Saturday, September 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Sept 12, 2015

Apex decisions The apex committee at the federal level met in Islamabad on Thursday, September 10 to review for the first time the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). Two sessions were held, the first chaired by federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, followed by another chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The top civil and military leadership and the provincial administrations were in attendance. The apex committee decided to launch a full-scale countrywide crackdown on sectarianism. As explicated later in a press conference by Chaudhry Nisar, there is a thin (if not non-existent) line between sectarianism and terrorism. The two go hand in hand. The minister announced there would henceforth be zero tolerance for hate speech and literature. No one would be allowed to call another a kafir (infidel) or someone liable to be killed. Madrassa registration and monitoring would continue in consultation with the clerical leadership of these institutions. The federal and provincial governments would forge a joint strategy on NGOs, with a division of labour between the federal government looking at international NGOs and the provincial governments local ones. Similar arrangements would be brought into being on arms licences, security companies and sectarianism. The apex committee appreciated the results of the military operations in the north west of the country and vowed to see them through to the end while action against militants in Sindh and Balochistan would be expedited. The provincial governments made presentations on the implementation of the 20 points of the NAP. The presentations, according to media reports, impressed Chaudhry Nisar but failed to enthuse the prime minister, who instructed uniform and expeditious implementation of all aspects of NAP by all the provinces. The military on the other hand wanted the government to choke off terror financing, without which the counterterrorism campaign could not finally succeed. It also wants the revival of and setting up more special courts to deal with terrorism cases under the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014. It may be recalled that initially the political forces resisted the setting up of military courts under the 21st amendment on the grounds that the special courts were sufficient for the purpose. Later, when the military courts finally came into being, the government forgot about the special courts. It is not even known whether after their setting up, the government actually moved any cases to the special courts. Finally, the sense of the apex committee meeting was that the chief ministers of the provinces needed to take a hard line against sectarian elements. This onus of responsibility was thrust on the provincial administrations because it is feared that the military operations against terrorists will not achieve their goals unless NAP is implemented properly and thoroughly. The results achieved so far in this regard appear far from satisfactory. There is therefore talk of the military extending its operations to counterterrorism, implying urban operations. We have long argued in this space that without an overarching organisation that brings together all the state's agencies and relevant departments and coordinates their efforts, the terrorists will have a surplus of riches to choose from, managing to find wriggle room between the gaps in the separate efforts of various agencies and departments. Intelligence agencies in particular inherently are jealous of their information and reluctant to share it. The anti-terrorism campaign in all its facets requires a centralised organisation and data base for efficaciously combating the proliferation of terrorist/sectarian groups operating autonomously. At one stage, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) it was hoped, would fit the bill. However, it soon became obvious that NACTA was a dead horse, attempts to flog which produced zero results, not the least because of a trust deficit between the civilian and military agencies. Instead of now trying to reinvent the wheel, perhaps the wisest and easiest course is to utilise the happy circumstance of the military top brass and civilian leadership having come together in the central and provincial apex committees to produce just that desired result. Let the apex committees be the coordinating and directing organisations for the anti-terrorism struggle, allowing collective decisions and cooperation to flow in the sacred task of smashing the terror networks.

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