Friday, December 26, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 27, 2014

National Action Plan The National Action Plan (NAP) prepared by the All Parties Conference in consultation with the military has now to be launched by the latter, at least as far as the parts of NAP the military is charged with implementing. A top level meeting of the military high command on Thursday under COAS General Raheel Sharif decided that the Special Courts (SCs) to be set up to try terrorists would be headed by Brigadier-level officers. These courts would function under the Field General Court Martial. Apart from this, the meeting addressed the other tasks assigned to the military and intelligence agencies and took decisions regarding their implementation. These tasks include training the law enforcement agencies’ personnel in anti-terrorist operations. The military will help raise another 10 wings of the Frontier Corps (FC), intensify the Karachi operation and aid efforts for political reconciliation in Balochistan. The COAS instructed the meeting to initiate actions on an urgent footing for speedy and effective practical implementation. General Raheel reciprocated the tribute paid by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the country on Wednesday in which he praised the role of the military and underlined its leading role in the struggle against terrorism. General Raheel in turn praised the spirit and ‘unwavering’ resolve of the national political leadership in this struggle, for which he has repeatedly said political ownership is a sine qua non. The government has committed and seems to be preparing the draft of the constitutional amendment that will have to be passed to give legal cover to the SCs as the present provisions of the basic law of the land do not permit what will effectively translate into a parallel justice system. Interesting sidelights are being reported about how the ‘reluctant’ political parties were finally persuaded to go along with the setting up of SCs under military officers and working under the Field General Court Martial. Apprehensions regarding the misuse of these courts against political workers were allayed by the government and military, but no one thought to raise the possibility of other dissidents such as human rights advocates and journalists not belonging to any political party being targeted through such an extraordinary judicial dispensation. For the moment, the assurances of the government and military on the narrow focus of the SCs on terrorists has to be taken on faith, but careful monitoring should be conducted to ensure no misuse of the SCs’ powers occurs. Some parties only agreed to the SCs reluctantly, after the guarantees offered and in consultation with their leaders (some of whom were no present in the meeting. These parties, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam, PPP, etc, have been presenting their justifications for agreeing to the decision (explanations that sound more like mea culpas than reasoned argument). It would not do for these parties and the country generally to let our collective guard down regarding the functioning of the SCs, especially given the track record of disappearances, kill and dump and other such extrajudicial practices of the security agencies that have been evident for some years now. It is a matter of some regret that the general perception has taken root that the civilian government, instead of leading the biggest current internal challenge to state and society, has more or less abdicated its role to the military. Some wags are even inclined to view this as a ‘soft’ coup without any announcement to this effect. There may or may not be weight in these apprehensions. The fact remains that such perceptions are fed by the recent past record of the government and political forces wanting to settle matters with the terrorists through talks, an abortive effort that achieved nothing except a delay in military operations by almost a year. Reportedly, this became a source of frustration for the armed forces that had concluded force had to be used or even the possibility of some groups amongst the militants suing for peace through talks would remain a pipedream. In any case, the matter was clinched by the Peshawar massacre of schoolchildren on December 16, and earlier by the attack on Karachi airport six months ago. Those indulging in ifs and buts argue that if this period had not been wasted in eventually fruitless attempts at talks, perhaps tragedies like Peshawar could have been avoided. It is not useful to indulge in such speculation. The country needs to rally behind the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism drive, not uncritically, but with solid determination and the spirit of seeing this difficult, tortuous, protracted task through to its logical and desirable end.

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