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New security policy sets ambitious targets

Updated February 28, 2014

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Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan — File photo
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government has set some tough targets for itself in the new security policy.

It intends to integrate mosques and madressahs to the national education system in one year, undertake legal reforms, construct a national narrative against extremist mindset in six months, improve intelligence-sharing and strengthen coordination between the Inter-Services Intelligence and civilian agencies.

Going through the 94-page document, one doesn’t stumble into a novel idea for which Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had to wait for over eight months to bring it out in the public domain. He may be spot on that no previous government had made an attempt to formulate such a policy document, concept papers and analysed causes of country’s current perilous situation.

The prescription which the policy offers to deal with the threat scenarios it has analysed are the same old rhetoric – improving intelligence-sharing between the civilian and military intelligence agencies, overhauling the criminal justice system, strengthening law-enforcement agencies – both training and equipment wise – and integrating the mosque- and madressah-based education systems in the mainstream schooling.

Setting up of a directorate of internal security, which will oversee and ensure coordination of staggering 33 civil and military intelligence agencies, has been presented as the cornerstone of the policy. The directorate will have an intelligence and analysis centre which will comprise four intelligence groups replicating ISI, Military Intelligence, federal law-enforcement agencies and police intelligence departments.

Chaudhry Nisar had in the past rightly pointed out a lack of effective coordination between civilian and military intelligence set-ups as a major hurdle in pre-empting evil designs of anti-state elements.

In the new policy, the government intends to introduce a better equipped and adequately trained military-led intelligence network under its operational control. For some, it’s too tough a task for a civilian government.

In July 2008, the PPP government tried to put the ISI under control of the interior ministry, but then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had to withdraw the notification after the military leadership reacted to the step angrily.

The interior division will work as lead ministry for implementation of the new policy.

Madressah reform too was attempted in the past but to no avail.

Former president retired General Parvez Musharraf launched with much fanfare a $100 million project for madressah reforms with the same objective of bringing them at par with the regular school system. Despite having an alliance with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, a conglomerate of religious parties, General Musharraf could not bring various sects on one platform to introduce modern subjects in madressahs.

The new policy has traced non-traditional threats of violent extremism, sectarianism, terrorism and militancy in part to madressah-based education.

The document also refers to madressahs’ foreign funding and inculcation of intolerant and violent religious attitudes.

As of September last year, there are over 22,000 registered madressahs in the country, excluding thousands of those which decided against going for registration initiated by previous governments. This will be another gigantic undertaking in which predecessors of Chaudhry Nisar have miserably failed.

Construction of a national narrative against extremism and militancy, according to the policy, should be the cornerstone of an ideological response to the non-traditional threats with the help of religious scholars, intelligentsia, media and educational institutions. In a society as fractured as Pakistan’s, notably on religious lines, Chaudhry Nisar will have to pull off some miracle to develop the required national narrative. For an educationist, such an initiative needs decades not months to deradicalise people vulnerable to extremism.

For successful implementation of the policy, a comprehensive review of the existing legal framework, particularly in the criminal justice system of the country, has been declared imperative. There is an across-the-board consensus on the much-needed legal reforms.