ISLAMABAD: The inquiry commission on the Aug 8 Quetta carnage has called for banning terrorist organisations without any delay by enforcing the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) in letter and spirit.
Terrorist organisations must not be permitted to hold meetings and people must be informed about the reasons for banning such organisations, said the Justice Qazi Faez Isa-led commission in its 110-page inquiry report submitted to a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Thursday.
The commission was formed by the Supreme Court on Oct 6 to investigate the Aug 8 suicide attack on Quetta’s Civil Hospital in which at least 74 people, mostly lawyers, had lost their lives.
The commission regretted that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had on Oct 21 met Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the head of three banned organisations — Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Millat-i-Islamia and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat — to listen to his demands and conceded to them as per media reports.
Quetta carnage commission submits report to Supreme Court
The meeting took place in the Punjab House situated within Islamabad’s Red Zone.
“ATA is equally applicable to public functionaries and they should not be cavorting with proclaimed members of banned organisations,” the commission said, adding that hypocrisy must stop. There should be a nationwide streamlining of national policy and all government servants need to abide by it, or face the consequences.
The commission regretted that the interior ministry did not respond to two letters written by the Balochistan government seeking a ban on Jamatul Ahrar and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al-Almi in the aftermath of the Aug 8 Quetta attack for their involvement in explosions on Feb 14, 2014, and attacks on a police officer on July 6 and a Frontier Corps vehicle on July 27 this year.
In response, the director general (counterterrorism) of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) had on Sept 5 written to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), asking it to submit a comprehensive report on the veracity of the claims of attacks by Jamatul Ahrar and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al-Almi so that they could be banned.
The commission was of the opinion that it was illogical for Nacta to seek verification from the ISI to ascertain whether the two organisations had carried out the attacks, particularly when both had claimed responsibility.
It cited a testimony of the interior secretary who stated that Nacta had sought views and comments of the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau because they were the ones who knew in great detail about the activities of such organisations and “we would proscribe these organisations if they recommend so”.
The commission suggested that acts committed by terrorists or those claimed by them should be listed and the list of banned organisations and individuals must be displayed in English and Urdu on websites of the interior ministry, Nacta, ministries of information and states and frontier regions and provincial home departments, and territories should be widely disseminated.
It regretted that the religion of Islam was being corrupted by extremist ideology and stressed the need for reclaiming public space to counteract terrorists’ virulent propaganda.
“If Pakistan is to be a tolerant citadel of peace and interfaith harmony, then the laws and the Constitution have to be re-established,” the report said.
The commission, which took 56 days to finalise the report, asked the state, which has receded in the face of those spreading hatred and murder, to re-exert itself. The solution to the menace of extremism and terrorism is straightforward – abide by the laws, including ATA, Nacta Act, Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and, above all, the Constitution.
Citing the 2012 Supreme Court judgement asking the federal and Balochistan governments to develop and maintain a databank of perpetrators and suspects of heinous crimes and terrorists organisations, including their names, aliases, parentage, addresses, photographs, thumb impressions, DNA, telephone numbers, weapons used, particular type of explosive used and their respective modus operandi, the commission regretted that nothing had been done in this regard.
It said the Nacta Act also required the authority to collate data and disseminate and coordinate between relevant stakeholders, but it had not done so.
It is crucial that all forensic laboratories being established purchase the same equipment as the PFSA (Punjab Forensic Science Agency), since it will ensure that results/tests are uploaded in a central databank and easily accessed from any province when required.
The commission stressed the need of registration of all educational institutions, including madaris; entry into and departure from Pakistan needs to be properly monitored and all persons must have the requisite documents and be photographed and thumb impressed by FIA personnel. The customs authorities must ensure that contraband is not brought into the country.
The report suggested that aerial firing throughout the country be stopped and immediate criminal cases be instituted against those who resort to it. Likewise, law enforcement agencies must be directed not to resort to aerial firing in the aftermath of terrorist attacks as it further terrorises the victims and dissuades doctors and emergency personnel to come forward to render first-aid and assistance.
Nacta must be activated and should do what its Act mandates. Periodic meetings of the board of governors and executive committee must be held. The National Action Plan should have clear goals, comprehensive monitoring mechanism and periodic reviewing. The commission suggested that the FC timely respond when asked for reinforcements.
The commission regretted that the media sometimes glorify terrorists while reporting terrorism cases. Journalists made no attempt to verify news before circulating and simply print what the terrorist dictated, albeit lies and completely disregarded the martyrs who had been mercilessly killed by terrorists and the hurt they caused to their heirs, loved ones and friends, the commission said.
• The National Action Plan should be made into a proper plan, with clear goals, a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, and periodic reviewing.
• Nacta (National Counter Terrorism Authority) must be activated. It must do what the Nacta Act mandates.
• The public space needs to be reclaimed to counteract the virulent propaganda of the terrorists. The laws and Constitution need to be reestablished and the state must re-exert itself.
• The Anti-Terrorism Act needs to be enforced, and terrorists/terrorist organisations must be proscribed without delay.
• The federal and Balochistan governments must develop and maintain a databank with information or perpetrators/suspects of heinous crimes and terrorists organisations.
• Forensic laboratories should be not under the jurisdiction of the police, but of scientists. The results/tests should be uploaded in a central databank and easily accessed from any province.
• All crime scenes should be professionally secured, forensically examined and extensively photographed as soon as possible.
• Protocols or standard operating procedures should be developed with the help of experts.
• The shortcomings of the hospital, government of Balochistan and police need to be addressed and removed.
• All educational institutions, including madaris, need to be registered.
• Entry into and departure from Pakistan needs to be properly monitored; all persons must have the requisite documentation.
• The customs authorities should ensure that contraband is not brought into the country.
• If the media broadcasts and propagates the views of terrorists, then those doing so must be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
• The amount of compensation for the legal heirs of the deceased and for the injured should be expeditiously distributed.
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2016