Panel Discussion on “National Action Plan (NAP): Imperatives and Impediments”

Post Event Report

Panel Discussion 

“National Action Plan (NAP): Imperatives and Impediments” 

Introduction

A panel discussion on “National Action Plan (NAP): Imperatives and Impediments” was organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on May 8, 2018 at the IPRI conference hall. Panellists included:

  1. Gen (R) Khalid Rabbani HI (M), Former General Officer Commanding, XI Corps and Managing Director, Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Rawalpindi
  2. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT)
  3. Tasneem Noorani, Member Board of Advisors, Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR), Lahore; and Former Secretary Interior and Commerce, Government of Pakistan

The purpose of this Panel Discussion was two-fold:

  • revisit NAP and review its implementation
  • identify problem areas and solutions.

Salient Points:

  • The National Action Plan (NAP) is a comprehensive document and is able to highlight the entire security landscape of the country. However, general opaqueness over its implementation and the lack of clarity regarding its monitoring were cited as major causes behind the poor performance in its execution.
  • There has been no periodic monitoring of performance indicators on  implementation of the NAP of the concerned  offices such as  National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the Prime Minister’s Office or  the National Security Division. At the same time,  the role and work of the apex committees at the federal and provincial levels for effective coordination remain weak.
  • While discussing the terrorist incidents in the country, it was pointed out that as per NACTA figures, there has been a sharp decrease in terrorist activity around the country. For instance, terrorism related incidents declined from 1139 in 2015 to 489 in 2017.
  • However, the government has adopted a piecemeal approach towards the implementation of NAP. For instance, NACTA has been unable to inform Parliament and the public on the progress of implementation of NAP. NACTA also suffers from severe capacity issues.
  • There are also issues of progress on banning financial routes of internationally proscribed organizations and affiliates. Furthermore, ineffective laws have led to re-emergence of proscribed terrorist organizations under different names. There is no uniform curriculum for religious seminaries as envisioned by NAP. The biggest failure has been revamping the criminal justice system due to lack of initiative by provincial and federal governments.
  • Tribal areas lack basic amenities of life and their traditional justice systems have been replaced by a broken criminal justice system which has disenfranchised these communities even further. Due to lack of reintegration, these communities feel ‘betrayed’ or left behind. The issue should be handled politically, instead of employing drastic actions. If the situation is left unattended, it will provide space for outsiders to step in, thereby, resulting in further chaos.
  • The issue of civil-military strife needs to be put aside, and a united approach has to be adopted. The military should not judge the government, nor should the political government shy away from taking initiatives.

Recommendations

  • The National Action Pan (NAP) is an important security document, and significant efforts have been made under it, but lack of ownership has created impediments in its full and effective implementation. Therefore, the Prime Minister of Pakistan should directly lead the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), as terrorism and sectarianism are the main threats to the country.
  • NACTA is the primary institution overlooking NAP; however, it has not been able to establish itself as a proactive organization and remains largely ineffective. The area in which it needs to improve is coordination between different intelligence and security departments at the federal and provincial levels. It should have a presence in the provincial capitals or establish monitoring and coordination units within the provincial home departments. In addition, NACTA should take the primary responsibility of spreading counterterrorism narrative through film and art.
  • The Parliament and Provincial Assemblies should regularly debate and discuss progress on NAP for its effective implementation.
  • Policymakers need to fulfil the governance gaps that are giving space to anti-nationalist forces that, if ignored, may take root in Pakistan.
  • Delays in judicial system reforms are endemic. The most glaring causes include outmoded court procedures and inefficient case management techniques. The Criminal Justice System needs serious attention and reforms.
  • There are areas such as social mobilization, regrouping of terror outfits under new names and terror financing, which remain key challenges, which can be sorted out by tightening the Anti-Money Laundering and Terror Financing regime of Pakistan.
  • While NAP is a landmark blueprint for combating terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan that was achieved through rare consensus of otherwise bitterly opposed political forces besides being a civil-military agreement, the country is not out of the woods yet. One major issue in this regard is the lack of consensus on differentiation between terrorist groups; and lack of a holistic policy on counterterrorism and national security.
  • For NAP to work, piecemeal approach will never work. Policy and institutional reforms need more commitment.
  • The issue of terrorism in Pakistan has become an issue of two square meals – about survival for basic needs. Therefore, a whole-of-nation approach is needed to root out terrorism and negative, anti-nationalist elements. Only good governance, especially judicial reforms, will change things in Pakistan.
  • A critical impediment to the implementation of the NAP is the lack of dedicated funds.
  • Subcommittees formed for evaluating and implementing each NAP point are chaired by busy dignitaries who are unable to give enough quality time. Therefore, NACTA should report directly to the Prime Minister, with the Ministry of Interior (MoI) as the coordinator.
  • MOI needs to be more empowered, e.g. by making it the HR Division of the police service. The provincial Counterterrorism Departments should have a more professional cadre with easy mobility from one province to the other.
  • Restoration of Executive Magistracy should be expedited in order to strengthen the District Administration for more effective pre-emptive measures, and the concerns about tribal areas’ administration and Afghan refugees need attention on a fast track.
  • The Parliament’s oversight role should be strengthened, the police should be given operational-level counter-terror role.
  • To monitor progress on NAP, a proper implementation mechanism should be charted, including indicators and benchmarks against NAP points, besides adding new points. The mechanism should not only be limited to submitting progress reports in the Parliament, but should initiate robust actions for its effective implementation.
  • To ensure proper implementation of strict action against literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance, the government needs to ensure censorship of hate speech on electronic media and must ensure hate literature does not get printed and distributed.

Summary of Proceedings 

Ambassador Abdul Basit, President Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in his welcome address  said that the operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad have led to gains.  He added  that during the past three years, Pakistan has achieved tremendous success against terrorism. However, extremism and intolerance cannot be dealt with through kinetic measures. As provided for in the NAP, it was necessary to focus on well-calibrated, soft, non-kinetic approaches aimed at changing hearts and minds. The 20-point NAP must be implemented in its entirety with all the stakeholders working in harmony as per their respective mandates.  Ambassador Basit underlined that Pakistan was at a critical juncture, and the key is to consolidate the gains made during the last three years and build on them by implementing NAP.

Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT)  in her  presentation on “Presentation on “National Action Plan (NAP) Rationale and Status”, gave  an overview on  the progress  of implementation of all the  20-points of NAP by  using the Traffic Light Methodology. She said that the 20 points blueprint adopted in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar reflected the unanimous approach against militancy. It was underscored that the NAP was a “rare consensus” among political parties, and between the civil and military leadership. While describing the NAP as a landmark blueprint for combating terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan, she also identified various challenges in its implementation. She highlighted that the divergent approaches on the national horizon with reference to  militant and terrorist groups on the one hand,  and the procedural  issues in the adoption of a holistic policy on counterterrorism and national security on the other,  have  impeded the effectiveness of NAP. The general opaqueness over the implementation of NAP and the lack of clarity over the monitoring was cited as a major cause behind the  poor performance in its execution. There has been no periodic monitoring of   NAP’s implementation by the concerned  offices such as  NACTA, the Prime Minister’s Office or  the National Security Division. At the same time,  the role and work of the apex committees at the federal and provincial levels for effective coordination remain weak. She added that the claim by ISPR that the military has accomplished the assigned tasks was encouraging, but proactiveness on the part of the government was also essential. While discussing the terrorist incidents in the country, it was pointed out that as per the NACTA figures, there has been a sharp decrease in terrorist activity around the country. According to the 2017 global terrorism index, there has been a 12 percent reduction in terrorism related deaths which is the lowest since 2006. However, despite the marginalisation of disgruntled forces, the situation continues to be grim and the threat has not been eliminated altogether; the recent assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal speaks of this.

Further Ms. Aasiya  stated that the job of NACTA is to inform the public. In this context, e.g. the data available within the public sphere does not highlight how many terrorists are from each of the provinces. The ban on hate speech has not been fully implemented. The State Bank protocols have been put in place, but the terror financing continues through informal channels. The laws that register the proscribed organizations are still weak. At the public domain, stringent measures are required against religious persecution. Issues concerning the Christian and Ahmedi communities need appropriate attention. The regulation and registration of madrassas should be given due attention. FATA reforms need urgent implementation, giving  priority to rehabilitation and reconstruction. Meanwhile, the issue of sectarianism needs to be dealt  with firmly. The sufferings of the Hazara community should also be addressed on priority basis.

She said that the establishment of military courts was a positive move as it sped up the prosecution procedure. But the system has to ensure that there is no room left for appeals in superior courts. The provincial and federal governments are required to play a larger role in policy and institutional reforms. The government needs to be on the forefront in the counter terrorism drive. Meanwhile, a balanced counter-narrative reflective of country’s stance should be made public. She concluded that all 20 points of NAP carry significance and need to be implemented in letter and spirit and not against one another.

Lieutenant General (R) Khalid Rabbani, former General Officer Commanding XI Corps while speaking on   “NAP: Interplay of Internal and External Dimensions”  said that the 9/11 terrorist attack, changed the security landscape of the world. Pakistan’s tribal belt’s proximity to Afghanistan brought the area into the limelight of regional and foreign players. Pakistan military’s stepping into the tribal belt had internal as well as external ramifications since deployment in one’s own territory is difficult. This is why initially, there was hesitation whether to carry out the military operation or not. The perception that it was not Pakistan’s war also led to domestic pressure. Meanwhile, another angle to the war was that military action was required to dismantle the terrorist hideouts in the area. Both these contrasting views reinforced the notion thought that the “military was part of the problem and not the solution.”

He said that since independence, Pakistan has treated its tribal area as Elaka-i-Ghaer. The failure to develop the tribal belt and lack of communication has reinforced the sense of deprivation among the locals. Despite the fact that FATA was being led by its own system, the area needed to be at par with other provinces of the country. The resentment among the locals of the area is in reaction to  delay in the implementation of FATA reforms, especially its integration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The people in the tribal areas lack basic facilities, and what is worse, their traditional systems of justice have been forcibly replaced by a broken criminal justice system isolating the communities further.  Due to the poor living conditions, absence of medicines, life expectancy in FATA is 45 years. He also discussed the impact of the Afghan wars on Pakistan and the region at large. He referred to the foreign involvement in these wars. He was of the view that following the wars, de-radicalization efforts should have been undertaken as terrorists exploit the local sentiment; and the public in dire need of money falls prey to their ploy. He called for a galvanized national approach in dealing with miscreants (and other external forces). He said that good governance with a strong judicial system would be a bulwark against destabilizing elements. He urged that a whole-of-nation approach is needed to root out terrorism and negative, anti-nationalist elements The government needs to take the lead in this respect  and come up with  a comprehensive national strategy.

Mr. Tasneem Noorani, former Secretary Interior and Commerce, Government of Pakistan in his presentation on NAP: Lessons Learned and Way Forward” said that the NAP is an important security document which even after years, is being discussed threadbare, unlike any other policy instrument in the country.  He added that in order to counter extremist forces, and achieve the desired objectives, a coherent policy encompassing political, economic and security approaches should be adopted. He said  that a critical impediment to NAP’s implementation is the lack of dedicated funds. He also pointed out that sub-committees formed for evaluating and implementing each NAP point are chaired by busy dignitaries who are unable to give enough quality time.  The lack of political will from the very beginning has also severely hampered the progress on the NAP.

He said that the establishment of NACTA alone cannot be termed as a success, NACTA is an academic institution, to make it worthwhile, the government needs to take the lead. NACTA should be led by Prime Minister with Ministry of Interior (MoI) as the coordinator. The MoI has limited authority, while the actual power rests with the Provincial Chief Ministers. He recommended that the “MOI needs to be more empowered, e.g. by making it the HR Division of the police service. The provincial Counterterrorism Departments should have a more professional cadre with easy mobility from one province to the other. Restoration of Executive Magistracy should be expedited in order to strengthen the District Administration for more effective pre-emptive measures, and the concerns about tribal areas’ administration and Afghan refugees need attention on a fast track.”

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the speakers and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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