Reviewing National Action Plan (NAP) against Terrorism in Pakistan

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IN the plan to counter terrorism through the National Action Plan (NAP), 2016 was the second operational year. Towards the end of it, we are still mired in debate. After the December 2014 attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS), it was hoped that the political and security leaderships would rationalise the country’s course of action. Sadly, that hope has only partially been realised.

Security institutions made a few adjustments in their operational strategy, but failed to completely transform their counterterrorism approach. The statistics show some improvements, for which every institution is trying to take the credit. Although a downward trend in incidents of terrorism has been apparent since 2010 — owing to multiple reasons — terrorists’ operational infrastructure and support networks, albeit weakened, remain intact.

The APS massacre has become part of bitter memories. NAP was the reflection of a collective pledge that state and society would not repeat past mistakes. Many have welcomed the fact that the mastermind of this crime was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan this year. But has the Pakistani state changed its course of action?

The government has not seriously attempted to take internal security policy completely into its own hands.
Just a day before the APS anniversary, the judicial commission probing the Aug 8 Quetta hospital bombing put forth its findings, reminding us that old habits die hard. The Quetta hospital bombing was no less a tragedy than the APS one, but state institutions reacted differently. After the Peshawar atrocity, the nation spoke up clearly and loudly against the problem of internal militancy; NAP was an outcome of this realisation. But, apparently, that threat perception almost died by the time the Quetta hospital carnage occurred, where the old problem of externalising the threat became prominent. Indeed, the externalisation factor has become so strong again that state responses have become absurd, as also pointed out in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa inquiry commission report.

Apart from its findings on the Quetta bombing, the commission has come up with some comprehensive recommendations. However, it is not certain whether the government will take the advice seriously. The commission has suggested “NAP should be made into a proper plan, with clear goals, a comprehensive monitoring mechanism, and periodic reviewing”.

Implementation of NAP is a vital challenge that the government has continuously been avoiding. The lack of coordination and cooperation among state institutions and, in particular, the not-so-cordial civil-military relations remain a huge challenge.

However, the government has not made any serious attempt to take internal security policy completely into its own hands. While the government spent 2015 saying that NAP would take time to make progress, this year exposed the low capabilities of those heading internal security. Initially, they successfully shifted the pressure on to the police and its counterterrorism departments, using the National Counter -Terrorism Authority (Nacta) as a cover for their failures. The formation of NAP implementation committees was another tactic to keep shifting the burden of failure. Eventually, NAP has become a political gimmick.

After the Quetta hospital bombing, another implementation committee was formed, and retired Lt-Gen Nasser Khan Janjua was named its head. However, the interior minister has been insisting that the newly constituted NAP implementation committee was “merely an administrative body and both the interior ministry and Nacta will continue to have an oversight role in NAP’s implementation.”

Nobody ever asked about the fate of 16 committees on NAP implementation; the interior minister heads 13 of them. The head of the new NAP implementation committee formed regional committees in all four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, despite knowing that provincial apex committees already existed to do the same job. October’s crucial meetings to review progress on both internal and external threats were also briefed by Mr Janjua. As reported in the media, he shifted the burden on to the provincial governments.

The Justice Isa commission recommended the activation of Nacta according to its constitutional mandate. Apparently, the authority showed some progress in 2016. It worked on a ‘red book’ of terrorists containing complete information on and profiles of them. It made available the list of banned organisations on its website and included two more groups on that list, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Aalmi and Jamaatul Ahrar; Nacta had included these two names when Justice Isa asked the federal government about their status. It rationalised the Fourth Schedule lists and advised banks to take immediate action against individuals on the lists. Nacta was also assigned the responsibility of developing the task force to curb terror financing.

Another initiative that the authority took was the preparation of new forms for madressah registration with the consultation of the Ittehad-i-Tanzeemat-i-Madaris Pakistan, an umbrella organisation of different madressah educational boards. However, despite promises and several announcements, it failed to activate the Joint Intelligence Directorate, which was its core mandate.

What Nacta has achieved is not because a certain institutional mechanism has been evolved where it is operating as an independent authority. The credit for these achievements may go to individuals; otherwise, the counterterrorism body is still operating as a subsidiary of the interior ministry.

A comprehensive review of NAP’s implementation and state responses may reveal more shortcomings in counterterrorism approaches. The state has also failed to address structural issues — crucially, the handling of banned organisations.

The exact level of extremism and potential of terrorist outfits cannot be measured until the complete enforcement of the laws referring to banned organisations. The reason is that groups involved in terrorism get their human resource from them. Banned organisations provide not only ideological legitimacy to terrorist groups but also a conducive environment for their operations. Additionally, banned organisations have encroached on far-right territory and, if this process continues, they will erode the socio-cultural fabric of society.

Threat perception is not a tricky thing and it does not require a tragedy to correct it. It only requires vision, vigilance, and commitment. Otherwise, the National Action Plan remains merely a bunch of documents.

The writer is a security analyst.

Muhammad Amir Rana is a security analyst. He is the Director of Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Islamabad, Pakistan.

2 YEARS after initiating the National Action Plan, its ownership, implementation and efficacy are being extensively debated. This review has acquired an added urgency in the wake of the Charsadda attack.
The ideal implementation of NAP requires institutional, structural adjustments. An analysis proves that implementation requires multidimensional interventions.
Point one: Execution of convicted terrorists pertains to the ministry of interior, the provincial prisons departments, home departments and the judiciary.
Choking funds for militancy has been a dormant area.
Point two: To ensure conviction and quick disposal of terrorism-related cases, military courts were established via the 21st Amend­­ment. To enhance the efficacy of the existing anti-terrorism courts and reduce the backlog of cases in Sindh, the apex committee recently decided to instal 30 additional courts.
Point three: This reiterates the resolve that armed militias won’t be allowed to operate. It conforms with Article 256 of the Constitution. In Fata, the army dismantled the infrastructure and training facilities of such militias. In Karachi, the Rangers and police jointly reduced the operational space for such forces.
Point four: Strengthening and activating Nacta lies in the federal government’s do­main. A full-time police officer has been entrusted with the task of hiring professionals. A joint intelligence directorate will start functioning in June 2016.
Point five: Countering hate speech and extremist material is the shared jurisdiction of the district administration, police and special branches of the provincial police. The situation warrants that all those who draft, print and distribute such material be nabbed.
Point six: Choking financing for militant groups remained a dormant area. To ensure stern actions against the facilitators and financiers of militancy, the government recently decided to establish the National Terrorists Financing Investigation Cell to track financial transactions meant to fund extremism and terrorism. This requires the collective efforts of the State Bank, the finance and interior ministries, the banking sector and FIA.
Point seven: In acting against the re-emergence of proscribed groups, the ministries of foreign affairs and interior have already notified such organisations. In the provinces, it’s the responsibility of the Counterterrorism Department, Special Branch, police and administration to reduce the room for such groups. It is also their joint responsibility to ensure they don’t resurface with new names.
Point eight: Raising and deploying a dedicated CT force is linked to the provinces. Though such forces are now in the field, they must be under a dedicated command and not employed for VIP duties etc.
Point nine: Taking effective steps against religious persecution requires practical steps by the provinces. Nacta is planning a process to assess the volume, spread and severity of religious persecution in the country and then draft recommendations for policymakers.
Point 10: Registration and regulation of madressahs is another ideal that remains to be achieved. To monitor progress on madressah reforms, KP recently established district monitoring committees.
Point 11: Ban on glorification of terrorism and militant groups through print and electronic media is the responsibility of Pemra and media gatekeepers. The drafting of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct is a positive intervention. The code also incorporates the rights of victims.
Point 12: After clearing out most of Fata to entrust its administration to a civilian set-up, recently a parliamentary committee has been tasked to suggest reforms in the tribal areas. Imple­mentation is in the hands of the centre.
Point 13: Dismantling communication networks of militant groups in Fata is being successfully carried out by the army.
Point 14: Measures against internet and social media abuse for terr­­orism purposes is the domain of the FIA’s cybercrime unit and PTA. Apart from legal intervention, the capacity-building of investigators is required. The public must be educated about the procedure of lodging complaints relating to cybercrime.
Point 15: Where zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab is concerned, although action has been taken, intensified intelligence-led operations are still needed.
Point 16: Taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion, the federal agencies FIA, NAB and Rangers are actively assisting the Sindh government.
Point 17: To make reconciliation a success in Balochistan is the responsibility of the centre, the provincial government and the political parties. Though the pace is slow, efforts are afoot.
Point 18: Dealing firmly with sectarian militants pertains to home departments, police and special branches.
Point 19: The policy on Afghan refugees rests with the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, the Foreign Office and the provinces.
Point 20: Reforming the criminal justice system is primarily the provinces’ task.
Reconciliation, de-radicalisation and de-weaponisation also need to be incorporated as top priorities.
Reviewing NAP, By  MOHAMMAD ALI BABAKHEL. The writer is a police officer.

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