On May 29, the outgoing PML-N government unveiled the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2018-23 to address terrorism, extremism and other crimes effectively. The new policy, which is the continuation of the NISP 2014-18, has ascertained Daesh as the biggest national security threat to Pakistan by saying that “[t]he emergence of Daesh in close proximity to Pakistan has raised new internal security challenges. The potential for spill over in Pakistan with the support and collaboration of TTP and its offshoots is not a possibility to be ignored. This situation has been compounded by the return of battle-hardened militants from Syria and Iraq.” The new policy further reveals that there is adequate evidence that radicalisation and militancy is no longer limited to Madaris alone. Created with an unprecedented degree of consensus by all organs of state, the NISP is a comprehensive framework that sees security as a product of achieving both peace and national development.
Religious terrorism tops the list of four terrorism types pointed out in the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2018-2023 by the Ministry of Interior. Other terrorism types included sectarian terrorism, ethno-political terrorism and sub-national terrorism.
According to the policy, several of the active terrorist groups in the country espoused the stated aim of imposing their interpretation of religion, besides wanting to establish a global caliphate by discrediting democratically-elected governments and terming all civilian and military institutions un-Islamic. Most such terrorist outfits have already been proscribed or eliminated, but comprehensive action is needed to choke their sources of financing.
Several sectarian outfits originated in Pakistan and continue to maintain a presence, the NISP admitted. They often use violent means to target prominent personalities, festivals and places of worship belonging to other sects.
The NISP stated that confluence of ethnic identity and politics resulted in violence along racial lines to achieve political and economic gains. Karachi, it stated, being the country’s largest and most ethnically diverse city, suffered immensely because of such turf battles.
According to the policy, such clashes were often linked with conflicts over real estate, territorial control and constituency gerrymandering. The policy recognizes that sub-national terrorism – such as the one experienced in Balochistan – remained a persistent challenge for peace and stability in Pakistan.
Pakistan, the policy maintained, suffered a loss of $123 billion over the past 15 years because of terrorism.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA suffered the worst losses in the country since Pakistan decided to be a part of the global war against terrorism.
During the 2005-2012 period, the country suffered 11,862 casualties involving civilians, personnel of security forces and militants, primarily as a result of terrorist activities.
Sindh was rated as the second most violent region in terms of casualties on a per capita basis, although in absolute numbers, the province has been conflict-prone since mid-1980s.
Punjab has seen the least violence in the country in terms of overall fatalities. But the average death toll per terrorist attack in Punjab remains the highest in the nation.
Some sectarian organizations were founded and maintain presence in the province, the document admits.
Balochistan ranked fourth as far as extremism and violence was concerned. It has traditionally seen violent ethnic conflict, threatening the state.
Gilgit-Baltistan remained largely peaceful; but there was some sectarian violence over there. Azad Kashmir mostly witnessed violence because of cross-border firing along the Line of Control. Otherwise, the region remained relatively peaceful.
Stressing the need for reforming the criminal justice system, the NISP prioritizes it but this largely remained untended during the tenure of the PML-N government.
Criminal justice reforms, the policy states, were essential for establishing rule of law, but shortcoming in this regard necessitated establishment of military courts as a short-term solution. It was essential to overhaul the criminal justice system so that the accused could be prosecuted under civilian dispensation. It also called for putting in place comprehensive measures to combat terrorism financing through an effective regime for Combatting Financing of Terrorism.
The NISP discusses building a national narrative against terrorism, which was largely ignored over the past five years. It also talks about ensuring registration and regularization of madrassas in a uniform manner. It stated that provinces would develop legislation for undertaking madrassa reforms. Despite much propaganda, the federal and provincial governments took fewer steps for registration and reforms in religious seminaries.
The NISP also identifies youth alienation and frustration, exclusionary identity narratives, lack of social justice and the rule of law, regional disparities, lack of accountability and inclusion and foreign linkages as significant drivers of insecurity. Furthermore, lack of quality research to understand the pathways to and causes of religious and ethnic militancy have impeded the development of evidence-based programming and policies, it added.
The NISP 2018-2023 envisages strengthening the state’s ability to respond to security issues, challenging the extremist narratives, and addressing the deprivations that result in security challenges. It is a comprehensive framework of security that has been created with a complete consensus by all organs of the State.
On the face of it, the policy seems to be comprehensive, elaborate and has clear objectives to achieve besides a firm mechanism for its implementation. To achieve the objectives and vision of NISP 2018-2023, the policy has a 6R strategy (re-imagine, reconcile, redistribute, recognise, regional approach and reorient facets of the State and how it interfaces with its citizens). Policy provides 120 measures, however key priority areas as well as those required in the short, medium or long term have been identified to help efficient resource allocation. An elaborate implementation plan has been developed that includes for the first time in any government policy, the indicators to measure progress. Under the policy, four broad objectives; creating structures for enforcement of the rule of law, bringing the country together through a shared vision that gives space to many identities of the people of Pakistan, developing political stability from a shared vision and creating the conditions for economic and societal preconditions to achieve social justice has been set.
There, however, seems to be some confusion about all these objectives as we have witnessed in the past that none of them was given priority by all stakeholders. How can we expect enforcement of rule of law when a few months back extremist and militant groups occupied the main expressway of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for three weeks sending alarming signals not only to peaceful citizens of the country but also to international community. They were allowed to continue with their plans and finally they made the government to surrender. As far as political stability is concerned, everyone has witnessed that how, during the last many decades, political manoeuvrability by ‘actors’ played havoc with the political system and as a result elected governments were not allowed to work despite clear mandate from the people. Same is the case with economic stability, which is deeply linked to political stability and continuation of policies but we have been discarding policies initiated by one government on flimsy grounds and narrowed vision. The policy identifies IS (Daesh) as the biggest threat to the country whereas in the past it was repeatedly stated that there was no organised presence of the militant group in Pakistan.
Again, the policy envisages creation of a number of entities both at federal and provincial levels in the name of coordination, oversight and monitoring whereas the fact remains that there is no dearth of organisations and the only question that needs to be addressed is how to make them responsive to the situation and threats and how to improve coordination among them. Despite repeated claims, our security and law-enforcing agencies seldom coordinate and there have been even reports that they do not share their information and data with one another. There is definitely need for carrying out meaningful police reforms but keeping in view our track record, there is hardly any hope of worthwhile progress in near future despite the fact that visible improvement in law and order situation can be achieved if police are reformed and modernised. The goal to modernise and upgrade forensic labs and adopt modern investigation techniques is laudable if implemented in letter and in spirit. Militants are increasingly using latest gadgets and technologies but some recent incidents clearly showed that our law-enforcing agencies are lacking expertise in tackling cybercrimes. This aspect needs to be taken care of on a priority basis and the objective can be realised if appointments in the concerned departments are made purely on merit, and not on Sifarish.
The 6R Strategy
1. Re-imagine: The policy aims to pursue re-imagining the society as a tolerant, inclusive and democratic polity in order to strengthen a shared vision for the nation. Celebration of cultural and religious diversity will be one of the most important pillars of the new national narrative. A National Cultural Plan (NCP) will be charted to celebrate cultural activities and festivals of all faiths and ethnicities. A national interfaith harmony day will be celebrated annually to promote peaceful coexistence and acceptance of diversity. Education reforms shall continue. Curriculum reforms will be one of the most important components of education system reforms. In collaboration with the provinces, curriculum guidelines and standards will be developed to ensure that textbooks are free of hate content, racial, gender and regional stereotypes/prejudices and glorification of war and violence. Registration and regularistion of madrassas in a uniform manner in all provinces will be ensured. Steps will be taken to ensure the strict implementation of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) regulations pertaining to hate speech, fake news, racial prejudice and the glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations.
2. Reconcile: The NISP proposes reconciliation with individuals and groups willing to shun the path of violence. The incentives for shunning the violence and militancy and for re-integration have to be made greater than the continuation of militancy and anti-societal discourse and practices, the NISP 2018-2023 asserts. It refers to the successful formulation of programmes for re-integration and of reconciliation pursued by many Muslim countries including Indonesia and Bangladesh, and notes that key priority areas in this regard have to be the worst affected areas due to insecurity and terrorism. Efforts will be made to build consensus on offering incentives for militants under clear and transparent terms to shun violence.
3. Redistribute: Under the Policy, redistributive mechanisms will be enhanced and expanded to provide social protection to marginalised groups in order to provide social justice. Creating more space for young people within various tiers of government including local bodies will be done. Young people of the marginalised areas shall be uplifted by providing preferred access to colleges and universities as well as vocational training. Marginalised groups such as women, transgender and differently-abled persons will be mainstreamed by facilitating their inclusion in educational institutions as well as public and private sector workforce through affirmative action.
4. Regional Approach: Pakistan will continue to work with the global community to ensure peace and stability. Pakistani soil will not be allowed to be used by any non-state actor to launch attacks outside the country. In particular, Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity will be implemented to achieve the common objectives of eliminating terrorism and ensuring regional peace. Mechanisms will be developed for intelligence sharing to evolve a joint approach to common threats. A sharp focus will be placed on geo-economics and regional cooperation. Neighbouring countries will be encouraged to be a part of CPEC.
5. Recognize: Research capacity within the state and society will be enhanced to develop better understanding of security challenges and inform policy in this area. Security Analysis & Research Cell (SARC) at Ministry of Interior run by professionals will be established to provide research and analysis capability to develop a deeper understanding of security challenges. The Counter Terrorism and Counter Extremism Centres of Excellence will be established at NACTA to provide research, analysis and training support to various arms of government.
6. Reorient: This point stresses that the state security apparatus must modernise not only its infrastructure and capacity but also by redefining its raison d’etre. To do this, the state must continue to improve strategic cooperation and coordination, an Interprovincial Coordination Committee on Internal Security headed by Minister for Interior will be established at the levels of chief ministers and home ministers. The NACTA will continue to take the lead on coordination among various state institutions. It will develop stronger analytical capability at its Joint Intelligence Directorate (JID) to analyse the intelligence reports and ensure that critical information is shared with relevant stakeholders in a timely fashion. To this end, the NACTA will provide a threat assessment in the light of intelligence received from multiple agencies/sources. A comprehensive National Terrorism Database synchronised with the police departments of the country, NADRA, FIA and State Bank of Pakistan and other relevant departments and agencies will be established at the NACTA. The legal system will also be reformed such as simplifying the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, and Amendments in Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, will be made to prevent its abuse. Furthermore, all laws and clauses that conflict with one another will be amended to make the legal framework of Pakistan more coherent. Evidence law (Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984) will be amended/expanded to allow for recording of evidence through video link, Skype, video conferencing, use of screens or curtains to hide the identity of the witness as provided in Anti-Terrorism Act. the police states Collection of forensic evidence in all cases will be made mandatory by amending the Police rules.
National Internal Security Policy 2018-2023
12 Important Highlights
1. The NISP is based on 6R strategy — re-imagine, reconcile, redistribute, recognise, regional approach and reorient facets of the state and how it interfaces with its citizens.
2. The Policy provides 120 measures, identifying key priority areas to help efficient resource allocation.
3. It proposes reconciliation with individuals and groups willing to shun violence.
4. The key priority areas of the policy are the areas worst affected due to insecurity and terrorism.
5. FATA, Balochistan, and areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi have to be paid particular attention.
6. A mechanism will be developed to review cases of militants who agree to cooperate with the law-enforcement agencies.
7. De-radicalisation and rehabilitation programmes will be used to enable former militants to join the mainstream.
8. Professionals and moderate scholars will be engaged for the said purpose.
9. Alternative livelihoods either by providing jobs, vocational training or other means will be offered to former militants once they are certified not being a security risk.
10. No armed group will be allowed to operate a political wing and participate in electoral processes and vice versa.
11. The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) will compile data on Pakistani individuals linked with terror organisations involved in war theatres abroad.
12. The NISP 2018 focuses on three main domains:
a. Administrative (strengthening the ability of the state to respond to security issues)
b. Ideational (challenging the ideological underpinnings of extremist narratives)
c. Socio economic (addressing the deprivations that create a breeding ground for security challenges to emerge).