Pak­istan’s counter ter­ror­ism ef­forts

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS - M Nawaz Khan Email:nawazverdag915@hot­

PAK­ISTAN is fight­ing war against ter­ror­ism for the last four­teen years, for which the na­tion has ren­dered a huge cost in hu­man and eco­nomic terms, which is more than any other coun­try in the world. It suf­fered more than 60000 causal­i­ties of civil­ian and armed forces per­son­nel and eco­nomic losses worth US$ 108 bil­lion so far. More­over, ter­ror­ism has ad­versely af­fected so­cial fab­ric of Pak­istan. De­spite th­ese sac­ri­fices, men­ace of ter­ror­ism has sub­sided but not com­pletely elim­i­nated. Bar­baric at­tack on Army Public School (APS), Pe­shawar, by TTP on De­cem­ber 16, 2014 brought na­tion to a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in its long fight against ter­ror­ism.

The death of about 147 school chil­dren and teach­ers shook the con­science of the na­tion. This in­ci­dent forced the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to re­view their pre­vi­ous ac­tions and strate­gies; and iden­tify the loop­holes and gaps in their counter ter­ror­ism mea­sures that were ex­ploited by ter­ror­ists to launch at­tacks against the in­no­cent peo­ple. The APS tragedy united all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of the coun­try to unan­i­mously con­demn the APS at­tack and make a Na­tional Ac­tion Plan (NAP) to erad­i­cate ter­ror­ism. Thus, a pow­er­ful na­tional nar­ra­tive emerged: “A line has been drawn. On one side are the coward ter­ror­ists and on the other stands the whole na­tion,” stated Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif. In his tele­vised speech on De­cem­ber 24, 2014, he out­lined 20-point NAP where he promised to erad­i­cate the mind­set of ter­ror­ism by de­feat­ing ex­trem­ism and sec­tar­i­an­ism in the coun­try. The 20 points of NAP ap­peared as a na­tional nar­ra­tive against ter­ror­ism and all forms of ex­trem­ism. Af­ter adop­tion of the NAP by All Par­ties Con­fer­ence and its sub­se­quent im­ple­men­ta­tion, which is be­ing over­seen by the apex com­mit­tees of the prov­inces, ma­jor im­prove­ments have been wit­nessed in over­all se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion of coun­try.

As out­lined in the NAP, re­li­gious ex­trem­ism is on top of the list con­sid­er­ing that ter­ror­ism is a con­se­quence of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism. One of its kinds is sec­tar­i­an­ism, which not only har­vests hate and in­tol­er­ance in so­ci­ety but also causes sec­tar­ian strife and ter­ror­ism in the coun­try. Ac­cord­ingly, spe­cial mea­sures have been taken in 20-points of the NAP to con­trol sec­tar­i­an­ism. It in­cludes ban­ning of sec­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions un­der new names, coun­ter­ing hate speech and dis­sem­i­na­tion of ex­trem­ist ma­te­rial, ban on glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of ter­ror­ism and ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions through print and elec­tronic me­dia and pun­ish­ment on the wrong us­age of loud­speak­ers.

More­over, mea­sures to choke in­ter­nal and for­eign fund­ing and freez­ing their ac­counts are also in­cluded in the NAP. The cen­tral bank has frozen al­mostRs.1 bil­lion of 126 ac­counts linked to pro­scribed groups. Law-en­force­ment agen­cies have also re­cov­ered Rs.251.2 mil­lion be­ing trans­ferred through ‘Hawala’. In ad­di­tion, se­cu­rity agen­cies have ar­rested a num­ber of cul­prits, who are in­volved in money laun­der­ing. Par­al­lel to this, the Na­tional Assem­bly passed an An­tiMoney Laun­der­ing (Amend­ment) Bill, 2015 that would help the gov­ern­ment to en­sure that fi­nances and prop­erty in­volved in money laun­der­ing are ef­fec­tively de­tected, in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted. An­other mea­sure taken against ter­ror­ism is re­gard­ing su­per­vi­sion of madaris and their reg­is­tra­tion. The state-level reg­is­tra­tion and su­per­vi­sion of all madaris is now in­dis­pens­able to curb the anti-state ac­tiv­i­ties. This ac­tion is bound to cause gen­eral sat­is­fac­tion, re­flect­ing over­all na­tional nar­ra­tive. The dis­man­tling of ter­ror­ists’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem such as in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia is an important fac­tor in war against ter­ror­ism. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has or­dered the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion &Tech­nol­ogy to re­move all web­sites of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions so that the mis­cre­ants are de­prived the means to spread vi­o­lent and poi­sonous pro­pa­ganda.

Pre­vi­ously, there was a per­cep­tion that fron­tier re­gion of Pak­istan was the sole epi­cen­tre of ter­ror­ism. Other parts of the coun­try where ter­ror­ist net­work were po­ten­tially es­tab­lished were, by and large, ig­nored in the counter ter­ror­ism strat­egy. Now other sus­pected ar­eas in­clud­ing ur­ban belts of the coun­try are also in­cluded in the NAP. It was de­cided that Karachi op­er­a­tion, which had started in Septem­ber 2013 un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Po­lice and Rangers was re­in­forced with spe­cial pow­ers such as in­ves­ti­gat­ing pow­ers, etc. Like­wise, to con­trol se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Balochis­tan, not only enough re­sources and pow­ers have been al­lo­cated to Pro­vin­cial Govt but its ca­pac­ity-build­ing is also be­ing en­hanced.

Pri­or­ity is now given in the award and ex­e­cu­tion of sen­tences to ter­ror­ists. It was de­cided that sen­tences awarded by ju­di­ciary to crim­i­nals found guilty in ter­ror­ist cases, should be im­me­di­ately ex­e­cuted, be­sides es­tab­lish­ing mil­i­tary courts for rapid tri­als. In this re­gard, a to­tal of 11 mil­i­tary courts were es­tab­lished and 142 cases re­ferred to them, out of which 55 cases have been de­cided, 87 cases are in process, be­sides con­vict­ing 31 hard­core ter­ror­ists. The cen­turies-old so­cio-eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal struc­tures of fron­tier re­gion and in­sur­gency in Afghanistan have been the prime fac­tors in mak­ing the FATA an epi­cen­tre of ter­ror­ism. Some in­di­vid­u­als of the com­mu­nity be­came in­volved in acts of ter­ror­ism and other crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. They got op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote their ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties due to lack of an ef­fec­tive le­gal sys­tem. There­fore, the NAP in­cluded the devel­op­ment in the re­gion on pri­or­ity bases and equal rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties be granted to the peo­ple to bring them at par with oth­ers in the rest of the coun­try.

It is ev­i­dent that since the ini­ti­a­tion of NAP, there has been a de­cline in vi­o­lence in the coun­try. The year 2015 wit­nessed the low­est num­ber of ter­ror at­tacks since 2007. Phe­nom­e­nal suc­cesses have been achieved af­ter the launch of Op­er­a­tion Zarb-iAzb. Ter­ror­ists’ back­bone has been bro­ken, dis­man­tling their main in­fras­truc­ture and dis­rupt­ing their nexus with sleeper cells. Ac­cord­ing to ISPR, 3,400 ter­ror­ists in­clud­ing 183 hard­core were killed, 837 hide­outs de­stroyed, and 21,193ter­ror­ist were ar­rested. In this con­text about 488 of­fi­cers and men of Pak Army, FC and Rangers sac­ri­ficed their lives and 1914 were in­jured in the op­er­a­tion. Suc­cesses in this op­er­a­tion have cre­ated space for de­ci­sive surge against ter­ror­ists in ur­ban ar­eas as well.

Whereas, there are com­mend­able achieve­ments in im­ple­ment­ing the NAP, there are some short­com­ings as well. Still, more needs to be done. The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is that this bat­tle will re­quire more than just hang­ings, killings, block­ing fi­nances and il­le­gal mo­bile SIMSas well as ban­ning public hate speeches. Th­ese fac­tors are en­ablers but not pro­duc­ers of ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence. This is a mind­set that has be­come em­bed­ded in our so­ci­ety due to decades of inaction. Un­less pri­mary causes such as poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and il­lit­er­acy are ad­dressed, ev­er­last­ing re­sults could not be achieved. —The writer works at Islamabad Pol­icy Research In­sti­tute, a think­tank based in Islamabad.

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