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Countering militancy

Updated March 19, 2018


FURTHER attempts to curtail the public operations of the Jamaatud Dawa, this time by the KP government, ought to be welcomed.

In the run-up to the FATF measures against Pakistan and after the furore it caused in the country, it was always apparent that true progress in a state takeover or shutting down of the operations of all banned militant groups and their affiliated networks would depend on sustained, national action across the various tiers of the state.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of Interior Arshad Mirza said before a Senate standing committee that the process of taking over the assets of the JuD and its sister organisation the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation had yet to be completed. It is hoped then that the KP government has moved in coordination with the interior ministry and security agencies to put the country further in compliance with its legal and international obligations.

The era of obfuscation and delay must well and truly be left behind.

A problem that is apparent with the currently evolving approach against militant and extremist networks, however, is that it is event-driven. An event such as the FATF redesignation causes a shock to the system which then tries to address the specific, narrow reasons for the particular shock. Surely, such an approach can deliver only limited results.

The political and military leaderships as well as the provincial governments routinely insist that without a coordinated, sustained campaign – a nationwide counter-militancy and counter-extremism programme that breathes fresh life into the moribund National Action Plan – the long fight against terrorism will be difficult to win. But then, none of the entities tasked with winning the fight against militancy and extremism appear serious about coordinating their actions in a long-term, sustained manner.

The latest actions in KP could presage a change, but that remains to be seen.

Perhaps a way of injecting fresh energy into the counterterrorism and counter-extremism campaigns nationwide would be to strip away the aura of secrecy surrounding state actions. While from an intelligence and operational perspective, some details of a crackdown cannot realistically be shared with the public, there is unnecessary secrecy surrounding state actions against banned groups, which adds to the confusion and can sow doubts.

It is as if the state hopes it can dismantle vast networks that have penetrated deep into Pakistani society across the country without drawing too much attention to what, if done right and fully, would amount to one of the most far-reaching social reversals in decades.

Contrast the record with counter-insurgency operations in Fata and Swat: the operation names were widely promoted; regular press briefings were held by the ISPR; and while no timelines were set, the contours of a systematic plan to bring peace to Fata were publicly apparent. Yet, when it comes to Lashkar-e-Taiba, JuD, FiF, and other militants and extremists networks, there is secrecy and confusion.

The state should make it publicly clear what it intends to do with all banned organisations and how it broadly intends to achieve that.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2018