THE handover of Swat to the civil administration was a victory of the collective resolve to defeat terrorism, but the violent protests by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan recently have exposed the weaknesses within the counter-extremism apparatus. Such a situation warrants either amendment in the National Action Plan or a new iteration based on strong political ownership. An outcome of civil-military and government-opposition consensus, NAP was an opportunity to enact new laws, revamp institutions, synchronise national laws with international law and reconsolidate the criminal justice system.
NAP primarily embodies a hard approach, and lacks soft interventions. Kinetic options may quell terrorism but a diagnostic approach can kill the virus of violent extremism. The 21st, 23rd and 25th Amendments were effected to meet NAP’s objectives.
The creation of military courts through the 23rd Amendment increased the certainty of punishment and proved a deterrent. That amendment will expire in January 2019 if parliament does not renew it, and we will revert to the old system. Several questions arise: have we explored the reasons for the ineffectiveness of anti-terrorism courts? What steps have we taken to revamp them? Between the 21st and 23rd Amendments, what measures did we take for the protection of judges and witnesses, for empowerment of investigators and improvement in the conviction rate? The 25th Amendment merged Fata with KP, but administrative consolidation is a gigantic task that needs generous financial backup, political ownership and public-centric bureaucratic interventions.
Kinetic options may quell terrorism but a diagnostic approach can kill the virus of violent extremism.
Choking terror financing is an important component of NAP. Though Pakistan amended the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, and established the National Terrorism Financing Investigation Cell, the country has once again been placed on the grey list. A major flaw in the act is that money laundering is a non-cognisable offence, meaning that investigators are required to seek court permission before they start their work.
Having committed to a 26-point action plan to be implemented in 15 months, Pakistan needs to learn from the Sri Lankan success in choking terrorism funding. At its height, the LTTE, the Tamil separatist group, received more than $200 million per year, including $50m to $80m from overseas Tamils in 44 countries. Without the FIA’s technological expertise, the capacity building of investigators and effective diplomatic channels, we cannot staunch terrorism financing.
Pakistan has banned 65 organisations and placed 8,374 individuals under Schedule IV. However, the circumstances that have given birth to such terrorist organisations and how their resurgence may be prevented must also be evaluated.
While the ban on the glorification of terrorist organisations through mass media has been a success, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority needs to collaborate with law-enforcement agencies to tackle extremists in cyberspace. Owing to increased cyber threats, the PTA, FIA and Nacta, the counterterrorism authority, are to be mandated to draft a cyber security strategy.
The apex committee in KP dealt effectively with issues like IDPs, CPEC security, Fata reforms, NAP’s implementation, and the role of apex committees therefore needs to be formalised. To deter militancy in Punjab, 3,384 intelligence-based operations (IBOs) were conducted, leading to 1,238 arrests, but although sectarian militancy decreased from 180 incidents in 2012 to 20 in 2017, the presence of the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan warrants further action on this front.
In Karachi, the ongoing operation has led to a 97 per cent decrease in targeted killings, 84pc in cases of extortion and 72pc in bank robberies, but the question is, when will Karachi police fully resume its law-enforcement function?
In Balochistan from December 2014 to July 2017, a total of 12,882 operations including 8,992 IBOs were conducted, and 1,373 cases against hate speech and 18,790 for misuse of loudspeakers registered. However, action against owners of printing presses and distributors of hate literature is imperative, and that is not possible without enhancement in punishment.
NAP did not address humanitarian issues such as disappearances and demining. While the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances is functional and since its inception has disposed of 3,633 cases, 1,874 cases remain unresolved. Expediting the determination of the status of missing persons requires information-sharing with Afghanistan, Nato and Nadra. Compensation for missing persons’ families and criminalisation of enforced disappearances needs immediate legal interventions. In order to proceed against high-profile militants, Pakistan must sign an extradition treaty with Middle East and neighbouring countries.
NAP is largely focused on countering terrorism but extremism is more of a threat to the country. Nacta’s National Counter Extremism Policy Guidelines 2018 are a welcome step forward but the provinces are still far from translating them into reality. Reforming the criminal justice system, a NAP priority, remained largely neglected. Though the criminal justice system is for the most part a provincial subject, its reform requires a holistic approach jointly planned, financed and executed by the federal and provincial governments.
Compensation laws will increase the faith of ordinary citizens in the state’s capacity to protect them, but only Balochistan and Punjab have enacted such laws for civilian victims of terrorism.
Certainly, NAP is a federal roadmap but its success is dependent upon political ownership and effective periodic provincial review of implementation, which requires a well-coordinated provincial monitoring and implementation apparatus.
De-weaponisation, deradicalisation, reintegration, rehabilitation and a strategy to deal with hybrid threats are a few priorities that need incorporation in NAP. Extremism must also be tackled with social interventions to improve educational and health indicators: NAP needs to effect linkages with primary education, dropout rates, curriculum reform, skill development, community policing, neighbourhood watch and local government.
NAP’s exclusively security-centric interpretation will not achieve its objectives unless it is linked with socioeconomic realities. The real test for the civil administration will be to retain the gains of military operations, and that is not possible without a doable transition plan.
The writer is the author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018