The meticulous planning and successful execution of the Quetta carnage and the death and mayhem thereupon reminds us once again that we are still far from an ultimate triumph against terrorism and claiming that the country has been fully purged of the menace. Intermittent killing sprees in various parts of the country once again highlight the fact that we direly need to draw up a holistic approach and launch coordinated efforts. And the gravity of the situation suggests that these are not the options, but compulsions. It was with this spirit that a high level meeting of civilian and military leadership of the country was recently held wherein many important strategic decisions were taken. Crucial among them were those related to the creation of a high-powered committee led by National Security Adviser Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Janjua to implement National Action Plan (NAP) and to raising 29 new wings of civil armed forces to improve border management and internal security of the country.
No doubt, the decisions taken at the recently-held meeting of country’s civilian and military leadership are highly appreciable but the question is why our government keeps waiting for some tragedy to happen (like APS Peshawar massacre and Quetta carnage) before drawing up policies and taking steps to slay the hydra of terrorism and extremism? Why we still lack even a unified national narrative on extremism and terrorism? Why it is always so that the military has to pinch the democratically-elected representatives to wake up from deep slumber? How the newly-formulated committee would be different from 13 committees already present for NAP implementation? These and many such questions need to be answered first as only it will determine whether we are moving in the right direction for the implementation of NAP.
The phenomenon of extremism, which is the root cause of terrorism, needs also to be seen in its actual context. Identifying the real causes of youth’s inclination toward radicalization and finding out short- and long-term remedies has become the most pressing need of the time. The government must comprehend the gravity of the issue and promptly initiate programmes and campaigns in order to de-radicalize the country’s youth. In this regard, a uniform and rationality-based educational curriculum could be of critical significance. Then, the next step would be a thorough review of internal security policy as well as counter-terrorism strategy.
Likewise, unchecked use of social media by some unruly elements, who want to glorify mass murderers, propagate their crooked ideology, make recruitments of foot-soldiers and gain widespread attention, is at its peak, despite government’s tall claims of minimizing it. In this psychological and cyber warfare, our national mainstream media, many a time, intentionally or unintentionally, play from the enemy’s side and assist in inflicting severest damage to the country’s repute and to the social fabric. In this way, the psychological impact increases manifold and becomes a major impediment to the maintenance of internal security. Cybercrime bill has been recently passed by both houses of the Parliament. Although it has been severely criticized by the civil society and media outlets, yet offers some hope that it will regulate the use of cyberspace and such rogues will be brought to book. The history of an already over-legislated Pakistan suggests that mere passing of laws never curtailed the crime; it is its judicious implementation that can serve the purpose. While implementing this law, however, authorities must keep supreme the values of democracy and must not undermine people’s freedoms and liberties under the guise of security measures.
It is also to mention that Nacta, which was created as a ‘nerve centre,’ or the so-called Directorate for intelligence analysis and dissemination, have been unable to move above than mere a research organization or a discussion forum. Those privy to the Nacta affairs assert that it is another victim of civ-mil divergence. If, on the one hand, the men in uniform are not willing to cede their monopoly over the intelligence arena, then the traditional lethargy and incompetency of the civilian government have also become a stumbling block, on the other.
Anyhow, to maintain country’s internal security and to evolve a comprehensive counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategy, a centralized intelligence-sharing body is indispensable. For this, Nacta has to be immediately reinvigorated especially because unless all the security agencies are on the same page and watchful of rapidly-changing security environment, the short-term gains in this war would be of least benefit.
It is an undeniable truth that external elements are hell-bent on sabotaging Pakistan’s peace and security, but it is also a fact that most of the threats to our security and stability are internal ones. Pakistan’s geographical location as well as its history, strategic culture, divisions on ethno-linguistic and sectarian lines, insufficient focus on education and the resultant intellectual stagnation, rampant corruption, exploitative feudal system, irresponsible and immature corporate media, gullibility and hurried buying of conspiracy theories and, above all, leadership crisis are the major factors which result in an internally weak, fragile and vulnerable state and society.
The crux of the matter is that our political leaders, so far, have actually been oblivious to the far-reaching ramifications of their criminal apathy toward their duties to the nation. Only biased would deny that government has opted for ad hocism in all sectors of governance. What else to expect, when they are not ready to depoliticize even the police. How regrettable it is that the main state agency that is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, is unable to win the trust of the masses. The only relation people have with police is that of fear. People do the cost-benefit analysis after any mishap and moist of the times decide not to report the incident. Hence, police reforms are the most pressing need of the time. In this regard, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police offer some hope as improvement in their working bodes well for a hopeful future.
Then the foreign intelligence outfits especially India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in cahoots with its cousin NDS, is carrying out subversive activities inside Pakistan. Actually due to its geo-strategic location, Pakistan has become an arena of the New Great Game being played in this region among world powers for supremacy. We have to remain vigilant to counter their nefarious designs.