Whither National Action Plan?
By Raashid Wali Janjua
The National Action Plan was a hasty reaction to a national emergency that forced a sleeping state to finally shake off its ambivalence to talk or fight.
There was a compulsion to craft an action plan in response to the public mood that hearkened for a stern action against all aiders and abettors of terrorism regardless of the motives. The 20 points were an eclectic wish list that spanned a wide gamut of response options in the spheres of epistemic violence, madressah reforms, capacity building of police, counter-radicalization, crime control, financial terrorism, counter-insurgency, border control, Fata reforms, judicial reforms, media management and information warfare.
A cursory look at the above would indicate that the areas and subjects straddled social, political and economic spheres – mostly the jurisdiction of the government. A softer state – especially after the 18th Amendment – has, however, found it hard to operationalize its NAP execution strategy due to the atomized nature of the political power.
The scorecard on social, economic and governance objectives is red but it shows a clear green in the military-led kinetic operations. One starts with the apex national counterterrorism policy planning body – the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta). The resourcing and organization of Nacta is way behind the desired targets. A permanent induction of specialized expertise is still being awaited with the much touted Joint Intelligence Directorate still non-operational. Little progress has been made in the vital field of judicial reforms and with the bulk of the time allocated for military courts already consumed there is no concrete alternative to fight terrorism legally.
On madressah reforms and counter-radicalization the government is proceeding at glacial pace. Being scared of taking on madressahs involved in hate peddling, despite clear intelligence inputs by state agencies, shows their lack of urgency. The money trail of terrorism has also not been mapped properly to choke the nurseries of terrorism financially.
A clear policy of appeasement is evident, especially in Punjab where the government was led pell-mell into an anti-terror operation. The police are still hamstrung by the resource crunch and political interference. The police incapacity and the strength of the criminals became glaringly obvious in the recent Chotu Gang operation. There are incubators of terrorism inside the capital which are being dealt with kid gloves; and the link between crime, politics, and extremism is still intact due to the involvement of political stakes.
No movement on Fata reforms and border control are also resulting in terrorists moving freely from Afghanistan to KP and the tribal areas and KP. Fata reforms should be expedited and the bureaucratic reluctance to part with their Raj-era governance should be overcome. The tardy way the issue of the IDPs has been handled is also inhibiting the return of normalcy in the tribal areas.
As a prescriptive remedy, NAP has to be owned and implemented by the federal government. The PM needs to chair an NAP implementation conference every fortnight with the CMs of respective provinces following suit. If the civilians do not assume their de-jure powers and responsibilities the de-facto assumption of their powers by an overstretched military might strain civil-military relations to a point of no return.
Nacta needs to be immediately placed directly under the PM and should be headed by a serving or retired three-star officer from the armed forces. The Joint Intelligence Directorate should be headed by a serving two star in Nacta preferably having had experience in intelligence. Nacta should be fully resourced, with its own cadre selected for its expertise instead of relying on unwilling and incapable deputationists. Judicial reforms should be expedited before the sun sets on military courts.
The police need to be taken out of political control administratively and operationally and could be temporarily placed under the army’s tutelage to make it a real potent force.
All madressahs identified by the intelligence agencies for their anti-state activities and links with terrorism should immediately be closed down, despite the resistance of clerics. The other should be mainstreamed in the national educational system through a ‘curriculum force majeure’. No incubators of terrorism by way of hate speech or proselytization should be tolerated in any part of the country.
An aggressive media war needs to be initiated with zero tolerance for contrarian views in the garb of liberalism and media freedoms. And, finally, a tough yet adroit diplomatic stance against the neighboring countries should be adopted to elicit their cooperation as well as thwart attempts to destabilize Pakistan. The National Action Plan is not only a set of measures to protect the state from terrorists but a battle for the soul of Pakistan. It needs to be fought seriously.
(The writer is a PhD scholar at National University of Science and Technology, Pakistan. – The News International)