The Isa report

Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik

The report on the Quetta massacre opened up a Pandora’s box related to the government’s performance in eliminating terrorism. The Supreme Court of Pakistan set up an inquiry Commission by its order on 5th October to probe two incidents: the murder of Bilal Anwar Kasi (a lawyer and President of the Balochistan Bar Association in Quetta), and the Sandeman Provincial Hospital carnage that took place on 8 August. Kasi was shot dead. The hospital was bombed by a suicide blast, killing 75 people and injuring 105. Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court was appointed to hold the inquiry.

A lot of controversial debate surrounds the National Action Plan (NAP) since it’s launch two years ago. The effectiveness of the NAP was underplayed by politicians and opponents of the incumbent government. Most of them simply maligned the government’s counter-terrorism efforts for political consumption. The NAP came into effect from January last year (2015) after all political parties came to a national consensus on 24 December 2014 following the attack on APS Peshawar.

It has been exactly two years since the NAP was launched. The facts revealed that terrorist activities have been much curtailed since then. The primary purpose of the NAP was to effectively counter the wave of terrorism sweeping across the country, which, apparently, it did.

An important element of the NAP was to set up military courts to punish terrorists in order to deliver speedy justice. This was done because civilian courts hardly ever punished the terrorists arrested and brought before them. There was a loophole in criminal procedure of evidence and most of them were either released on bail or freed from prison. This loophole was controlled by the military courts.

If one disagrees with the data released by the Interior Ministry about the number of killings and injuries during 2013-2016, the information collected from independent sources such as newspapers reports cannot be contested upon.

Since Nawaz Sharif took oath on 5 June 2013, killings and injuries have been reduced. For instance, the terrorism related death toll reached 362 people and injured were 409 by December 2013. In 2015, 340 people were killed and 243 were injured. In 2014, these killing were recorded 337 while 329 people were wounded. During PPP’s rule, recorded killings and injuries were: 605 killings and 866 injured from January to May 17, 2013, before the end of its tenure. Prior to 2013, killings were much larger. Over 94 terrorist incidents took place in the month of October 2012.

According to newspapers the number of killings and injuries during 2013-2016 have been recorded as follows:

Year         Killings        Injuries

2016            390              868

2015            340              243

2014            337               329

2013            967               1,245

It was the only PML-N Government that effectively controlled and reduced the terrorism that took place since 2001. The policy was hailed within the country and abroad. The results are highly realised but were also politicised by some elements.

Impartial credit must be given to the PML-N government for drastically curtailing terrorists activities in Pakistan after 5 June 2013 through to December 2016. The data  above has been given to illustrate these facts.

Prior to 5 June 2013, sectarian killings and injuries rampantly took place, including kidnappings, beheading of soldiers, and bombing of mosques and schools with no effective way of controlling it. Judicial authorities also needs to look into these facts on counter-terrorism.

There is a need to completely wipe out terrorism and the loopholes that were identified in the report should immediately be addressed. The report say that “the aforesaid discrepancies show that at the highest levels of government the subject of terrorism and combating it is epitomised with confusion.”

After specifically looking into the Quetta carnage, the report generally looks into the causes, factors, and other aspects of terrorism since 2001. There is a number of anomalies and the government seriously workout to end anomalies and discrepancies of which the border security is the one which was highlighted in the report. All governments since 2001 are responsible for not properly handling counter-terrorism measures and strategies.

The financial losses and compensations have reached US$ 118 billion, the report claims. The report has rightly pointed terrorists nexus with drug and weapons trade and law enforcement agencies could not handled to eliminate drug and weapon trade.

The border management of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with Afghanistan is defective and not effectively controlled by Levis, FC, and military.

The way various departments of the federal ministries and provincial governments responded to the Commission is highly deplorable. They replied on plain papers, denying accountability. This is not governance and this displays no will to counter terrorism. They might use these tactics to hide the truth, which should not be mentioned on the official letterheads.

The findings of the Commission are revealing and commendable. They indicate the lack of coordination among intelligence agencies and also among the federal and provincial governments and their departments and organisations. This is also a reason for not making effective mechanism to control terrorism.

Those in charge have a limited understanding about the protocols and SOPs for terrorist attacks. There are drawbacks in reports (FIRs), examinations, and forensic tests. Crime scenes are not secured. Evidences are washed out. Hospitals lack management and facilities are poor. There is just plain panic among the staff and doctors, who are not fully equipped to handle victims of a terrorist attack.

There is also no coordination between the chief ministers and their ministers when they make statements on terrorist incidents. The NAP is not well structured. The Anti Terrorism Act has been violated as proscribed organisations were allowed to hold processions and meetings etc.

The performance of the NACTA is dismal. The country needs a national counter terrorism narrative but it is missing. The madaaris are not properly monitored by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The manner in which the media reports terrorist incidents in fact glorifies terrorists’ propaganda and message. The report appreciates the role of the Government of the Punjab in forensic testing and compensation to the victims of terrorism and recommends publically announcing the list of proscribed organisations, which shouldn’t be allowed to hold meetings. A comprehensive data of terrorists should be maintained. A forensic lab on pattern of the Punjab Government should be set up in Balochistan immediately. Crime scenes should be secured.

There should be complete ban on aerial firing in the country. Police should be equipped with the terrorist incidents SOPs. NACTA should be activated. The NAP should be made effective. All madaaris should be registered. The report is great in terms of feedback to ratify anomalies related to the counter-terrorism strategy in the past several years.

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