ISLAMABAD: The Faizabad dharna commission, formed to investigate the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) 2017 sit-in, has sent its report to the federal government recommending, among other things, legislation and drafting of rules and SOPs to regulate the working of intelligence agencies.

Sources told Dawn the report also noted that the involvement of the army or its affiliated agency in civilian matters adversely affects the fair image of the institution.

“Army is a sacred arm of the state, therefore to avoid criticism, the institution may not be involved in public matters. This task may be assigned to [the Intelligence Bureau] and civil administration,” it said.

The commission also advised against using the paramilitary FC and Rangers in the urban areas.

Recommends ‘zero tolerance’ for violent extremism; criticises past agreements with militant groups as ‘temporary fix’ that doesn’t work

The three-member body, headed by retired police officer Syed Akhtar Ali Shah and consisting of former IGP Islamabad Tahir Alam Khan and Additional Interior Secretary Khushal Khan, also called for “zero tolerance” towards violent extremism and suggested the government review its policies to address the root causes of the menace.

The commission was constituted under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 to ensure compliance with the February 6, 2019, apex court verdict, authored by then-Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The report said that the fallout from the Faizabad dharna was “more due to lack of courage of conviction of the leader handling the issue and in particular the government of Punjab”.

It recalled that while there was an agreement on the part of the government and official institutions to resolve the matter through negotiations and avoidance of the use of force. Initially, the federal government took the stance that the Punjab government should deal with the issue within its jurisdiction, but the government of Punjab maintained that since they had accepted 11 out of the 12 demands of the protesters.

Since the demonstrators’ final grievance pertained to the Centre, the provincial government argued that they should be allowed to proceed to Islamabad. The Punjab government reportedly assured the Centre that the demonstrators would peacefully disperse after registering their protest.

The commission also noted that since no one from among the then-PM, former ministers for law, interior and the former Punjab chief minister accused intelligence agencies of facilitating the protesters, nor was any evidence furnished to this effect, the commission could not connect any organisation or state official with the TLP dharna.

‘Dynamics of religious militancy’

The report also compared the agreement with the TLP with those signed with militant groups in the 2000s. “Without analysing the dynamics of religious militancy, government, as always, is only trying a quick fix rather than addressing the root cause and such a tendency has never worked in the past and will not work in the future … the inking of agreement on the terms of protesters and similar agreements in the past with other militant groups might have found a temporary solution to a deep-rooted problem,” the report said while calling for a review of approach in dealing with violent extremism. It also called for an effective system to curb terror financing.

According to the report, there should be coordination among law enforcement agencies, Pemra, and the interior ministry to surveil social media against “injurious material in violation of law”.

The commission also observed omissions in implementing the National Action Plan and sought to “strengthen the anti-terror agencies through basic reforms in the criminal justice system”.

It also called for action against those involved in terrorism and other crimes during the 21-day sit-in and said that cases “may be re-opened and investigated and taken to a logical conclusion”.

The report also noted that the Mustafa Impex case ruling, which diluted the executive authority of the PM, may be revisited.

The Islamabad Capital Territory may be given the status of a province with full administrative and financial authority and the Police Order 2002 may be implemented in the capital, it added.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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