but no feedback was received and even, the implementation by the departments at the provincial level leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite the fact that law and order and militancy are the major issues of the province, the PTI government, which has just completed 90 days in office, has yet to come out with a clear-cut stand and strategy of its own on how to tackle terrorism.

Until now, countering terrorism has only been rhetoric.

If CTS is implemented in letter and spirit, it will be good for the terrorism-hit province in particular and the country in general.