Terrorism and NISP
Courtesy: MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF
Staying the course
Terrorism is the ultimate escalation of political violence with characteristics of ethnic, economic violence and religious extremism. Sometimes the lines between terrorism and political violence become so blurred that it becomes difficult to distinguish between them. Terrorists are an intangible and faceless entity striving to terrify the society, create anarchy and cause complete collapse of the state apparatus. They have a welter of convoluted motivations as individuals and as groups.
An incisive look into the history of insurgencies, terrorism and the counter-terrorism strategies adopted by different nations and societies to tackle them, reveals that the strategies that laid greater reliance on military responses invariably proved counterproductive, leading to the prolongation of the conflict. The other lesson that emerges is that terrorism and other forms of political violence would not have surfaced if other non-violent avenues of reform and conflict resolution were available to the dissidents. Demonising the terrorist groups and denying them access to media also reinforces the motivation of the terrorist groups to raise their stakes and continue with their acts aimed at perpetrating agony, pain and suffering on the society. The governments who refuse to talk to or negotiate with terrorists actually foreclose the opportunities for an early resolution of the problem.
In view of the foregoing irrefutable realities, any anti-terrorism strategy or initiative devised to deal with the problem must give greater emphasis on resolving the conflict through dialogue if possible; envisage a befitting response to the narrative of the terrorists on ideological plank; strive for removing the causes of the conflict and an abiding commitment to eliminate the menace by all possible means including a military response that decimates the capabilities of the terrorists to carry out acts of terrorism.
Viewed in the backdrop of the foregoing, the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) announced by the government provides a comprehensive strategy to deal with the scourge of terrorism, taking cue from the historic realities and conclusions drawn from the experience of other countries. The country has been mauled by the marauding terrorism for well over a decade in which more than 50,000 people both civilians and security personnel have been killed besides an economic loss in the vicinity of US$ 80-100 billion. The terrorists have spread their tentacles to the urban centres including Karachi and pose an existentialist threat to the country. The threat of terrorism aggravated over the years due to the unimaginative, directionless and reactive responses of the successive governments who exhibited criminal apathy in dealing with the menace on scientific lines through a well-thought out policy.
The PML-N government at the outset deserves unqualified accolades for drawing up the first ever national security policy which takes care of all aspects of the problem and their anticipated solutions with a pro-active thrust. It has three components: dialogue with all stakeholders; isolation of terrorists from their support systems and enhancing deterrence and capacity of the security apparatus to neutralise the threats to internal security of the country. The policy aims to create a safe environment where life, property, civil liberties and socio-economic rights of the citizens are protected and the people of Pakistan are able to live and prosper in harmony, freedom, respect and dignity as enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan. It also seeks to create a safe environment where life, property, civil liberties and socio-economic rights of the citizens are protected and they are able to live and prosper in harmony, freedom, respect and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. The policy unleashes a composite process based on dialogue with all sections of the society. It includes infrastructure development, rehabilitation of victims of terrorism, national reconciliation narrative, reintegration and legal reforms. In short the ultimate objective of the NISP is to resolve the conflict peacefully and manage disputes with hostile elements without compromising the rule of law.
It would perhaps be pertinent to mention some of the steps that are envisaged to implement the NISP. For the first time 26 intelligence agencies operating at the federal and provincial level without any sort of coordination have been integrated and put under the command of National Counter Terrorism Agency (NACT) which will help government in taking pre-emptive steps in thwarting the planned terrorist attacks. A Rapid Response Force, trained to deal with situations created by terrorist acts, is being raised. Legal reforms are envisaged to make sure that the lacunas in the existing laws are removed and the terrorists do not get away taking advantage of those legal shortcomings. A plan is also in the offing to bring the seminaries, which have been the breeding nurseries for terrorists, into the national mainstream. And above all, the development of a national narrative on extremism, sectarianism and militancy is also envisaged to firm up an ideological response to the narrative of the terrorists in consultation with religious scholars, intelligentsia, media and key stakeholders. This is utmost necessary and an imaginative thinking on the part of the government.
The government has shown an unflinching faith in the dialogue strategy despite tremendous pressure from the opposition and hawkish elements within the intelligentsia and media in the backdrop of attack on Rangers in Karachi and beheading of 29 FC men by TTP, the mayhem at the Islamabad district courts on 3rd of March and attack on FC convoy in Kurram agency on 5th of March; the latest two claimed by Ahrar ul Hind and Ansar ul Mujahideen, respectively. The government ostensibly wants to remain focused on resolving the conflict through dialogue with a view to see an early end to strife at a minimum cost. The detractors of this approach are in a denial mode of historic realities. The conflict ultimately would be resolved through dialogue and history is witness to this irrefutable reality. As the dialogue proceeds, the country might have to endure more attacks and hic-ups at the hands of the non-conformist terrorist groups who are outside the pale of the TTP authority.
The TTP has denied connection with the latest attacks and expressed its desire to go ahead with the dialogue process with the government. But on their part they must identify the groups that are with them and those who are operating outside their umbrella so that the government knows the faces of the real enemies. The government needs unqualified support of all the stakeholders to deal effectively with the phenomenon of terrorism. The detractors of the government must be mindful of the fact that in case the dialogue fails to produce tangible results, there are other fallback options available to the government.