Newspaper Article 15/09/2015
While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his team are struggling to implement the National Action Plan (NAP), the resistance is phenomenal. Execution of the 20 points NAP is slow and circuitous. The NAP laundry list includes: execution of convicted terrorists; establishment of special trial courts; elimination of armed militias; countering hate speech and extremist material; choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations; establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force; taking effective steps against religious persecution; registration and regulation of madaras; ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorists organizations through print and electronic media; FATA reforms; dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations; zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab; taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion; Balochistan reconciliation; dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists; and formulation of policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees.
Main challenge to implementation of NAO is posed by criminalization of politics and politicization of crime. As a corollary, there is underlying fear that anti-terror laws shall be used against political workers; even if they are not used, there are ample hoax calls to portray such usage. Hence, there is an undercurrent within mid-level political cadres across the political divide to go slow on NAP. Another closely associated impediment originates from the behavior of political appointees in law enforcing agencies(LEAS); they are more loyal to their appointing personalities and less to pay master—the state/government.
Confusion also prevails over what is and what is not ‘terrorism’; leaving much room for the low ranking investigators to terrorize ordinary criminal on the pretext of booking them under terror laws to fleece them; while at the same time intentionally framing weak charge-sheets against actual terrorists, either under duress or incentive. Apparently, criminal-terrorist cartels appear effective in buying time by impeding the pace of NAP implementation in view of sunset clause about military courts. Even though resorting to military courts is not an ideal way of dealing with the situation.
Symptomatic actions — ongoing operations by LEAs — have shown good progress, while foundation and consolidation focused actions are in terrible lag; hence all the more chances that, due to waning will to act, fragile gains by LEAs could fizzle out. Law making portion of the NAP posted poorest performance. Unless laws are in place how the prosecution would be able to stand in the court of law? Matters which should have been resolved within days are haunting even after months. Principal areas of concern include terror financing, madrassah reforms, regulating NGOs, illegal arms and preventing persecution of religious and sectarian minorities.
Prime Minister has rightly emphasized that simultaneous implementation of all 20 points of NAP on eradication of terrorism is important. He said collective wisdom must prevail while taking decisions to make NAP a success, “it is our collective responsibility to join hands for complete success of the plan.” He also laid stress on strict implementation of the NAP in all provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The meeting was apprised that al Qaeda and its attached wings have been rooted out from the city of Karachi! Those making such claims need to know what Hamid Karzai said about Al Qaeda on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. While speaking to Al Jazeera English’s “Up Front” he opined that Al Qaeda has never operated in Afghanistan, dismissing the notion that the terror group plotted the 9/11 terror attacks inside the country as “a myth”. “I don’t know if Al Qaeda existed and I don’t know if they exist [in Afghanistan],” Karzai said. On whether he believed Osama bin Laden plotted the attacks from Afghanistan, Karzai said, “That is what I have heard from our Western friends. That is what the Western media says.” “I have not seen them and I’ve not had any report about them, any report that would indicate that Al Qaeda is operating in Afghanistan”.
During the meeting, Federal interior minister said that the army has cleared Swat after the military operation and that security forces have eliminated terrorist network in North Waziristan. “No one doubts sacrifices offered by Pakistan Army jawans but other institutions have also done their jobs”, he said, adding that several terrorist attacks were thwarted but the government doesn’t advertise that. He informed that so far as part of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, around 11,000 intelligence based operations have been conducted.
It is horrifying to learn that special courts formed under the Pakistan Protection Act 2014 (PPA) have not yet started functioning, which indicates lack of will on the part of those responsible for making these courts functional. Clearly sense of urgency is missing. More surprisingly some of the provinces were under the perception that after the provision of military courts, they thought as if there was no need of special courts, how innocent of them! However, it is refreshing that government is making these special courts functional and increasing their number as well. Hundreds of cases have already been cleared by ministries of law and interior for trial in these special courts. Both military and special courts have been asked to speed up the trial of ‘hardcore terrorists’. Now cases of criminals involved in sectarian violence will also be tried in special courts. Around 50 cases are already being tried in nine military courts which have disposed of 28 cases.
Another glaring inadequacy is that there has also been no headway regarding registration of seminaries and regulation of international as well as local NGOs. The problem is that it is not fair to pick-up only these two brands while a number of other entities under different nomenclatures are allowed to carry out similar educational and public welfare activities without registration and regulatory strictures. Hopefully, the upcoming policy regarding NGOs and seminaries will take care of these issues. It is a sheer criminal neglect that thousands of NGOs are operating in the country but there is no available information regarding who is doing what and how they are funded. Several NGOs are doing good work, however, in the absence of who’s who; all of these are seen with suspicion.
The UK has five examination bodies, none is allowed to make own syllabus, they follow the syllabus formulated by the government. In Pakistan we not only need to determine syllabus for religious seminaries, but also for all other non-government certificate and degree awarding educational entities. Here also, the problem starts when we cherry pick madrasahs for scrutiny and skip others institutions operating under various trusts and charities.
Shadowy issuance of arms licenses is yet another cause for small weapons proliferation, though a small one; its main cause is illicit trade of such arms which is now a common specter even in some of the urban centres as well. In view of precarious security situation, business of private security companies have mushroomed, creating a false specter of security; businesses are being fleeced in the name of security. Some of the security agencies are providing armed guards with zero experience of weapon handling; there is hardly any practice of mandatory annual musketry firing by these guards; in case of eventuality, such quack guards are likely to be more of a hazard for the employer than for the criminals.
Choking the terror financing is anther weak area. In addition to the hazards of informal economy and its linkages with terror financing, people are being discouraged to conduct transactions through bank by slamming numerous taxes on benign withdrawals and transfers.
The decline in terrorist attacks because of action against militant in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency has generated a false impression that it is because of implementation of NAP. Gains achieved by military operations would be lost if NAP implementation does not pick up requisite speed to deny space to terrorists and militants.
[The Nation September 14, 2015]
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy