INTERNAL security is an essential element of national security. The Quaid said, a government is responsible for maintaining order and protecting life and property, and religious belief. Provincialism, sectarianism and ethnic divisions have led to different phases of violence but a well-articulated internal security policy couldn’t be formulated.
Tribalism, feudalism, weak governance, corruption and poor socioeconomic conditions are threat enablers; sectarianism, sub-nationalism and extremism are threat multipliers. While globalisation encourages innovation and information-sharing, it has also led to the misuse of technology. Violent non-state actors on the internet pose serious security challenges ie encrypted communication, online access to IED- and suicide vest-making techniques.
Pakistan’s internal security mosaic needs integrated reforms. Out of the 26 constitutional amendments, four directly pertain to internal security. Without incorporating key players, national security issues cannot be effectively addressed. Implementing Article 140-A will boost local governments, which will help in executing internal security policies. Besides the Anti-Terrorism Act, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Investigation for Fair Trial Act, Nacta, and Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act were formulated after 9/11. Counterterrorism strategies were based on a ‘capture and kill’ approach until the formulation of the National Internal Security Policy. The National Action Plan rearticulated NISP’s goals, but converting such ideals into reality needs improved provincial ownership.
Signing four peace accords with militants between 2004 and 2008 proved to be mere appeasement. Though such accords enabled both sides to buy more time, the ultimate casualty was durable peace. The failure of the policy of appeasement reduced the scope for soft approaches, leading to military operations against militants. However, the results of these operations were not worked out well in advance.
Internal security cannot be tackled in isolation.
Internal security threats cannot be neatly separated from external factors. Indian involvement in sabotaging peace in Pakistan is evident from the 240-page Kao Plan. The first part focused on supporting instability in East Pakistan, the remainder concerned KP and Balochistan. Cyberspace facilitated certain elements to wage a hybrid war. Apart from external linkages, such issues are not to be seen exclusively through the prism of security, but also need to be understood through a socioeconomic and political lens.
For more than a decade, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan was the common voice of militants. Prior to military operations, extremists used broadcasting to poison the ears of their audience. Initially, TTP commanders were united, but power politics led to factions. After TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah’s death, Noor Wali tried to reconsolidate matters, but the military made it is difficult for TTP to stage a comeback with the same intensity. The Sipah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad were involved in sectarian proxies, while the Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Republican Army, Lashkar-i-Balochistan, Balochistan Liberation United Front and United Baloch Army were significant insurgent groups that challenged internal security. In Sindh, the TTP, AQIS, LeJ and Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan remained active. Burmese, Bengalis and Seraiki elements were also active in LeJ. An innovation of some Karachi University students, Ansar-ul-Sharia, was only recently tackled by LEAs.
In the past four decades, the Fata region remained a hub for militants who challenged the authority of maliks and political agents. Since 2004, KP has registered 4,359 incidents of terrorism; 2009 was the bloodiest period, with 728 attacks recorded. Since 2017, Balochistan registered 333 incidents of terrorism. Militants changed their strategy from suicide bombing to IEDs and rocket fire. Factionalism continued to dilute the strength of militant groups, and some of them opted for clandestine collusion. Karachi remained a hub of ethnic violence and was an attractive shelter for dormant extremists. Though the Karachi operation resulted in an 89 per cent decline in terrorism, the real challenge is how to retain the dividends of ongoing operations. Unrest in Karachi has always been tackled with an iron fist, but the violence reappears after a brief respite.
Converting Fata’s merger into reality, consolidating gains of LEAs and preventing ethno-political fissures need political will, a doable transition plan and financial resources. Integrating Levies and Khasadars with the police and redefining the Frontier Constabulary’s mandate need more efforts. Although the Fata merger has changed KP’s demographic and administrative dynamics, if issues that emerged after the merger are not addressed, it may affect the peace indexation of the settled districts. Weak institutional responses to the dividends of military operations may result in the return of disorder.
The writer is the author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019