Issue in Pakistan is not the absence of institutions, but their capacity to deliver
No doubt Zarb-e-Azb has been an outstanding success. But time has come, or is fast coming, when the Operation will have to centre on settled urban areas. There, for a host of reasons, the anti-terror war has not been as successful as in the tribal area. That is not to say, of course, that the number of attacks and people killed has not dropped dramatically. There is a clear improvement. But it is also clear that the enemy retains the capability to strike almost anywhere south of FATA.
This was, most definitely, the main concern when NAP was floated following the Peshawar tragedy. And this also the top concern when NACTA was rolled out. Yet progress on both has been minimal, which ought to be criminal considering Pakistan has lost in excess of fifty-thousand people to terrorism and militancy.
To make sense of NAP and NACTA, DNA talked exclusively to Khawaja KhalidFarooq, former IG Punjab and former head of NACTA.
Question: Why do you think both NACTA and NAP never got off the ground? NACTA, especially, has always been dogged by the issue of funding from the federal government. Could you please explain the paralysis?
Khawaja Khalid Farooq: NACTA still remains un-empowered, and the combined deterrence plan and the comprehensive response plans envisaged under the National Internal Security Policy remain largely, or one could say overwhelmingly, un-implemented. It needs to be remembered that NISP was a 96-page document that seemingly was trumpeted as the counter terrorism and counter extremism blueprint for Pakistan. However, it remained only on paper, and most of its stipulates were re-worded in NAP.
Furthermore, NACTA has been in consistent birth throes ever since 2008 with continuous claims of being ‘reborn’ every year. Therefore, concerted focus from most of the administrative machinery of the Pakistani state apparatus is needed to implement the ‘wish lists’ envisaged in the NISP — this is a herculean task in itself, and distractions along the way cannot be helpful.
The new NACTA Act envisages NACTA as being presided over by a high level Board of Governors (BOG) headed by the prime minister. The board was envisaged to be endowed with the power to exercise all functions of the authority, and will also be responsible to approve policies and annual budgets prepared by the authority. The bill requires all federal ministries and provincial departments including corporations, bodies, set ups, controlled or administered by or under the authority of federal or provincial governments to cooperate with NACTA. The irony is that the Board, which was mandated to meet regularly, has hardly ever met in its full quorum, as far as I am aware. This belies the seriousness of the government in putting this body on its feet.
Even though the NISP document is a huge improvement from previous ones, it is certainly over-ambitious to think that NACTA will by default acquire the capability to drive a national consensus on counter-extremism and counter terrorism. Pakistan remains deeply divided by emotive discourses at variance with each other and many of these narratives are able to command large followings. Madrasahs are one such issue; organised along sects, they are resistant to adapt to modernity.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle in implementing an ambitious document like NISP is that Pakistan is a developing country. It has a limited amount of resources as opposed to more developed states; similarly it is a state which still needs to work out issues concerning the balances of power between the center and the provinces, in regards to jurisdiction in terrorism-related cases, police order and other issues.
Pakistan suffers from a lack of regulatory quality whereby plans, laws, structures and documents are drawn up, but the practical implementation of these is far from ideal. These state deficiencies also plague the effective implementation of the National Internal Security Policy of Pakistan.
Q: The military has been, time and again, critical of the civilian government’s progress with regard to NAP. And it is pretty much clear that there’s only limited progress that can be expected on the Action Plan. Is it, in your opinion, because important government functionaries are simply incompetent or are other, ulterior, motives involved?
KKF: The National Action Plan has been a catchword in media and by the government, and was announced with much fanfare. The Pakistani military has tackled its mandate of tackling terrorists militarily, and has made commendable progress. However, months later for the civilian administration, implementation is lackluster, and there seems no strategic direction. The National Action Plan lacked an effective implementation and execution despite the existing three-tier structure in the shape of NAP committee chaired by the prime minister, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and provincial apex committees. There are ample institutional mechanisms to implement the National Action Plan. Besides, committees on money laundering, counter-terrorism and madrassah reforms can supplement effective implementation. However, the overlapping role of the national anti-terrorist force, lack of mechanism to control foreign funding to the religious seminaries, resistance to the registration and reforms of existing madrassahs in the country, continued political activities of banned outfits, and lack of effective intelligence coordination along with lukewarm response of the federal and provincial governments are some of the factors hampering this initiative. Even though there is some response, a civil bureaucracy mired in the culture of self preservation for getting prized postings is hardly ideal for a robust response to such a huge change.
Nothing should not be allowed to cloak the sluggishness of the civilian administration. At NAP implementation, 16 subcommittees were notified by PMO, most of them have met only once, some not even once. There is apparently a task force which is now mandated, without probably not even remembering about the subcommittees whose function was to monitor and ensure NAP implementation. This back and forth posturing is not helpful to our security efforts.
Q: Taking nothing away from the many successes of Zarb-e-Azb, it is becoming increasingly clear that the fight is far from won. To this day the enemy can inflict serious damage at any given place and time. What more quantifiable measures are needed before this long war can finish?
KKF: Army operations are just one aspect of a huge spectrum of state abilities and processes to curb terrorism. The civilian criminal justice structure has correspondingly remained incapable to lawfully convict terrorists, allowing many to escape through the judicial process, despite many laws which are enacted but not properly implemented. Civilian structures like PCNS and NACTA have largely been talking shops till now, which is a general reflection of poor governance by civilian structures across the board. Politicians have not been able to add much clarity to this unsatisfactory state of affairs so far. They have also failed to mobilise the Pakistan public properly in eradicating the twin menace of terrorism and extremism, even though the public themselves are now overwhelmingly against terrorism and seem to long for peaceful existences.
Even though legal frameworks such as robust CT Laws are needed, ideological sanction is also important in the fight against terrorism to ease the apprehensions of the common Pakistanis. Even though there have been ‘fatwas’ (religious edicts) issued by the federally driven Islamic ideology council as a religious narrative by the state, the council needs to be reinvigorated as the official Islamic stakeholder of the government, and again has to issue unequivocal statements against terrorism. Other ministries such as the (now devolved) youth, women’s affairs, and the religious affairs ministries can be galvanised to take up traction following from the initiatives of the Islamic ideology council, within the ambit of a security doctrine. Stand alone initiatives will not go in any concerted directions as has been demonstrated by various such initiatives before.
Regional tensions will become even more critical in the global context in times to come. Until Pakistan’s new doctrine shapes out in terms of smoothing away the grey areas, there will remain ambiguity about the thrust of its new threat perceptions, which are intertwined sometimes inextricably. A case in point is the grievances of FATA, where only three percent of women receive education and there is one doctor for every 8,000 people. Operations are a viable option in FATA as initial counterinsurgency efforts, but unless they are supplemented by huge socioeconomic investments in rehabilitating the area, peace will not return, as Afghanistan has tended to demonstrate.
It also seems quite unambiguous that the Pakistani army has proved more robust than its civilian counterparts, and is still decidedly popular despite having displaced elected civilian governments forcibly. In pragmatic calculations, it would perhaps be better for the international community to keep helping the army bolster its professional capabilities, while at the same time encouraging the growth of democracy in Pakistan. There are signs that the army is choosing to adopt a politically neutral stance and keep out of politics, which can be encouraged by cheering on the democratic process from the sidelines, not by interventional methods, diplomatic or otherwise; such methods have failed in the past , and has made actors (like the Americans) decidedly unpopular in Pakistan.
Police are ill equipped to maintain law and order properly, and force the army to fill the law and order policing vacuum. The increased job definitions also ensures that the pre-conception that civilians are not competent enough to handle the real emergencies like terrorism, natural disasters and other crisis are firmly ingrained within the military psyche. In layman’s terms, once you give responsibilities that should have been handled by the civil establishment but were not, one would expect the military to assume more and more responsibility and congruent authority over time. The civil structures and entities need to be encouraged to grow and professionalise themselves, but in the meantime, the army is the predominant security doctrine generating and implementing organ for lack of a better alternative. This will remain true in the short to medium term, and civilian entities like NACTA and PCNS will continue to seek the steer of the army.
Despite the apparent randomness and elusive nature of terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, patterns are discernible and can be captured. Similarly the elements of environment in which terrorist organisations operate and draw their support can also be mapped. NACTA should immediately start drawing a Pakistan threat assessment mechanism. The purpose of this would be to identify and evaluate the elements of terrorist threat to Pakistan and construct dynamic terrorist threat assessment frameworks. These frameworks should provide a sufficiently fluid yet a defined feeding stream for devising an informed policy response. These frameworks will attempt to map the terrorist institutional landscape, patterns of behaviour, and contextualise them to elicit a clearer picture so that the vulnerabilities of the terrorist groups are identified and an informed and adequate policy response is generated. This should also be linked with creating as well as effectively using a prioritisation system for terrorist threat assessment. The framework will also have the capacity to adapt according to the changing terrorist threat, thus it will be a dynamic tool rather than being a static document.
In the end, there is no enduring security doctrine that will be flexible or robust enough to handle all of the problems all of the time. The best one can do is to keep all viable options open, keep thinking about issues, and be alive to the pull of globalisation with its promise of the socio economically stable global village with as few animosities as possible. Paul Kennedy reminds us, with the United States in mind: “Since it is not humanly possible to prepare for everything that may happen in the unpredictable and turbulent world of the early twenty-first century, the task is to structure the armed forces and the economy and society upon which they rest, to be in a good position to meet contingencies “.
Q: One hoped that the necessity of fighting this existential war would finally push police reforms through – which are essential if urban terrorism is to be controlled. Yet there are little signs, if any, of any real attention being given to the police force. What does that tell you about those in charge?
KKF: As police know the local area and its people, they are at the forefront to develop primary deterrent capability to prevent terror attacks. To foster such capacity and competence the police forces in Pakistan might have to make considerable changes in their operating practices to fight against terrorism, by adopting methods such as “intelligence led policing” (ILP), and “community policing” followed by the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions. The focal point of ILP model of policing is based on the identification, analysis and supervision of existing and approaching terror threats in future.
Even though intelligence inputs are disseminated to the police force on the field, it does not necessarily convert into action by the deployment of enough police personnel in the sensitive areas to undertake surveillance activities, and to protect susceptible targets. Lack of sufficient manpower and resources is slowing down and obstructing heavy new responsibilities of Pakistan Police in dealing with terror related actives, that have significantly increased the workload of police forces already engaged in hectic work schedules.
Most of the resources of a provincial police department go towards salaries, and despite some up-scaling of police resources, they are still grossly inadequate. The ratio of one police officer for every 700 citizens is highly inadequate by any standard, and in mega cities like Karachi it rises to 1,400 to every citizen. Consequently, to address the menace of terrorism and to prevent terror activities effectively and efficiently every area in Pakistan, there must be more police stations and professionally trained police officers. At the top, there is an imperative need to reshuffle the police forces by posting young and newly recruited officers trained in tactics and technology in critical wings of the police dealing with the terrorism. The Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs) in every police force are one such force which should be strengthened.
Undoubtedly, local police is the primary source to keep the terror groups off balance, and keep the population reassured by neutralising terror activities and attacks. However, shortage of visibility and response are damaging policing ,and despite success stories like Charsaddah University, police are becoming ineffective in preventing terror related attacks and sleeper cell activities. Under such existing constraints, where police not only have to put up with meager resources but also political interference, intimidation and patronage, things may not work at optimum conditions. In this time of national crisis, it is necessary not only for the politicians not to interfere in police responsiveness to terror activities, but there is also need for rapid expansion of police forces with a modern outlook. Accountability is admittedly a broad subject and there are many ways and institutional designs to achieve police accountability, but something has to be done besides meetings and abortive or powerless commissions which promise reform, but don’t deliver. Report after report, committee after committee, has all pointed out the same problems. Widespread torture, rampant corruption, lack of knowledge about human rights and the rule of law, violence and lack of accountability. Moreover, these phenomena are pervasive. The organisational culture is such that it is actually difficult for an officer to behave differently. We need real police reforms , not just on paper and certainly not the self-serving lip service paid to policing till now.
Q: NAP clearly mandates intel sharing among the two dozen or so security agencies that exist in the country. Why is this so difficult to achieve? Why do intelligence agencies dread sharing information, especially when precious lives can be saved?
KKF: The JID was an organisational restructuring move under NISP of a wing within NACTA wherein 33 civilian and military intelligence and operational agencies would be represented to integrate tactical, operational and strategic ‘levels’ of civil and military ‘verticals’. This intelligence coordination mechanism would presumably feed into threat assessment, which is supposed to lead to actionable intelligence. The National Internal Security Operation Center (NISOC) at the DIS is supposed to coordinate and collate this intelligence from all the pillars of the National internal security apparatus, which essentially means that intelligence, would then be collated under one roof at NACTA, and then disseminated to relevant stakeholders .
This assumed inter organisational and national consensus which is still a dream. Inter departmental turf wars over who is the ‘big brother’ still plague our collective efforts, but there are several other issues which also hamper our efforts.
One issue is that of civilian capacity (including police) across board to handle intelligence. Many components of the state security apparatus have been used in one form or the other to tackle terrorism even before NISP and NAP came into existence. NISP and NAP certainly have enormous significance. However, one of the significant factors that needs to be examined is not the documents, but the longest time it took for the government to articulate it. This holds within it the implications of the fundamental challenges facing the political forces in Pakistan on essentially trying to create a new narrative. Admittedly, these are wish lists that seem to have been produced as though a hurried study of existing international models was carried out, and an ambitious one produced for Pakistan which the country may not be able to undertake in its current state of development. There is certainly a Pakistani context to implementing the NAP model of inter-agency cooperation; mere cognizance and admission of facts may not be enough to make the policy materialise. From centre-province relations to civil-military relations to devolution to stakeholder reticence or inertia to move out of status quo, we would have to overcome obstacles which have seemed insurmountable till now. For instance, NACTA’s birth pangs reveal the organisational ethos, when one entity or the other , both federal (the MOI and prime minister’s secretariat) were involved in turf wars over which one would take primacy in leading NACTA. The problem exacerbates when it’s taken to the next level; centre-province relations, which remain tenuous in Sindh, KP and Balochistan, three of the four provinces .
The fact that that such institutions are already there but not performing their mandated functions highlights that the issue in Pakistan is not the absence of institutions, but their capacity to deliver. This also highlights the fact that even if mechanisms like NACTA is put into practice satisfactorily, they will still have to deal with disarrayed coordination mechanisms within NISA, such as the police. With police being only one of the grass roots organisations (needing intensive reform) which generates and feeds intelligence into the NACTA driven DIS, the technological adage ‘garbage in – garbage out ‘ would have to be considered more seriously.
Q: Do you think it is even possible to regulate seminaries, considering how the government buckles under pressure from the far right? If not, what is the future of NAP in particular and the long fight against terror in general?
KKF: The issue of madaris, especially their registration and de-radicalisation, is a very important one in the current debate. However, it remains to be seen how NAP will approach this problem in a way that is different from past attempts, all of which have remained lackluster. Registration of madaris is actually a problem due to the presence of un-registered or ghost madaris. The total number of seminaries affiliated with the wafaq is approximately 28,000; besides them a large number of unregistered madaris are also working. Scores of unregistered madaris escape scrutiny of the government, since those are usually built as an ‘additional’ room of a mosque where students get Nazira Quran and Hifz lessons. The mushrooming of unregistered or ‘ghost’ madaris is a severe problem for the government. There is no credible information for the number of unregistered madaris, particularly, since these are generally located in remote areas. Thus, many such ghost madrassah escape detection. Detecting these ghost madaris will have cross cutting implications in which the madaris stakeholders will be reluctant to register or will attempt to hide these ghost madaris from official scrutiny, and may even mobilise religious street power in protests if steps are forcibly taken. Religious entities in Pakistan may not have electoral power as analysts are fond of saying, but certainly can and have mobilised very effective street power in furtherance of religious or social agendas. This has so far mitigated the impacts of any proposed reforms since essentially 2005, whereby it was unclear what was needed to be done to control the madaris to curb terrorism, and what substantive reforms were needed to upgrade this education system.
It needs to also be remembered that the state had reiterated its resolve earlier too in the form of National Internal Security Policy, promulgated more than a year ago. Under this, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was mandated to carry out registration of madaris. Presumably, NAP would build upon this, but the reality is that NACTA till date remains powerless and without resources, an organisation on paper. NAP is silent on the roadmap of these reforms; presumably it should have built upon NISP’s edifice, but the lack of policy direction emanating so far is revealing. Without setting out the frameworks of lucidly thought madaris reform, the NAP may just go nowhere as did the NISP regarding madaris reforms.