Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Daily Times Editorial March 20, 2014

NISP implementation The meeting chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday on national security saw the top civilian and military leadership, as well as the provincial leaderships, coming together to be briefed and take steps towards implementing the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) framed over months and finally approved in February. Surprisingly though, if the PM’s instructions to the meeting are anything to go by, the necessary institutional steps and changes required for implementation of the NISP seem to be awaiting something or the other. The PM ordered the immediate formation of a Rapid Response Force (RRF) at both the federal and provincial levels and the setting up of a National Intelligence Directorate (NID) under the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). NACTA is envisaged as the central coordinating and implementation body for the NISP. Both the RRF and NID were part of, if not central to, the NISP, both conceptually and practically. The RRF is expected to field trained commandos armed with the latest weaponry and equipment and even helicopters for swift deployment at the scene of any terrorist attack. The provincial chief ministers at the meeting raised the issue of resources for the RFF, but were reassured by the PM that funds would be made available by the federal government for the purpose. The NID is a more difficult nettle, given that 26 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, according to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, are supposed to come together for intelligence sharing and creation of a centralised data base on the terrorists and their links. Everyone recognizes the inherent difficulty in persuading intelligence agencies to share their information, particularly given the gulf of trust between the civilian and military arms of the intelligence community. However, organisational turf concerns will have to give way to the national purpose of the struggle against terrorism if the country is to be incrementally freed of the malign effects of terrorism. Facing an elusive enemy that is battle hardened and by now expert at guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare through small groups of fighters, only a central data base can track organisational and operational links amongst the groups functioning under autonomous rules and monitor successes and failures in cracking open their organisations, notwithstanding the hope that some of the groups under the umbrella of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) agree to peace. However, no one should underestimate the uphill nature of the task. The meeting also reviewed the new legislative framework promulgate d through instruments such as the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO), which makes electronic evidence admissible, allows video link trials, transfer of trials and prisoners to other provinces and has provisions for the preventive detention of enemy aliens. This last provision has aroused a great deal of comment and controversy, not the least because the TTP accuses the government of promulgating the PPO to legitimize secret detentions and the centres all over the country allegedly used for the purpose. Whatever the truth or otherwise of this accusation, one cannot escape the necessity of extraordinary laws that may risk violations of human rights in the middle of a war. One can only hope that the government will also make arrangements for judicial review to prevent injustice. The PM was also keen to see maximum security prisons being built in all the provinces. This too is not unimportant if we remember the jailbreaks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that allowed hundreds of Taliban prisoners to walk free without a shot being fired in anger. What is surprising and puzzling is that despite the NISP receiving the government’s nod last month, the pace of implementation of its ideas does not seem to be proceeding with the dispatch the situation requires. Some may question the need for rapid implementation of the NISP given the peace talks process unfolding before our eyes. However, one cannot be sanguine about the success of the talks or even whether all groups will join in the process. As is well know by now, there are breakaway groups such as the Ahrarul Hind that have declared themselves against the peace talks and put their money where their mouth is by carrying out attacks to halt the process in its tracks. That they have not been successful in, but the PM’s advice to the TTP to tackle such groups itself is unlikely to find fertile ground. The TTP may be unhappy about splinter groups attempting to sabotage the peace talks, but it is unlikely to act as a policeman to bring them into line. The government is advised to take the necessary steps for implementation of the NISP on a war footing, starting with strengthening NACTA to play the role envisaged for it, which on present reports about its officers and structure, still seems a long way away.

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