INTERNAL security faultlines have assumed threatening proportions resulting in the weakening of state institutions and confusion developing in society. The belated but welcome development of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) must be viewed in this grim context.
Given the wide array of stakeholders dealing with internal security, there is a need to establish and activate an institutional framework for the implementation of policy and coordination both at the federal and provincial levels. In implementing the NISP, the political will of the government will be tested.
A clear roadmap needs to be followed. First, the internal security challenges facing the nation should be deliberated upon regularly by the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS). While the national security adviser assists the CCNS on national security issues that have external and foreign policy implications, there is a need to appoint an internal security professional to ensure the implementation of policy and for monitoring coordination on behalf of the CCNS.
Second, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) is now the pivotal institution visualised by the framers of the internal security policy to undertake coordination between different agencies. Its main task would be to formulate counterterrorism and counter-extremism strategies. It should not only become a repository of a database of terrorism-related matters but also seek advice from think tanks and experts on security matters.
Third, intelligence gathering and coordination will be the biggest challenge as our key agencies have developed a culture of operating in informational silos. Instead of creating a new bureaucracy or a division for intelligence coordination within Nacta or the interior ministry, it would be wise to house this key function in an established federal agency like the IB or the ISI along the same lines as the MI5 in the UK. Representatives of various federal and provincial security agencies can be brought under one roof by the director-general IB or the director-general ISI. Creating a new and parallel intelligence coordination hierarchy would be a non-starter and may result in internal turf battles.
Fourth, NISP entails creating counterterrorism forces or rapid response teams in Islamabad and in provincial headquarters. These may be raised under the counterterrorism branch of police departments. The model should be the establishment of elite police units in Punjab in the 1990s to combat sectarian terrorism. An attempt to raise a new counterterrorism force in a province under the bureaucracy instead of the police command is unwise. Hopefully, Punjab will enrol 1,500 and Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 500 each counterterrorism personnel under police commanders.
Fifth, as law and order is a provincial subject, police at both the federal and provincial levels will play the primary role of meeting internal security challenges. Necessary specialisation and capacity building should be ensured to effectively combat terrorism and militancy. The emphasis now should be on depoliticising the police, ensuring effective command and controls within the department and providing adequate resources to face security challenges. Community policing and problem-oriented policing models need to be adopted to address the trust-deficit between the citizens and the police.
Sixth, the Special Investigation Group in the FIA should now be strengthened to assist law enforcement agencies, especially in crime scene expertise, cybercrimes, computer forensics and the analysis of the interrogation reports of arrested terrorists. Special emphasis should be given to money laundering and terrorist financing. Better coordination and information-sharing should be established between the Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank of Pakistan, other banks (including foreign exchange companies), and customs authorities so that illegal monetary transactions are strictly discouraged. The Ministry of Finance is required to provide an effective regulatory framework.
Seventh, while civil armed forces like the Frontier Corps, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary can augment the capacity of law enforcement agencies to deal with terrorism, the military is the last responder in the operational framework and “acts in aid of” — not in replacement to — civil power. Constitutionally and legally, civilian authorities cannot abdicate their responsibility to the military. Army operations result in the capture of armed combatants and the legal process involves complications for military personnel. In order to avoid the phenomenon of missing persons and illegal detentions, the concept of known internment centres rather than secret cells should be enforced by striking a balance between security and liberty. Otherwise, the state loses moral and legal authority and plays on the turf of lawless militants.
Eighth, the judicial process of prosecuting those accused of being involved in acts of terrorism and militancy is weak due to gaps in the relevant legislation, under-qualified and poorly trained investigators and prosecutors, limited numbers of anti-terrorism courts, and threats to witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, lawyers and judges. This has resulted in abysmally low conviction rates in terror-related cases. Instead of blaming the judges, there is a need to enhance the professional competence of the state machinery and introduce sound witness and judge protection programmes.
Last but not the least, the role of the media is vital for creating awareness and developing a national narrative against terrorists and banned militant organisations. The coverage of incidents of terrorism and the projection of terrorists’ agenda requires the media to show restraint and sensitivity so that an environment of fear is not created. Security institutions, civil society and the media must try to forge a partnership against ruthless terrorists and militants who want to unravel the state of Pakistan. They must not be allowed to succeed in their nefarious designs.
The writer is a retired police officer.