Four years down the line, the National Action Plan, the much-boasted blueprint about countering terrorist threats to the country, and its various instruments like a stronger National Counter Terrorism Centre (NACTA) and the key Joint Intelligence Directorate(JID) seem to be floundering for want of political will and decision….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Pakistan’s much boasted about National Action Plan to counter terrorism is floundering under the new government of Imran Khan. The plan was announced with much chest thumping and loud declarations after about 150 school children were killed in one of the most dastardly terrorist attacks on the Army Public School in Peshawar four years ago this December 16. On the occasion, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had declared that there would be no distinction between `good` and `bad` terrorists. The then army chief, General Raheel Sharif vowed revenge on the perpetrators. The current premier Imran Khan, as the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf party, said“…the country should be united and the entire nation should be on the same page to fight terrorism“.
Four years down the line, the National Action Plan, the much-boasted blueprint about countering terrorist threats to the country, and its various instruments like a stronger National Counter Terrorism Centre (NACTA) and the key Joint Intelligence Directorate(JID) seem to be floundering for want of political will and decision. Nawaz Sharif lost his way in the quicksand of corruption and now faces imprisonment. Countering terrorism became merely a catchword for him and his government. For Imran Khan, who won the elections and became the Prime Minister, terrorism posed a much more complex problem.
Khan has always been sympathetic towards the Taliban and its allies. He has been quite keen on settling the differences and demands with the Taliban and others through dialogue. It would have been a noble mission except that the same Taliban and its allies were killing soldiers and civilians in neighbouring Afghanistan and causing mayhem inside Pakistan. Khan chose to believe that since the Taliban were a creation of Pakistan, the militant outfit, which remained a close ally of global terrorist outfit, al Qaeda, worked in the interests of Pakistan.
Imran Khan, whose electoral victory could not have been possible with the direct and indirect support from Pakistan Army, has also been calling for allowing the Taliban run their offices from Pakistan, a view which the army has held for long. Khan is not really interested in doing something that can harm his relationship either with the Army or with the Taliban. The new Prime Minister’s disinterest became apparent during the September meeting of NACTA he chaired. The meeting did not either discuss or take any decision on Joint Intelligence Directorate. Although the meeting concluded with a recommendation to set up a committee to review NACTA and present a report within a week’s time, there has not been any sign of the committee, its hearings or its report after more than 10 weeks.
The army has strongly opposed the creation of Joint Intelligence Directorate because it took away a chunk of its powers, especially the ones exercised by its notorious intelligence wing, ISI. Khan would not have dared to question the military stand. In 2002, a private member’s bill was moved in the National Assembly to bring ISI under civilian control. The member’s parent political party, under pressure from the army, asked him to withdraw his bill and that was the end of the matter.
Writing in The Friday Times early this month, a former Senator Farhatullah Babar, citing Imran Khan’s Taliban office comment, said the “ commitment of the present government to fighting militancy head on is also not very reassuring. “ He pointed out the previous PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had “ doled out Rs300 million of the tax payers’ money to the militants’ nursery at Akora Khattak, the Darul Uloom Haqqania“. Khan has never asked the Taliban or any other terrorist to lay down arms, renounce violence and accept the democratic process, Mr Babar wrote.
What raises the suspicion about the Imran Khan government’s commitment towards terrorism is the refusal to take action against proscribed militant and terrorist outfits. For instance, Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) continues to enjoy immunity despite being declared a global terrorist leader and organisation by the UN and several countries across the world. Other banned groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad are allowed freedom to collect donations, create new training grounds and promote hatred and violence. The state patronises the Jaish leader and celebrates China’s persistent veto in the UN to proscribe him and his group.
Instead of punishing the terrorists, the Imran Khan government (and the previous government of Nawaz Sharif) are bending over backwards to appease them, allowing them to disrupt public life in the recent past. The siege of Islamabad by these elements over the acquittal of Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, wrongly accused in a blasphemy case, and the intervention of the army to persuade the terrorists to withdraw from the Islamabad streets was a telling comment on the capability of the Imran Khan government. Prime Minister Khan’s commitment to rid his country of terrorist groups remains questionable.