Twenty months later, most of the 20 points of NAP to counter terrorism have seen very little progress.
When existential threats are met with selective interest and short-term fixes, the outcomes are bound to be contentious.
PESHAWAR: On December 24, 2014 — a week after terrorist struck and killed 144 students and staff members at the Army Public School in Peshawar — in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a comprehensive strategy to defeat what many had come to believe was an existential threat to Pakistan.
Sharif called the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) that had come about after two days of marathon meetings of heads of parliamentary parties, a ‘defining moment’ in the fight against terrorism.
“A line has been drawn,” a sombre Prime Minister told the nation. “On one side are coward terrorists and on the other side stands the whole nation.”
NAP provided for the execution of convicted terrorists, establishment of military-led speedy trial courts, action against armed militias and the strengthening and activation of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta).
It also envisaged countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organisations, ensuring that proscribed organisations and individuals do not re-emerge, establishing a counter-terrorism force and taking steps against religious persecution.
The plan also included steps for the registration and regulation of seminaries, a ban on the glorification of terrorists in the media, Fata reforms, dismantling of the communication networks of terrorists, measures against abuse of the internet and social media for terrorism, reversing the trend of militancy, a Karachi operation to end lawlessness and to deny space to militants and extremism.
Besides, and most importantly, NAP called for steps to reconcile the dissident Baloch, ending sectarian terrorism, repatriation of Afghan refugees and revamping of the criminal justice system.
To ensure that work was taken in hand immediately and concurrently in a speedy and effective manner, the government also constituted various committees, 18 of which were to be headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Progress on NAP, however, has been uneven and unsatisfactory and, in some cases, extremely slow — a fact also borne out by a public near-rebuke of the government by the military establishment.
The lack of interest on the part of the political leadership in overseeing progress on NAP was evident from the fact that Prime Minister Sharif convened a meeting of the civil and military top brass only 19 months after NAP was announced to review the matter and that too, only after the Quetta bombing that left 50 lawyers dead and caused public outcry and anger.
Among the issues that continue to show a lack of progress are tge choking of financing for terrorist and terrorist organisations, officials associated with the process say.
Led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the committee tasked with the goal includes Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Chairman FBR, DG FIA, Secretary Finance and DG ISI but has failed to produce any tangible results without any legal and constitutional framework.
Even the half-hearted attempt to close down Peshawar’s main currency exchange market — known for its hundi and hawala business — after persistent demands by intelligence agencies at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Apex Committee meetings, ran into legal problems. The market has had to be re-opened soon afterwards.
Little wonder then that the demand for the American greenback in Peshawar is higher than anywhere else in the country, pushing the rate of the dollar up in the provincial capital much above elsewhere in Pakistan.
The re-emergence of proscribed organisations and individuals is perhaps one of the most contentious issues. Headed by the Minister for Interior, the committee that was to suggest steps to ensure that proscribed organisations and individuals did not re-emerge under different names did not achieve much progress either.
Fata Reforms did show some progress. A committee led by the adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has completed its task and has prepared a 51-page report recommending Fata’s merger with KP.
It has suggested a five-year transition period, allowing the government to undertake legal and administrative reforms, including scrapping the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, coupled with massive infrastructure development work to mainstream the area.
The reform package awaited the PM’s post-surgery return from London and has had to wait to get an appointment with him for a final presentation.
Federal officials say that the PM would not only have to approve the reform package and announce it but would also have to make the resources available to set Fata on the course to be amalgamated with mainstream Pakistan.
The repatriation of Afghan refugees is also one of the key issues which have seen slow progress (see Pakistan’s Afghan problem).
Pakistan has refused to grant further extension to the millions of documented and undocumented Afghan refugees, making it clear to Afghanistan and United Nations High Commission for Refugees, that it would not extend the December 31, 2016, deadline for the refugees to return to their homeland.
With just four months left for the expiry of the umpteenth deadline, and while there has been a somewhat unprecedented uptick in the number of refugees going back to their country, there still does not seem to be any coordinated plan to streamline, speed up and encourage the millions of still-sceptical refugees to return home.
But perhaps the most difficult and complex issue that has seen little or no tangible progress is the reconciliation process in Baluchistan. The process did kindle some hope when the former Balochistan Chief Minister, Abdul Malik met with dissident Baloch leaders in self-exile in Europe.
The initiative did not make any headway, however, apparently due to the insistence by dissident Baloch leaders that they would only speak to the military establishment. In their view, the civilian leadership lacked the necessary authority and mandate. The political process is stalemated due to a lack of political and strategic direction.
Still, government officials say, substantial progress could be made toward the reconciliation process if concerted and cohesive efforts are made to bring in hundreds of fighters holed up in the mountains, commonly known as Feraris in Balochistan, willing to surrender to the authorities.
The process of the registration and regulation of madressahs also did not make any headway in the face of stiff resistance from religio-political parties and religious bodies and the lack of consistent efforts by the federal government to coordinate the efforts with the provinces.
It is, however, the government’s failure to provide the necessary financial, legal and administrative authority to strengthen Nacta that has drawn the most criticism from almost all political parties. Government officials insist that while strengthening Nacta is essential to combat terrorism, it is not the be-all and end-all institution to fight off the menace on its own.
As one official sums up: “Leaving it to and depending on one state institution to fight the permeated cancer is erroneous. Nacta plays an important role but the kind of problem we are in requires all state institutions, federal and provincial governments to work together more closely and more effectively. It is a process and a long haul but you can’t work in fits and starts.”
The writer is Dawn’s Editor (KP)
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2016
Is it all merely an exercise in public relations?
“The National Action Plan (NAP) empowers the military, ‘the performing institution’, whereas the government is characterised by its ineptitude and poor performance.”
This simple statement-of-fact came from a person no less than the former army chief, Gen (retired) Mirza Aslam Beg in immediate response to the NAP. He wrote: “The performance gap ... would widen, creating a 1976 and 1998 like situation, when of necessity, military courts were established by the elected governments, but were soon struck down by the judiciary, and the same judiciary didn’t hesitate for a moment to award the ‘law of necessity’ when the military struck.”
The former army chief who has been associated with attempts to correct the straying politicians in the past was thorough in his analysis. He thought that “the military is also being over-burdened with responsibility,” and he considered it necessary to distinguish the interests of the army from that of the country. In his words “…the resultant over-stretch may harm the interests of both, the country and the military.”
Let’s recall a little bit more of what Gen Beg said at the time since in the context of military thinking and widely held popular belief it helps us to understand what parameters have defined the debate raging since then. It is a debate, essentially, about the military — which has ultimately usurped the title of ‘sincere’ that the PML-N has assigned to itself especially in recent years — acting in contrast to the lackadaisical, even deliberately dormant and, worse, a terrified, civilian setup.
“The legal authority awarded to the military undermines the judiciary,” Gen Beg observed, in the process concurring even if superficially with so many of those worried about some basic damage NAP could do to the system. In fact he must have made a lot of sense to those calling for civilian supremacy when he remarked that “This over-stepping would be detrimental to the cause of both the institutions. Rather, the Action Plan should have come-up with ideas to correct the delays in dispensation of justice and the development of modalities to deal with corruption…”
“The emphasis,” the former chief confirmed, was “on the military courts” and he had “no doubt the military will deliver.” But at the same time he was constrained to ask, “What about the remaining 19 points?”
What about them?
Pakistanis are still asking more than one-and-a-half years after the action plan had come about in the wake of the horrifying school attack in Peshawar in December 2014. The general perception, backed frequently by the tone and the drift of the public debate, is that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis had thought that the military will get everything right — including the one and the 19 points.
Indeed one prediction right through has been that while NAP established the army’s command on the issues in a more prominent way, the messiah, the army chief, himself will be compelled to take control through a formal takeover. Many had disagreed that NAP was likely to hasten a coup yet there was a consensus that NAP was certain to have politicians and the various governmental setups they were associated with falling over themselves to show just how committed they were to carrying out NAP orders.
One thing the NAP has predictably led to is the bickering between politicians and division of the country along areas ruled by various parties. There’s no centrality and cohesion between the provinces other than the theme provided by the army. To further discredit elected souls, the credit — where it is due — is claimed by the army. For instance, in Karachi and Balochistan, where at various points in time, the situation was projected and accepted to have improved in spite of the dirty politics.
Crying out when targeted by the army’s reforms, after all these months, the political parties are still busy proving their loyalty to NAP, and through NAP, to the army. There are various versions to subscribe to, such as an official version (provided by an APP story from Peshawar not too long ago), but the inherent message is the same. The story had the lawmakers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly hailing “the successful actions and operations” under NAP claiming these had “isolated terrorists by reducing space for them to reorganise and operate freely.”
“[The KP lawmakers] said the terrorists were on the run … as the successful Operation Zarb-i-Azb has broken their back and their sanctuaries were destroyed.”
If this was an account dominated by the PML-N’s members of the KP Assembly, others in other parts of the country had their own reasons to appear to be diligently following the diktats of NAP. More than it being a point-wise pursuance of the agenda set by NAP, it’s been a question of who among the executing arms — the federal, the provincial governments and the agencies operating under various commands — has been better able than others to satisfy the overarching authority — the army.
Take Sindh, where Governor Dr Ishrat Ul Ebad had this to say in January this year: “[The] Karachi operation is being conducted in letter and spirit and according to the parameters of National Action Plan.” Dr Ebad further said that up to 80 per cent progress had been made in eliminating culprits involved in terrorism, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and target killing.
Did he say 80 per cent? The agony caused to some clerics by the sight of a new law on the registration of madressahs would indicate that seven months after that victory speech by Dr Ebad, Sindh was still trying to meet some basic NAP requirements.
Thus began a news item in August 2016: “With the objective of implementing the National Action Plan against terrorism in letter and spirit, the new Sindh cabinet has approved the drafts of two bills to adopt a mechanism to register religious seminaries and monitor their funding as well as for keeping an eye on non-governmental organisations in the province. The cabinet … with Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in the chair, accorded approval to the draft of the Sindh Deeni Madaris Bill 2016 and the Sindh Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies’ Bill 2016.”
Whereas the newly appointed chief minister most obviously was hoping to flaunt this as his mission statement, the move had a federal government ally, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, vowing to unleash hell on the Sindh government. The Maulana, whose JUI-F may claim to have small pockets of support in the province, was insistent that the religious scholars had to be won over by reason rather than by force — a statement we’ve heard ad nauseum that had echoed all through the NAP years, just as the clerics had been a major opposition to reform in the time prior to this action plan.
On the day Maulana Fazl roared from the newspaper pages with his threat to the Sindh government, provincial home minister Rana Sanaullah sat in Lahore explaining some of the salient features of NAP in Punjab. And whatever grand projections and figures he came up with in support of his argument, there was no obfuscating the reality that the ‘religious elements’ were the most difficult part of the problem to overcome.
In fits and starts, Punjab has taken its own course to following the NAP. It had its critics from within the province and from outside, just as it had been keen on pointing out the ‘blunders’ committed by non-PML-N governments in KP and Sindh.
The Shahbaz Sharif administration had surprised many in July 2015 when Malik Ishaq, a militant leader said to be close to the Sharifs, was gunned down in Muzaffargarh along with two of his sons and a bunch of his associates in the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ).
The incident showcased how the ‘cleaning up’ had been taken up without first giving confidence to an extremely important plank in the anti-militancy war: the police. Everyone seemed to believe the police was not quite capable of executing a plan as sensitive and dangerous as taking out Malik Ishaq. Resultantly, while a group of policemen were publicly given credit for the Muzaffargarh action against the LJ, the general belief was that it was only the army which could ‘handle’ these hardcore extremists.
These were the kind of remarks that further pulled down an already despondent police force. It was not uncommon for senior police officers then to complain how their work had been trivialised since NAP was introduced. The police, which are ideally placed to play a vital part in NAP by virtue of their experience of working at the grassroots, blame this on the establishment and a media which must make fun of a particular set of people in uniform.
There were other signals sent out by Malik Ishaq’s killing — one of the most significant in the campaign also saw the revival of executions by the state and some quiet efforts at controlling religious and sectarian outfits.
Many of these signals turned out to be false. Those who were encouraged by the incident to loudly forecast an indiscriminate cleanup operation were soon proven wrong amid allegations that the old policies that separated the ‘good’ militants from the ‘bad’ continued.
The policy continues in various shapes and it is likely to in the future as well. Solutions and victories in wars and insurgencies are dependent on those in charge of battles being able to tell the one who can be reformed and rehabilitated, and who is thus worth conserving apart from the irredeemable. That’s how the campaigns are launched and won. This is the course we are likely to be following, NAP or no NAP.
The writer is Dawn’s Resident Editor in Lahore
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2016
NAP promised a comprehensive policy on Afghan refugees’ registration and repatriation. Pakistan seems nowhere near it.
PESHAWAR: When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unveiled the National Action Plan (NAP) in December 2014, the second last point of the strategy resolved to prepare “a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all refugees.” But almost 20 months later, policy makers in Islamabad are still sifting through files to work out a strategy or plan to deal with this chronic issue once and for all.
In the aftermath of the attack on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar, the presence of millions of Afghans was deemed as one of the factors which contributed to the menace of terrorism and extremism in the country. No doubt some Afghans nationals were involved in heinous criminal activities, but after the APS attack Afghan refugees were considered ‘the mother of all evils’.
Two goals were therefore set in the NAP agenda for refugees’ repatriation. First, there will be no further extension beyond December 2016 for registered refugees to amicably return home, and their return would be facilitated under the UN-sponsored voluntary repatriation programme.
Second, undocumented Afghans would be registered through the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) within six months; this would enable authorities to compile authentic data before sending the refugees back to their country. At the same time, police and other law enforcement agencies were to check the movement of undocumented Afghan nationals and take action against them under the Foreigners Act.
But perhaps, that bit was all for rhetoric; without a plan to repatriate refugees, there isn’t much to speak of implementation.
Since refugees’ repatriation is a federal subject, the federal government is supposed to provide a roadmap or guidelines to various provincial governments for the return of Afghan nationals, including registered refugees. Before the NAP, dozens of strategies and plans had been designed to ensure the return of Afghan nationals but these plans never saw the light of day.
But implementation of Section 19 of NAP remains in limbo as the government struggles to find a sustainable solution for the repatriation of registered as well as undocumented Afghans who are living in Pakistan without valid documents. More than one million Afghan nationals are estimated to be still residing in the country without legal documents.
In fact, none of the major stakeholders are on the same page. The Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) favours a one-year extension in the stay of registered refugees after December 2016 while other stakeholders are not in favour of this proposal. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in particular is opposed to this plan, as are nationalist forces and religious parties. But officials maintain that another one-year extension is on the cards for registered refugees.
SAFRON had also prepared a plan to start registration of undocumented Afghans throughout the country, with an estimated one million Afghan nationals without refugee status to be registered in the first phase. The ministry had allocated 74 million rupees for this registration drive and assigned the task to Nadra.
The authority, in collaboration with the Commissionerate for Refugees, identified 24 registration points to issue temporary registrations cards to undocumented Afghans. Nadra was just about to start the drive when the interior ministry clamped down on this registration plan, claiming that the registration of refugees was not under SAFRON’s mandate. The issue was therefore put on the backburner.
Recently another committee comprising officials of SAFRON, interior ministry and other stakeholders was tasked to prepare an action plan to pave the way for the repatriation of 1.5 million registered refugees and to deal with the return of undocumented Afghans. The committee has completed its work and is awaiting approval from the federal government.
Meanwhile, no comprehensive border management policy with Afghanistan has been put in place either. Cross-border movement of people and goods has been regularised only at Torkham but other routes still remain open for human traffic as well as for smuggling purposes.
In the absence of any plan or policy, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat has adopted a short-term solution by handing registered refugees a six-month extension. Their legal stay is due to expire in December, 2016.
There are also reports that the federal government has decided to hand undocumented Afghans some relief till November 15 next, and has issued directives to all provincial governments to stop the police from detaining or deporting unregistered Afghans till that date.
Despite these orders, however, the police and other law enforcement agencies in various provinces continue to arrest and intimidate unregistered Afghans by applying different tactics such as travelling restrictions, harassment and raids. As a result, the number of Afghan refugees who have left Pakistan has witnessed a surge.
Officials in the government as well the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) both claim that around 60,000 refugees out of 1.5 million registered Afghans have returned home since January this year.
The writer is a Dawn staffer
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2016
Despite killing over 300 and making over 700 arrests, the state maintains its ‘good militant, bad militant’ distinction.
The December 16, 2014, attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar was described as a watershed moment in the country’s history: the civilian and military leaderships were finally on the same page and had agreed to target all terror groups without distinction. A new page had seemingly been turned.
But a year-and-a-half later, the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) resembles a hastily-conceived wish-list, devised for sloganeering during a period of crisis rather than a coherent and coordinated strategy to tackle terrorism.
In Punjab, this confusion has manifested itself as a lack of coordination among its various law enforcement agencies, which in turn hinders the state’s resolve to fight militancy and eradicate it.
Over 300 suspected terrorists have been killed in Punjab thus far and over 700 arrests have also been made, with Lahore and Multan proving to be safe havens for terrorists. But officials in the government as well as members of the civil society remain unconvinced by counter-terror efforts being made.
A member of the committee that devised NAP and a civilian security analyst, on condition of anonymity, claims that the national counter-terrorism plan recognised that Punjab is the heartland of militancy and that the “real battle” against terrorists will eventually be fought in the largest province of the country.
He asserts that the NAP clearly abolished any distinction between the good and bad Taliban; in Punjab, it was the sectarian outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) that was recognised as a major threat to the province. The LeJ, he explains, provided master trainers and facilitators to the TTP. Therefore, along with war against the TTP in Fata, the militant outfit’s strongholds in Punjab, Karachi and Balochistan were to be targeted in particular.
“Although the method adopted is totally illegal, this war decided to use kinetic force to eliminate militants who had declared war against the state, particularly the military,” he says.
The NAP committee member argues that although the Punjab Police has gone after the LJ, they are reluctant to take on banned outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) as these “strategic assets of the state” have been asked to keep a “low profile.”
“Therefore, the distinction between good and bad militants still remains intact in the state mind-set. This is a dangerous trend and will cause harm,” contends the NAP committee member, pointing to the relative immunity enjoyed by the JeM even after the Pathankot folly.
Despite claims to the contrary, the security establishment still distinguishes between ‘bad’ jihadi groups — those who target Pakistani security forces — and ‘good’ jihadi groups — those who promote its strategic objectives in India and Afghanistan. Anti-India outfits such as Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) have expanded their activities even further through charity wings.
After enforcing NAP on December 24, 2014, the Nawaz Sharif-led government implemented two major demands of the military without delay: lifting their predecessor’s moratorium on the death penalty; and passing the 21st Constitutional Amendment, which empowered special military courts to try all terror suspects, including civilians.
Yet, the vast majority of the 176 executions carried out since late December 2014 has been for crimes unrelated to terrorism.
The judicial process, as practiced by military courts, has weakened constitutional protections for the accused. Reliance on blunt instruments and lethal force to counter terrorism is doing more harm than good when the institutions tasked with protecting the people end up undermining the Constitution and the rules of civilian governance, and in turn, providing further fuel to various militants’ propaganda.
In pursuance of the objectives outlined by NAP, the Punjab Police reorganised its Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), which is now being headed by Additional Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rai Tahir. Money was pumped into the CTD by the provincial government, with the department empowered to act against all forms of terror.
IGP Tahir negates the perception of inaction. He claims that since the launch of NAP, 164 “jet black terrorists” (a term used to define most-wanted criminals) have been killed as have 138 militants in encounters with the CTD. Meanwhile, 26 terrorists were shot dead in skirmishes with various district police forces.
“As many as 700 suspected terrorists have been arrested and 120 of them were convicted by the courts and the rest are undergoing trial,” claims IGP Tahir, adding that more than 1,500 activists of banned outfits, including their leaders, were detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The CTD chief says that across the board action was being taken against all the suspected terrorists and activists of banned organisations. Quoting CTD performance in 2016, he claims that 600 intelligence-based operations (IBOs) have been conducted in the province, including 450 by the CTD and 150 with other agencies. According to a CTD spokesman, 20 terrorists were killed in CTD-ISI-MI joint operations while 49 terrorists were killed in exclusive CTD operations.
“Sixty-nine jet black terrorists have been killed in CTD Special Operations in Multan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Lodhran, DG Khan, Sheikhupura and Gujranwala,” explains the IGP.
Thirty-five of them belonged to Al-Qaeda and those arrested included its senior provincial leadership. “Among other crimes, these men were involved in killing and/or masterminding the attacks on minorities’ places of worship in Lahore, the assassination of Brig Qadri in Sargodha, army officers in Parade Lane, Rawalpindi Mosque, as well as police officers in south Punjab,” he says.
“Twenty of those killed belonged to LJ/TTP-Ustad Aslam Group, and were involved in killing dozens of innocent people from all over Punjab. They were planning to attack various sensitive buildings in and around Lahore,” claims IGP Tahir. “Another 14 who were killed belonged to TTP-Mohmand and were involved in killing and kidnapping traders of Rawalpindi for ransom as well as carrying out sectarian killings in Attock.”
In terms of arrests made, 250 suspected militants were taken into custody and are now facing trial in anti-terrorism courts. About 50 of the accused — charged with involvement in 20 cases of explosives recovery, terror financing and hate speech — had already been convicted by the ATCs.
IGP Tahir further says about 50 members of Daesh were arrested and detained for pledging allegiance to Al-Baghdadi and inciting their junior members to violence. A 10-member Daesh gang was also busted in Daska and these men were now facing trial in an ATC in Gujranwala.
“Three hundred activists of banned outfits have been detained under ATA, 13,782 madressas, 60,000 mosques and 3,000 minority worship places have been geo-tagged and its data has put online. The CTD recovered eight suicide jackets, more than 50kg explosives, 200 detonators, 19 Kalashnikovs and arms and ammunition besides 500 CDs, 13 books, 1,500 magazines containing hate material have been confiscated and banned.”
Although the numbers are seductive, there is more to the matter than meets the eye.
“The biggest hurdle in the way of civilian institutions guaranteeing security is regional and foreign policy objectives that the militants carry out in furtherance of state policies,” asserts the NAP committee member.
“Banned militant outfits such as LeT and LJ are still intact in Punjab. The JuD even holds parallel arbitration courts to resolve disputes. Banned outfits tend to re-emerge with new names; therefore, it is the persons behind these organisations and not simply an organisation that need to be banned and proscribed,” he argues.
“Schedule 4 of the ATA is not being invoked effectively to curb the activities of the activists of the militant outfits. How can they openly condone or participate in the funeral prayers of slain terrorists? That is the question,” he asserts.
Former inspector general of Punjab Police, Sarmad Saeed Khan, lends weight to the argument of the government taking cosmetic measures when it comes to fighting terrorism. “Small-time terrorists are being killed but it’s like killing the mosquitoes but not closing their breeding pond,” he argues.
“NAP is not being implemented in letter and spirit; but civilian institutions should also be allowed to play their role,” says Khan, adding that banned outfits continue to promote terrorists’ agenda in the cities by setting up welfare camps and offering funeral prayers for slain terrorists.
“We should end the policy of good and bad Taliban and take across the board action against all those involved in supporting/facilitating, financing and propagating extremist agenda. The government should stop fooling people by running counterterrorism policy on selective grounds,” contends the former IGP.
Quoting an incident in Mian Channu, he says law enforcement agencies came to know about an arms dump only after it exploded.
“There are a number of seminaries being used to dump weapons and explosives but our intelligence agencies have failed to point out these seminaries. In the past, the police remained aware of any anti-state activities in coordination with the public but now, they have lost public support. Today, the police are only able to collect information from criminals, who only leak information about their rivals for personal gain,” he explains.
Khan links the loss of public trust to the absence of a counter-narrative to the militants’ narrative; he considers a potent counter-narrative to be an essential part of counterterrorism policy but says that no one is focusing on building one to push back militant propaganda.
“All institutions, especially in the education sector and civil society, should play their role to change the minds of the public. Law enforcement must adopt policies to win back public trust,” he asserts.
“There has been zero coordination till now between various intelligence agencies of the country, with every institution trying to take credit. We are losing the war on the ground and steps should be taken to build mutual trust between them,” suggests the former IGP.
Former director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Tariq Khosa, claims that the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) is formulating a long-term strategy and narrative to counter violent extremism after deliberations with various stakeholders, but there are still some shortcomings.
“Fake police, Rangers and military encounters to eliminate terrorists are a faulty policy,” says Khosa. “They deal long-term harm to society at large. Such measures brutalise society and fuel violence. This is myopic and counterproductive militarisation of our internal security strategy. The police should avoid taking this course.”
He says capital punishments may be resorted to by the state in rare cases as it is the certainty of punishment and not its severity that deters criminals and diminishes crimes.
“The solution lies in following due process and the rule of law,” he argues. “This will be accomplished by building the capacity of police, prosecution, courts and prisons.”
The writer is a Dawn staffer
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2016
With much counter-terror business left incomplete, Sindh blames poor implementation of NAP on the federal government.
The Sindh government boasts that it has been more active than the other three provinces in implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) — a contention rooted in the efficiency of its Apex Committee, which has held more meetings than their counterparts in the other provinces. It has also taken the most decisions … only to see very few of them implemented.
Central to the Sindh government’s concerns on poor implementation of decisions is a tug of power between the federal and provincial government. Twice in the recent past, the Sindh government has had to push back Islamabad and the military establishment to keep the paramilitary Rangers to the confines of Karachi division.
Sindh believes that the federal government and its agencies are attempting to encroach upon their turf whereas they need to be empowering them instead.
“In Sindh, the Apex Committee has met 16 times in the last 20 months. In the other three provinces, apex committees haven’t held meetings more than five times,” argues a spokesman for the Sindh government. “Have you ever seen anyone from the governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan briefing the media about a meeting of their respective apex committee? We have done it each time following a committee meeting.”
And yet, most decisions taken by the Apex Committee have been Karachi-centric.
The remaining 23 districts of Sindh — being the dominant turf of the ruling PPP — have largely been kept shielded from the NAP agenda, as the PPP considers it to be a red herring thrown by the security establishment.
Till now the ruling party has been successful in keeping the paramilitary Rangers from launching a Karachi-like operation in other districts of Sindh. It fears that giving in to pressures from Islamabad and Rawalpindi will translate into the guns being turned on the PPP.
The perception of there being a power joust between the centre and Sindh was further reinforced after the arrests of Dr Asim Hussain, former petroleum minister and a close aide of PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari, and Nisar Morai, who headed the Fishermen Cooperative Society. The duo is in jail facing charges of graft.
“Their arrests by agencies run by the federal government offended the provincial government, which took it as an attack on its turf. At one point, the [continuation of the] provincial government was virtually at stake and was only saved by the soft diplomacy of former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah,” says a senior official privy to the matter.
The outcome of this tiff has had grave implications on meeting the counter-terror objectives detailed in NAP. Sindh faces not just a lack of confidence from the centre but also a shortfall in funds that were pledged by the federal government.
Islamabad had initially pledged Rs14 billion rupees for Sindh’s counter-terror and institutional efforts but it has not provided a single penny yet. The Sindh government has allocated 65 billion rupees for law and order for the current fiscal year. Previously, officials say, the government had spent more than 50 billion rupees on security operations but received no funds from Islamabad.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to provide five billion rupees to Sindh during his recent meeting with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, but we are seeing no signs of any money coming our way,” says an official in the CM House.
Because of a lack of funds, recruitment of 200 special prosecutors has been delayed while just 10 special anti-terrorism courts are functioning, which should have been 26 as per decision of the Apex Committee. Officials claim that the chief minister, exercising his discretionary powers, has ordered the recruitment of 25 special prosecutors, but more special courts will only be set up once funds are made available.
“Because of this shortage of special courts and prosecutors, more than 4,500 cases are currently pending,” explains one provincial government official.
When it comes to surveillance, the federal government has not permitted the Sindh government to have GSM locators, which too was a part of the NAP. Such locators are already being used by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa authorities. No explanation has been given by the federal government for this restriction.
Officials say there are just 2,000 surveillance cameras in Karachi, which have a two-megapixel resolution. Not only are these immensely insufficient in number but their resolution quality is also insufficient as it impacts the quality of pictures available to law enforcement. By comparison, London, a smaller city by population, has 60,000 modern cameras for surveillance purposes.
“The federal government’s funds are required for this project as well as for a state-of-the-art forensic lab and explosives analysis lab,” explains another senior official.
Despite this crunch, many government officials and even some high-ranking bureaucrats argue that the provincial law enforcement has been as efficient as was possible given the constraints.
According to Sindh government statistics, a total of 16,654 raids have been conducted in the province since January 2015, which included 3,481 combing and 2,233 search operations. Some 1,198 people have been arrested for violation of loudspeakers; 67 for hate material or speeches; 67 for wall-chalking; and 21 for violating the temporary residents ordinance 2015. Provincial authorities have also arrested 2,366 Afghan nationals for illegally residing in Sindh.
However, despite a lapse of several months, the geo-tagging of madressahs has not yet been completed. Official figures compiled by the Special Branch, Sindh, show they have spotted 10,033 madressahs in the province, of which 1,178 were unregistered or ‘ghost’ seminaries. They claim to have sealed some 2,309 madressahs so far.
Officials in the Sindh government argue that incidents of violence or terrorism in the province outside Karachi have been far and few ever since NAP was introduced. This also corroborates their contention that it is only Karachi that needs NAP to be implemented in letter and spirit.
“We have only witnessed a couple of terror acts in Jacobabad and Shikarpur districts since late 2015. Terror activities by separatist elements are too indistinct to be taken gravely. On the separatists’ front, our police have been working efficiently and have busted many gangs and arrested dozens of separatist activists,” says the government spokesman.
The officer further claims that not a single suicide bomber involved in any attack across the country belonged to Sindh. In comparison, he says, many suicide attackers hailed from the other three provinces. “Despite this, nobody is asking the other three provinces to do their job; all kinds of pressures are exerted on Sindh, which is already doing a good job,” he argues.
But all is not in harmony.
One official of the provincial home department contends that the Rangers have done little to benefit the NAP agenda. It was primarily given the task to take care of those involved in targeted killings, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and terrorism in Karachi.
“But the paramilitary force started an operation against corrupt practices and sources of funding in various cases, which are normally entrusted to the provincial anti-corruption establishment. The situation worsened at that point,” says the official. He calls it a ‘clash of interest’ between the two sides.
“The federal government, beside all this, is also required to consider the re-promulgation of the Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA), which has lapsed now,” contends a security official.
“Everyone is responsible for this unfinished business in Sindh — the provincial government, the agencies working under the interior ministry, and the federal government itself for not owning NAP in letter and spirit.”
The writer is a Dawn staffer
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 28th, 2016