Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Plan: All Talk And Little Action – OpEd
By Sanchita Bhattacharya*
In implementation of its National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, the Pakistani government, as reported on September 26, 2016, initiated a widespread fiscal crackdown against over 8,400 individuals allegedly involved in terror financing in an apparent sign of state acting decisively to track and block the money supply to extremists. According to official sources, “over three dozen banks have also choked around Rs101 million in suspicious funds owned by 177 madaris”. “All bank accounts of Lal Mosque’s top cleric Maulana Aziz and gangster Shahid Bikiki of Lyari Aman Committee have been frozen. Their travel documents have also been cancelled,” a senior official of the Ministry of Interior, stated. In addition, authorities at the National Database Registration Authority and Directorate of Passport and Immigration office have blocked travel documents of over 3,111 terror suspects whose names were listed in Schedule IV recently.
Among prominent terrorists whose accounts have been frozen are: Mati-ur-Rehman of al-Qaeda Pakistan, Mansoor alias Ibrahim alias Chotta of Tehreek-e-Taliban and Qari Ehsan alias Ustad Huzaifa of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Pakistan Government has already announced Rs20 million bounty on their heads. Accounts of Umar Chohas of Tehrik-i-Taliban al-Qaeda group, Bilal Ahmed of TTP al-Qaeda Pakistan, Ramzan Mengal of LeJ, Sher Abbas of Jamaatul Furqan, Maulvi Ahmed Ludhianvi of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Maqsood Domki of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, Pariyal Shah, Sarfraz Pappu, Imaad Ali, Baqir Moosvi, Hafiz Aurangzaib and Kabir Raza of ASWJ, Sibtain Shirazi of defunct Tehreek-i- Jafaria Pakistan and Mirza Ali of defunct TJP have also been frozen.
Earlier, on July 25, 2016, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) Coordinator Ihsan Ghani had stated that 70,000 terrorists have been arrested since the launch of the National Action Plan. Moreover, describing Karachi violence, he said, 70 per cent reduction is witnessed in targeted killings and murders, and 80 per cent reduction in terrorist incidents. Explaining provincial situation, Ghani further said efforts are being made to ensure that extremist elements do not get a grip over Punjab. In Balochistan, Ghani added, 625 absconders have surrendered to the authorities and the government is in contact with estranged Baloch nationalists. He said that December 3, 2016 has been set as the deadline for the return of registered Afghan refugees. Similarly, a total of 2,159 terrorists have been killed under the NAP, added the NACTA coordinator.
On July 22, 2016, Interior Ministry and Narcotics Control presented an achievement report about the NAP in the National Assembly, as per which 332 persons have been executed under the anti-terrorism act so far. The report detailed that 2,337 cases were registered over hate speeches and hate material whereas 2,195 people were arrested and 73 shops sealed.
The NAP came into existence in January 2015 to crack down on terrorism and to complement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive in North-Western Pakistan. It is considered to have been an organized and coordinated state reprisal following TTP orchestrated December 16, 2014 Peshawar school attack. It combines foreign and domestic policy initiatives aimed to purge proscribed organizations across Pakistan. The plan was provided as the outline for the 21st Amendment to the constitution of Pakistan which established quick trial military courts for offences relating to terror campaign. It has also led to the recommencement of capital punishment and compulsory re-verification through fingerprint recognition of all subscribers on mobile telephony. The Plan also approved foreign, finance, and other ministerial departments to reach out to the Muslim countries to keep an eye on sponsors of terror and sectarian networks working in and against Pakistan.
The plan majorly aims at regularization of madrasas; crackdown on sectarian and religious hate speeches; registration of Afghan refugees; end of religious extremism; minority protection; curbing sectarian violence; strengthening of NACTA; administrative reforms of FATA, empowerment of provincial Baloch government, etc.
However, so far there has been an increasing debate regarding implementation of NAP in Pakistan. Operation Zarb-e-Azb did yield positive results, but the major portion of the NAP, which was about taking action against extremism and the extremist mindset, has not yet been implemented. Targeting militants’ den and destroying their networks is surely significant but what is more noteworthy right now is to go after the factions supporting these terrorists. Banned militant organizations are routinely seen taking out rallies and pushing for their demands, some of them even amass donations and some are even permitted to operate under the garb of charitable organizations. This is a complete failure of the National Action Plan but no one seems to focus on this part of the action plan.
Another point to be noted is madrasa reform and regulation, as mentioned in the NAP. In spite of the much publicized declaration of madrasa modernization, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)’s provincial government gave a hefty sum of Rs 300 million to the Haqqania madrasa of the province notorious for its links to militancy. Its owner Sami-ul-Haq is known as self-declared ‘father of Taliban’. Pakistan is still being accused of not doing enough against groups such as TTP and Haqqani Network. The problem is certainly evident and the solution to it is proper coordination between civilian and military leadership. While the military is targeting the hideouts of terrorists and eliminating them, the civilian government should be working on producing a counter narrative and doing away with all sorts of extremist literature present anywhere in the country.
Unsurprisingly, the military leadership is also finding implementation of NAP complicated. In August, 2016 Army Chief General Raheel Sharif declared lack of improvement on execution of NAP damaging for the progress of ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb. He stated, “NAP is central to achievements of our objectives and its lack of progress is affecting the consolidation phase of operation Zarb-e-Azb”. The Army Chief further suggested that all segments of the society will have to play their role effectively to tackle the menace of terrorism. He asserted, “Unless all prongs deliver meaningfully and all inadequacies are addressed, remnants of terrorism would continue to simmer and long-term peace and stability would remain a distant dream.”
On August 11, 2016 a report was presented to Nawaz Sharif regarding the progress of NAP. It was noticeably mentioned that out of 20 goals, 8 are still not being implemented. According to the report, law enforcement agencies and regional governments could neither end the chain of financial support to terrorists nor were recommendations to conclude criminal cases in less time filed. It was stated that extremist outfits had started operating under different names. Meanwhile, processes to mainstream disenchanted Balochis and to curb sectarianism maintained slow speed. The session was told that no progress was made regarding modification in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which is why the process of repatriation of Afghan refugees is also being deferred. The process has been delayed by six months.
The implementation of the NAP has until now been partly successful. After the terrorist attack in December 2014, the situation was ripe for the development of an all-inclusive counter-terrorism plan. All opposition parties gave a carte blanche to the government to implement any measures needed to fight terrorism. Pakistani citizens were ready for action, and public opinion was in support of an operation against the terrorists. Paradoxically however, no major operation was launched against terrorist strongholds in urban centers (Operation Zarb-e-Azb was already in progress against TTP strongholds in North Waziristan).
In actuality, only a few of the NAP’s unanimously adopted measures following the massacre were put into practice in true letter and spirit.
*Sanchita Bhattacharya is Post-Doctoral Fellow, UGC and Visiting Scholar, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent on: [email protected]