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A national counterterrorism policy

Published May 08, 2012 12:05am


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AFTER 9/11, Pakistan has been beset by the twin menace of radicalisation and terrorism.

A national policy to deal with the menace of terrorism is a dire necessity, something which is one of the mandated tasks of the nascent National Counter Terrorism Authority of Pakistan (Nacta).

A national counterterrorism strategy has to be drafted and shared with the public, with civil society taking an active part in the deliberations.

This comprehensive strategy should not just have law-enforcement agencies and the military, but should also involve others, for example educationists, who could be required to evaluate outmoded curricula and replace them with more tolerant non-sectarian versions.

Scientists can be involved to jam illegal FM transmissions; the media can generate public-service messages and programmes promoting tolerance. The strategy should remain within the ambit of the rule of law, or it has the potential to become a monster almost as big as the insurgents.

The rule of law needs representative governance. With the arrival of civilian government representing this in 2008, the situation has gradually moved towards a national consensus against terrorism. Democracy must be nurtured in Pakistan, as this is the only way forward for nations to put their affairs in order.

Threat priorities need to be established for the future of the war on terror not only in the Pakistani but in the global context as well. One solution has been the establishment of a counterterrorism environment created by politicians through legislation, budgets and policy decisions.

Legislation will be a part of the directing tangential forces of counterterrorism. In Pakistan, this legislation resonates in the anti-terrorist acts passed by parliament, which need to be constantly reassessed with the changing dynamics of the situation on the ground.

The inherent global challenge would be balancing the rights of citizens and fundamental constitutional guarantees against the increasing threat from terrorism.

This is the delicate balancing act that counterterrorism in the future will continue to face, especially for the security agencies directly involved in these operations, and which perhaps affects the police the most.

Huge challenges for counterterrorism in the future will include coordination which seems to be exponentially increasing.

Future efforts in counterterrorism will require complex investigations involving multiple countries, a variety of types of communication and numerous sources of intelligence. Collectively, there will be an ever-evolving need for more sophisticated forms of counterterrorism and greater resources.

Long-term polices resembling the Blair government‘s CONTEST strategy in the UK need to be in place. The four areas identified as prevention, pursuit, protection and preparedness gain another dimension in the Pakistani context — that of containment, since we have been beset by an insurgency in our northern areas.

This has been reinvented according to our own situation under the government’s policy of dialogue, deterrence and development as the main area of thrust in Pakistan.

The pursuit of improved intelligence, the disruption of terrorist activity and better coordination with international forces fighting terrorism will require improved cooperation. Protection of homeland security installations will require improved domestic security of ports and public transportation systems.

Preparing for the threat of confrontation will require an ever-increasing readiness to respond to terrorist attacks.

The complete elimination of terrorism may not be possible, but adequate containment is the path to be followed. A sincere effort must be made to study individuals prone to radicalisation and who are thus potential recruits for terrorist groups.

Rather than just firefighting, we need to find out the causes: why is there terrorism, why are people becoming radicalised, how are they radicalised? Only then can we deal with these issues.

The future of counterterrorism will also be shaped to a certain extent by the relationships among the various organisations involved in the war against terrorism, which of course stands true for Nacta as well.

While the new threats resulted in the grant of emergency powers to governments to get more powers and additional resources, sometimes the evolution of coordination has been too reactive, short-term and politicised.

This has occasionally caused slow governmental responses to increase resources going into counterterrorism. Police forces are critical in the counterterrorism future, due to their presence on the ground and their ability to carry out arrests.

The key to long-term containment of terrorism, beyond tactical policing and security measures designed to detect and defeat zealots, is to reduce the supply of terrorists. It must be recognised that terrorism requires a small core of radicalised individuals bent on carrying out acts of violence.

What government policy must ensure is that these individuals are kept marginalised within their own communities. They must not be allowed to lead others along the path of violence. If they are isolated then they can be contained, either by the state or by their own communities. Without a support network, they pose a much smaller threat.

Summing up, successful counterterrorism in the future of a democratic society requires trust and confidence in the efficacy of the security forces because public cooperation is essential.

This can only be done after capturing the so-called hearts and minds of the citizens, particularly in those communities where terrorists are to be found, confronted and contained.

This winning of hearts and minds is what constitutes the core of counterterrorism in the future, not just in Pakistan but across the globe as well, and will continue to do so for times to come.

We have the resolve to fight terrorism, but not the entire panoply of resources needed.

Pakistan is a resilient nation, and will overcome these problems eventually. However, the road ahead needs to be paved with the soundest of policies bolstered by the international community in order to bridge the resource gap failing which, one would expect to see militancy problems continuing in the country.

The writer is head of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, Pakistan, and a former inspector-general of police.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (11) Closed

Erfan May 08, 2012 07:39pm
A very well-thought-out article! Governments need to have the public's support in order to fight on various fronts, especially terrorism. While in total agreement with the author, I also feel that the people of Pakistan have weathered many odds in the past and have the will-power to overcome bigger challenges such as terrorism. However, the only thing missing is an honest leadership which would actually take initiative to resolve these issues and pave a path towards betterment. Good work Sir!
Mustafa May 08, 2012 11:32pm
Excellent article by Khawaja Khalid Farooq. The author says: "The complete elimination of terrorism may not be possible, but adequate containment is the path to be followed. A sincere effort must be made to study individuals prone to radicalisation and who are thus potential recruits for terrorist groups". My feeling is Pakistan is a country where the vast majority of its population have no higher education than Madarsa. What the minority of Pakistanis (those who have high school or college education call terrorists and militants, the vast majority of Pakistani, the Madarsa graduates, call Mujahids and freedom fighters. (to continue)
Mustafa May 08, 2012 11:35pm
( from previous post) They have been taught in Madarsas to fight in the way of Allah and sacrifice their lives in the way of Allah but they have never been taught what is the true way of Allah. Pakistan cannot wipe out terrorism and militancy unless it is prepared to root out militancy and terrorism from every inch of Pakistan at all costs including loss of innocents lives. In World War II millions of innocents were killed to make the world free from Nazis terrorism. Pakistan must seek help from outside world to fight militancy and terrorism if it has to save future generation from militancy and terrorism. May Allah give wisdom and guidance to Pakistani civil and military leaders to root out militancy and terrorism from Pakistan. Ameen
pardesiuno May 08, 2012 02:37pm
I'm glad to read sensible arguments about the terrorism issue, outside of just the rhetoric of slogan bazi. While there may be government officials who may have the right motivations, I do think the political and military leaders do not have the heart or the will to make terrorism a real issue that needs to be eliminated.
Vidyanand May 08, 2012 01:59pm
The problem of Pakistan is its dual and contradicting policies towards terrorism.
M.I May 08, 2012 07:22pm
A very thorough and thought provoking article! While enumerating various aspects of the counter terrorism policy, the writer acquires a succinct yet effective tone to lay out an efficient and comprehensive plan of action applicable not only in Pakistan but also having a global scope. The author lays emphasis on winning the hearts and trust of the public which is the crux of the entire thesis. This article appears to be the harbinger of a promising future if theory is put to practice. Hope to read more from the pen of the author in future. We are in dire need of such intellectual minds to bring us hope in such hours of morbidity and desperation. Keep up the good work.
Salman May 08, 2012 07:17pm
Well though out article focusing on the larger picture which policy makers in Pakistan often dont focus on .... we need counter terrorism strategy to be evolved in civilian institutions and enforced through the entire state apparatus
Qamar Abbas Astori May 08, 2012 07:14pm
well, the ideas in the column are really attractive and plausible but what actually we miss as a nation is sincerity and pragmatism otherwise we have talent, capacity and potential to face any sort of trouble. Unfortunately, we have big claims but ill objective, avoid the true avenues of success but go for short cuts, we have low respect and honor for each other, we have much egos to sit with each other and above all we have learn to hate each other for individual ulterior motives so that we lost values, ethics and golden rules told by our forefathers and great Quid as UNITY, FAITH AND DISCIPLINE
Muhammad May 09, 2012 01:25am
Sound reasoning!! My only concern is aligning institutional interests with the national interest of Pakistan. Unless we do that, NACTA will lack the capability to create value.
non-conformist May 08, 2012 07:43am
There is no denying the fact that counter-terrorism strategies in Pakistan are not getting the due attention, especially in terms of resource allocation. The western countries have invested a lot to contain, detect and defuse potential terrorist threats in their respective countries. Pakistan ought to have done a lot more. Unfortunately that has not been the case uptil now, primarily because of absence of a cogent and comprehensive counter-terrorism policy. A dollar invested in adequate counter-terrorism programmes can and will have a multipier effect on Pakistan's quest for peaceful existence and will pave the way for a prosperous Pakistan.The policy makers must rise to the occasion and as a first step, ample financial allocation must be earmarked for NACTA so as to rid our beolved homeland of the scourge of terrorism.
Devendra May 08, 2012 04:10pm
An Excellent Article. A good starting point.