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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Internal security challenges of Pakistan

THE Supreme Court is disillusioned and disappointed at the failure of the federal government as well as the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan to maintain law and order by containing sectarian terrorism, controlling targeted killings, and apprehending organised crime mafias.

The Punjab government has not been able to rein in proscribed militant organisations or to check mob fury against hapless Christians in various incidents of religious intolerance, including those against other minorities.

Appeasement may result in the monster eating the appeaser last, but the diabolic nature ofthe threatcannotbe changed, come what may.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa politicians, even at the cost of some heroic sacrifices, find themselves constrained to follow the path of appeasement before the coming elections.

An olive branch is being extended to the terrorist outfits that do not recognise the constitution of Pakistan nor have faith in democracy.

The commanders of the armed forces, after a recent visit of their chief to Karachi and holding an urgent meeting in Rawalpindi, have conveyed their concern about the deteriorating law and order situation to their civilian commander-in-chief and president.

This also reflects the civilian-military disconnect in coming up with a concerted and joint strategy to deal with internal security fault lines.

The independent Election Commission is gearing up to hold a free and fair national election despite many handi-caps and road blocks from powerful political lobbies.

The mounting violence and mayhem is adding to the great challenges that it is facing in fulfilling public expectations.

Against this grim and gloomy backdrop, the caretaker governments, both in the centre and the provinces, are to be installed in a matter of days, to shoulder the onerous responsibility of helping the Election Commission hold free and fair elections in the country and providing adequate security by maintaining order and controlling violence in the run-up to the crucial polls. Internal security therefore will be the highest on the agenda of the caretaker administrations in the centre and the provinces. They would be well-advised to initiate a process of putting together an internal security policy framework that contains strong elements of a national counterterrorism and counter-extremism strategy.

To begin with, institutional infrastructure needs to be put in place to devise national security policy and implement internal security strategies. The following recommendations merit urgent consideration.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) comprising key federal ministers, military services chiefs, and heads of important intelligence agencies should meet every week with the prime minister in the chair to discuss national security issues.

A professional of impeccable credentials should be appointed national security adviser who should report to the prime minister and the cabinet. He should not only act as the secretariat of the DCC but undertake the task of putting together national security policy guidelines and a framework for implementa-tion by the federal and provincial stakeholders dealing with internal security.

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) should immediately put together an action plan on countering terrorism and religious extremism. Head of Nacta should report directly to the prime minister.

Heads of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and provincial inspectors general of police should all be carefully selected to comprise professionals of known integrity and competence, who can ensure the political neutrality of their respective departments.

Weekly intelligence coordination meetings should be held in the interior ministry with all the federal agencies like Nacta, IB, ISI, FIA etc.

under the aegis of the National Crisis Management Cell. Representatives of provincial Crime Investigation Departments (CID) may also be invited for sharing real-time intelligence and threat assessment.

The federal interior ministry and provincial home and police departments should take out and update the lists, maintained in the Fourth Schedule of the AntiTerrorism Act, of office-bearers and activists of banned militant organisations and those operating with new names for nefarious terrorist activities.

Fresh bonds for good conduct may be obtained from their leaders on watch-lists, the second-tier may be put under house arrest; and the bulk of activists and miscreants detained for three months under the Maintenance of Public Order.

Those men who trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s, around 5,000 in Punjab alone, need to be located as most ofthem have been sucked into militancy by terrorist outfits.

Proper surveillance of such groups is critical to defeat militancy.

Provincial CIDs, prosecution services and investigation officers must monitor the trial of all terrorism cases for successful prosecution and convictions. A close liaison must be established with the anti-terrorism courts whose performance is monitored by selected high court judges and a judge of the Supreme Court.

There should be zero tolerance for the display of weapons during the election campaign. Not only should bonds for ensuring peace be obtained from the candidates but the display of firearms in their presence should result in their disqualification.

Police should launch a campaign against illicit weapons.

Carrying of prohibited-bore licensed arms should also be banned.

The intelligence agencies should come out of their shells and dare to share information and actionable intelligence about the militants of proscribed outfits wanting to destabilise the country.

Similarly, the armed forces should be ready to render help to the entire state machinery including the Election Commission, the caretaker governments and the civil administration in ensuring peace and order for holding free, fair and transparent elections.

Finally, the grit of the nation will be tested in this hour of trial. Let people exercise their right to vote and foil the designs of forces that do not want to see Pakistan tread the democratic path to peace, progress and prosperity. • The 

By Tariq Khosa, a retired federal secretary and former DG FIA.