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Essential steps

Updated January 18, 2015

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The writer served as secretary-general of Parliamentarians for Global Action 1996-2013
The writer served as secretary-general of Parliamentarians for Global Action 1996-2013

Pakistan’s civilian government and military have come together to fight terrorism with an integrated National Action Plan (NAP). Les­sons learned from other countries’ wars against similar totalitarian movements can help us, as can utilising the UN Security Council.

The TTP and their offshoots originate from the mujahideen created in the 1980s by an alliance of the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Some three decades later, jihadi culture permeates every part of society. Unravelling this legacy will require immediate and long-term measures with dedicated civilian and military resources.

Immediate steps: 1) Track down, arrest and prosecute terrorist cases in special courts (no other caseload) with full security protection for judges, lawyers and witnesses, strengthened intelligence and policing. Military judges can be seconded to these courts but due process should still be followed so as not to have repeat trials as in Peru.

Read: MPC ends with national consensus on NAP

From 1980-2000 Peru struggled against a Maoist, brutal movement called the Shining Path (SP) that had initially convinced poor peasants to rise against an entrenched elite. According to the Truth Commission’s final report, between 1980-2000 an estimated 70,000 peasants/civilians died, in a total population of 20 million — 54pc at the hands of SP terrorists, most of the rest at those of the Peruvian military.

“From 1980 to 1989 the Peruvian state used indiscriminate repression which did not work. [In] 1989 the strategy was changed to an alliance with peasant communities/indigenous nations oppressed by SP, and an emphasis on intelligence,” according to Eduardo González Cueva, of the Centre for Transitional Justice.

Also read: Parliament passes 21st Constitutional Amendment, Army Act Amendment

This strategy, combined with dogged pursuit by the police, led to the final arrest of SP leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992, immortalised in the film The Dancer Upstairs.


Other nations can teach us how to tackle militancy.


From 1992, Peru tried the SP in anonymous courts with military judges. After Fujimori’s dicatorship fell in 2000, all SP prisoners, including Guzman were retried in civil courts; he is still serving a 30-year sentence.

2) To control incitement to violence; parliament should pass anti-hate speech, anti-discrimination laws/libel laws with high monetary penalties. German laws provide a good model: Nazi symbols (flags/salutes), denial of Holocaust, expressions of discrimination are criminal offences. A self-governing media council works as “there are disciplinarian or labour law consequences for transgressions,” said Herta Daubler-Gmelin, former justice minister. In addition to what the media says or shows, “even comments by readers on media websites have to be edited before being posted. Law firms specialised in suing publishing houses monitor us all the time,” explained Dr Joachim Jahn, of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Long-term measures: 1) Expand and improve public education. While groups, including religious ones, should be free to set up private schools, they must register with a federally mandated core curriculum. Privatisation of education is creating two tiers of Pakistanis; the for-profit school system is producing a Western elite, while the madrassas are creating young jihadis on the Wahabi model. We have been setting ourselves up for a culture clash.

A nation-wide public education system provides economic stability during and after conflict. Sri Lanka, despite its long civil war, continued investment in public education maintaining over 90pc literacy rates, sustaining a work-force now able to benefit from peace.

2) Shut off the spigot: Terrorism is also a cross-border financing crime. To close international funding/legitimacy for the Taliban; put them back, leaders and group, on a revitalised Security Council list applied across the Af-Pak border. “Designating groups by name under Chapter 7, makes it … illegal for any country or individual to fund the group,” said Naureen Chowdhury Fink, of the Global Centre on Collective Security.

In 2011 the Afghan Taliban requested and Afghanistan/the Security Council agreed that they be removed from the consolidated Sanctions list. While Pakistan works with both sanctions committees, Masood Khan, our ambassador to the UN, said “there is ample room for working more productively with the Counterterrorism Executive Directorate… to track financing of terrorism and to freeze funds being used for acts of terrorism”. Doing so means integrating our foreign policy with the NAP.

3) Regional peace: Saarc is still the only regional body missing from the Global Counterterrorism Forum. South Asia can learn from Cambodia which was overrun by a totalitarian movement, the Khmer Rouge that slaughtered two million Cambodians. Documented in museums of skulls, walls covered with mugshots taken by the Khmer Rouge of victims before they were killed. At the Asian Parliamentary Assembly in Lahore last month, I asked the Cambodian delegation what was their lesson-learned; the reply; “Peaceful, good neighbours.”

The writer served as secretary-general of Parliamentarians for Global Action 1996-2013.

Published in Dawn January 18th , 2015

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