PAKISTAN: Plan or no plan, the State totally disregards justice institutions

Post the December 16 Peshawar carnage, wherein more than 150 school children and staff were massacred by the Taliban, the government of Pakistan went into a damage control mode and drafted a 20 point “National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism and insurgency in Pakistan. Six months since its promulgation the NAP has had been reduced to a joke.

Recently, during a hearing, a senior judge of the Supreme Court remarked that NAP was devised to deceive the masses, adding that not a single bit of work has been done on the plan despite the passage of six months since its inception. Mocked by the citizens, who jokingly refer to NAP as “No Action Plan”, the policy appears to have lost relevance as the government struggles to garner the support of the religion-based political parties. Instead of implementing NAP in letter and spirit, the government is focusing more on registration of cases and cramming more and more people in jails.

One of the key points of the NAP was to revive the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the defunct internal counter intelligence agency that has yet to be promulgated, its creation being continuously delayed due to state disinterest. NACTA is, in fact, eyewash, to deceive public into believing that the State is indeed resolved to root out terrorism.

In 2010, following an attack on the Tomb of famous Sufi Saint in Lahore, which killed 50 people, the then government decided to revive NACTA. However, with passage of time the State lost interest in the cause, and the plan to revive NACTA was shelved. After the Peshawar carnage that killed 150 children, the government again decided to activate NACTA.

However, to date, no funds have been earmarked for this purpose. It is unfortunate to note that the government is reluctant to provide funds to operationalize NACTA. According to the Ministry of Interior, a total of Rs. 30 billion is the budget required for the agency, however the government has only allocated Rs. 160 million for the purpose. The powerful Federal Minister of Finance has been reluctant to provide funds to the Ministry of Interior to help activate NACTA. The government’s priorities can be assessed by the fact that this small amount of money was not paid to the Ministry, while billions have been pumped into the metro bus system and the foreign trips of the Prime Minister, who has travelled along with this entourage of other State Ministers and their families.

The governments in Pakistan have a bad history of implementing strategies. NAP was a faulty policy ab initio, as it missed the crucial role of police, which provides the foundation for any security strategy. Out of the 20-point action plan, there was not a single point referring to the reforming of the police department. This shows the seriousness of the rulers and the minds of the strategists who drafted the NAP. There is no serious approach to revamping the system.

Counter-terrorism is the domain of the civil administration. Calling out military or paramilitary agencies to handle terror cases and urban guerrilla warfare is not the right approach. There is no mention of the police force to counter terrorism cases in the urban areas; policy makers have overlooked this important aspect. The government needs to wake up to this reality and the people responsible for this job should push for police reforms. The government needs to pull police out of the VVIP duties and shift their focus to security provision to ordinary citizens, rather than the protection of important people.

A cursory look at the 20 NAP points can reveal to the uninitiated that each point needs a plan. To execute each point, the government needs to evolve mini plans. It seems, however, that despite the passage of six months, no steps have been taken to implement NAP.

Registration of Afghan refugees and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to tribal areas were listed as “top priorities” in the NAP, but no census has even taken place yet. In fact, inflow of the IDPs has increased. Similarly, the registration of religious seminaries is also in the doldrums due to State inaction. Pakistani federal authorities have quietly diluted their counter-terrorism strategy, as three key points in the National Action Plan (NAP) have been removed, including “actions against proscribed outfits”. National Coordinator for the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) Hamid Ali Khan has confirmed that the three points are “no more under consideration of NACTA” because these are time-consuming problems that need long-term planning.

Under the NAP, it was planned to register and regulate religious seminaries, yet no steps have been taken to ban the proscribed organizations. The government expressed its weakness when the religious parties resisted seminary reforms. This inaction by the government is sending a wrong signal to non-State actors as most of the terrorist have been graduates of such religious seminaries by not acting against them the State is brushing the whole issue under the carpet.

Instead of strengthening and investing in the existing judicial system, the government has created special military courts to try cases of terrorism. The establishment of military courts has failed to deter terror incidents that continue without relent in the country. Participants of a recent top-level meeting, held to review the implementation of NAP and the conviction of the accused, were surprised to learn that 90% of the cases were pending in the courts. The State seems to have no regard for the justice and law and order institutions that form the backbone of any civil society and play an important part in countering extremism and intolerance in the society at large. The government of Pakistan is groping in the dark on how to tackle increasing cases of terrorism and violence. Following military operations in the tribal belts, the militant are being flushed out into urban centers. And once they find refuge and garner sympathizers, it will become impossible to root out terrorism once and for all, not to mention the potential nightmare this can create for the law enforcement agencies.

There is a need for a political and military nexus, pooling of counterterrorism resources, and sharing of intelligence. The lack of trust between institutions will not help the cause. Doing away with a selective approach towards militant groups will only reassert State authority. Pakistanis need to be taken into confidence and the trust of the people in State institutions needs to be revived, because the success of any counter terrorism policy is dependent on the support of the local population.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-115-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Administration of justice, Impunity, Institutional reform, Military,