Is Terrorism The Real Target?

Pakistan Army troops carrying out combing operation against terrorists in Punjab province. (Photo via ISPR)
Pakistan Army troops carrying out combing operation against terrorists in Punjab province. (Photo via ISPR)

After the 21st Amendment in Jan 2015, the Rangers operations ongoing since 2012 in Karachi went into overdrive with significant decline in terrorism and target killings.  The military hierarchy persevered with their mission statement despite the Sindh PPP government using all means available under the “Constitution” to protect criminals belonging to their own party or allied thereof.  The Sharifs successfully protected their “Jihadi” electoral base in south Punjab.


In February 2015 DG ISPR Asim Bajwa articulated the Army’s stance about NAP being implemented partly while “others required more time due to political challenges”. While the COAS may call for “matching and complementing governance initiatives” for long-term gains of internal operations and enduring peace across Pakistan,  his soldiers keep dying in the mountains so that the politicians can keep doing what they do best, lining their pockets at the country’s expense.


Keeping the National Action Plan (NAP) in limbo till Gen Raheel Shareef retires, the Govt appointed National Security Advisor Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Janjua to “administratively” monitor NAP, a classic “death by Committee” move to get the COAS off the PM’s back. Quoting Irfan Hussain, “whenever bureaucracy wants to avoid action, it sets up a Committee”. Making a mockery of NAP’s resolve e.g. “ensuring   that proscribed organisations do not re-emerge” are the many public rallies, demonstrations/marches and live TV interviews by leaders of banned groups without any fear or repercussions. Where is the will and/or the judicial capacity to exercise existing operational mechanisms in a society where after Musharraf’s NRO, Zardari institutionalized corruption in many governance structures? One may well ask what perception emerges reining in honest NAB officers from doing their duty?


We must club NAP’s 20 overlapping points into groups, a senior focal person in each Ministry ensuring effective coordination. Group 1 having (a) National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) strengthened and (b) establishing a dedicated Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF), Group 2 (a) Implementing death sentence of those convicted for terrorism and (b) special trial courts under the Army’s supervision for two years (incidentally Protection of Pakistan Act has already lapsed) and Group 3 (a) militant outfits and armed gangs not allowed to operate (b) even under other names and (c) terrorists’ communication network dismantled. The Federal Ministry of Interior oversees Groups 1, 2 and 3 while the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs implements Group 4 (a) Registration and regulation of religious seminaries (b) end to religious extremism and ensure protection of minorities (c) action against elements spreading sectarianism and (d) no room for extremism in any part of the country.  Federal Ministry of Finance must implement Group 5 (a) funding sources of terrorists to be frozen. Federal Ministry of Information oversees Group 6 (a) strict action against literature, print and electronic media promoting hatred, decapitation, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance (b) ban glorifying terrorists and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media and (c) stop promoting terrorism through internet and social media, Federal Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination overseeing Group 7 (a) administrative and development reforms in FATA alongwith repatriating of IDPs and (b) comprehensive policy including registration of all Afghan refugees.


Federal Ministry of Interior would coordinate both Group 8 and Group 9 comprising ongoing operations in Karachi taken to its logical conclusion with Balochistan govt fully empowered by all stakeholders for political reconciliation. Precise delineation of responsibility with key performance indicators (KPIs) will allow prompt and effective coordination between Groups. For better coordination, command and control, the Army could abandon its British-era mindset and practices to put all para-military forces under a “Homeland Security Directorate” within GHQ  combining some functions, e.g. administration, intelligence, etc. for the Rangers, FCs, Defence Security Guards,  ASF, ANF. Given the personnel numbers involved, even creating a “Homeland Security Command” at the Chairman JCSC level.


Despite tall promises NACTA remains functionally ineffective because each Ministry jealously guards its mandate making the implementation of NAP almost impossible. Coordinating the Groups, NACTA must “receive and collate data/information/intelligence, disseminating and coordinating between all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments periodically presented to the Federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and extremism as per its original mandate”


A week after Modi’s Indian Independence Day outburst threatening Pakistan with Balochistan (what his NSA Ajit Duval had threatened much earlier), armed assailants attacked the offices of a TV Station within minutes of Altaf Hussain’s vitriolic anti-Pakistan speech. This clearly pre-meditated violence “coincidentally” happened only hours after virulently anti-Army Information Minister Pervez Rasheed’s meeting MQM leaders in Punjab House in Karachi.  Incidentally the TV stations targetted are not considered anti-MQM but anti-Govt. Does coercing the media by violent means through “false-flag” operations by non-state actors fall under the head of “state-inspired terrorism”?  Given the blatantly anti-Pakistan rhetoric when a seemingly berserk Altaf Hussain went off script, MQM in Pakistan announced a sham “divorce” from London, this supposedly unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) a clever ploy to keep the party from being banned.  The embarrassed Federal Govt which only that day mandated Ishaq Dar to negotiate with MQM, would have no other option.   We are all supposed to believe Farooq Sattar’s blatant fiction when he claims Altaf Hussain “has nothing to do anymore with party affairs in Pakistan”.  Please don’t hold your breath on this latest episode from MQM’s “Believe it or Not” series.  As time passes this farce could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy if Mustafa Kamal plays his cards right.


The recent Quetta carnage was a typical KGB-type operation where a smaller incident is created as a force-multiplier for a bigger one. Both Indian RAW and Afghanistan’s RAW-controlled NDSI’s predecessor KHAD are KGB-trained. The intelligence-based Rangers operation being delayed prevented a planned bloodbath by non-state actors that would divert international public opinion from Indian atrocities in Kashmir, giving credence to even Indian-controlled Bangladeshi govt ministers calling Pakistan “a rogue state”!


Is terrorism the real target of our rulers or is it the Army? Instead of calling DG Rangers “to restore peace at all costs in Karachi”, the COAS could call the PM’s House to stop playing with the lives of the people of Pakistan.With Gen Raheel Shareef running out of time, Nawaz Sharif is rearing to call his bluff!  We are in real trouble because even though the Army sees the political game, it clearly lacks the commitment to do something about it.


Instead of keeping us in a state of limbo for the next 90 days, Raheel Shareef might as well retire now and let the politicians make Pakistan what Musharraf’s NRO facilitated, “constitutionally” and “lawfully” a corrupt state.

The writer is a defense and security analyst

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