AN institution like the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) is the requirement of the day as lessons learnt internationally have documented the need for focal institutions which are equipped to draft and implement national counterterrorism strategies.
In the post-9/11 world, new structures and institutions like the American National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) and Department of Homeland Security, the British Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), and the Australian National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC) came into being as a response to such challenges. These entities were responsible for shaping national counterterrorism strategies like the American ‘4Ds’ and the British ‘4Ps’ for instance, which gave impetus to the counter-terror efforts of these states.
Thus, Nacta assumes great importance in this regard. The idea behind the authority can be traced to the government’s counterterrorism policy of 3Ds — dialogue, development and deterrence, and by parliament’s unanimous resolution passed on Oct 22, 2008.
This further crystallised into 14 guidelines for the national counterterrorism policy by parliament’s Committee on National Security, in which it was stressed that there was a need for a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, and an even more direly felt need for focal institutions to integrate counterterrorism efforts.
This resulted in the formation of Nacta to “coordinate and unify” national counterterrorism efforts. Established in January 2009, Nacta was tasked with drawing up a national strategy in consultation with stakeholders. The authority has recently gotten approval as a legally mandated body by the cabinet.
It has taken its time to come into being, but this does not mean that Nacta should not be made active. The fact that there have been several articles in the press highlighting that Nacta has not been made effective yet means that there is a realisation in policy circles as well the general populace that the authority should assume the role that it was originally mandated to have.
Nacta may have been slow in assuming its role, but this happens with many new entities that have to overcome teething legal and logistical problems. Other such entities have faced similar initial problems, but have finally morphed into their current shape.
The challenges posed by terrorism are still very much there, even though the Pakistan Army has made efforts to actively counter militancy in Swat and elsewhere in Pakistan. There remains a need to develop a response to the nature and magnitude of threats of terrorism and radicalisation, and this requires an organisation dedicated to counterterrorism at the national level.
There also remains a need to develop a holistic counterterrorism strategy and monitor its implementation by the stakeholders. Nacta can also play a crucial role in comprehending the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism through research and suggest policy options for the government.
Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to face several problems due to loosely coordinated efforts to combat terrorism, the need for a coherent and well-coordinated counterterrorism policy, and the need to improve investigative and prosecution efforts. Nacta can play a role in all these activities.
The authority can now prepare comprehensive national counterterrorism strategies and conduct periodic reviews, develop counterterrorism action plans and report on their implementation to the government, carry out research on terrorism and extremism, prepare and circulate documents regarding the same, and liaise with international entities to facilitate cooperation of integrated counterterrorism efforts.
This can happen even when it is waiting for final legislation regarding its ultimate mandated authority.
Our goal at Nacta is to become the premier Pakistani forum for informing, influencing and improving public debate about security matters in the country.
It is our strategic vision to deliver insightful analysis and commentary which helps to frame the national debate about these issues.
This is particularly relevant in the context of inter-agency cooperation in Pakistan, which will tremendously benefit all stakeholders, not to mention that it will bring all law-enforcement agencies closer together.
Nacta has attempted to give a proper rendering of the Pakistani scenario, the ramifications of which are not just domestic but of global significance.
The authority will continue to try and enhance inter-agency cooperation, work for smooth dissemination of data amongst concerned LEAs, and make efforts to rid Pakistan of the menace of terrorism through de-radicalisation and counter-extremism efforts.
There will be hurdles in the way, and there will be problems as with every such entity, but the government is committed to making Nacta an effective organisation.
The writer is head of the National Counter Terrorism Authority of Pakistan.