Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Business Recorder Editorial Aug 16, 2016

Addressing NAP lacunae In the third meeting of the top civilian and military leadership in the last six days, the final touches have apparently been administered to rejig the National Action Plan (NAP). The move comes after the military expressed concern about the lacunae and gaps in the implementation of NAP, reiterating on Monday, the day of the meeting, that failure to address the weak or unimplemented parts of NAP would make the consolidation of the successes of Operation Zarb-e-Azb difficult, if not impossible. In the wake of the August 8 Quetta carnage, the government seems finally to be moving to allay the military’s concerns. National Security Adviser (NSA) Lt-General (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua has been named to lead the new body constituted to oversee the implementation of NAP. Apart from the NSA, the body will include the military’s Director General Military Operations (DGMO), the Interior Secretary, DG National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the provincial Chief Secretaries, Inspector Generals (IGs) Police, Home Secretaries, an Additional Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and representatives of the intelligence agencies (civilian and military). The decision to appoint NSA Nasser Janjua as the head of the new NAP implementation body reflects a ‘compromise’ on the original provisions of NAP, which saw NACTA in the role of the coordinating centre for implementation of NAP. But that plan fell foul of the tug of war between the prime and interior minister over who NACTA would report to, as well as the opposition of the military’s intelligence agencies to be answerable to civilians. NACTA therefore never took off. The new body will fill the void under NSA Nasser Janjua who, being a former General, seems to have proved acceptable to the military and its intelligence agencies. While this may allay some of the military’s concerns regarding NAP, that is not the whole story. The military seems concerned also about the uncertain future of the Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA), liable to lapse if not renewed in January 2017 because of the two-year sunset clause slipped into it by parliament. Parliament had also wisely thought to limit the arbitrariness at the heart of the military courts set up under the Act to summarily try terrorism suspects by keeping their verdicts open to judicial review by the higher courts. In practice, this has led to many death and long prison sentences handed down by the military courts being suspended by the superior judiciary on the touchstone of due process and fair trial. And this in spite of the endorsement of these military courts verdicts by COAS General Raheel Sharif. At the time of writing these lines, reports speak of his endorsement of the death sentences by military courts of another 13 alleged terrorists, perceived as the military’s ‘answer’ to the Quetta atrocity. It remains to be seen, however, whether their fate will be any different from all the other military courts verdicts so far. Apart from the fate of PoPA, the military harbours reservations about the reluctance of the political leaderships to allow special powers to the Rangers in Punjab and the whole of Sindh, issues regarding preventive detention of terrorism suspects, and poor prosecution of terrorism cases. As far as the military’s concern about raising new wings of the Frontier Corps (FC) is concerned, a beginning towards eventually raising 73 new wings has been made by announcing the establishment of 29 new wings this year. The prime minister himself has promised all necessary funding and support for counter-terrorism. In addition, the Finance Ministry and the State Bank have been instructed to take action on terrorism financing. Another top level meeting is expected this week to be attended by all the provinces’ chief ministers. Further legislation that may be required and investing the new NAP implementation body with the authority it needs will also be dealt with. A mechanism for intelligence sharing amongst federal and provincial authorities and the intelligence organisations and other departments will be strengthened to plug this major coordination gap. Action is planned against proscribed organisations functioning under different names and the provinces will be provided more funds for the anti-terrorism drive. All this represents a new found resolve to plug the loopholes left over in the implementation of NAP. The response of the civilian authorities after the Quetta attack is to be appreciated, even if it is a case of better late than never. It may also serve to smoothen the rough edges and worries of the military regarding the tardiness so far of the civilian authorities to do the needful and ensure the full implementation of NAP. The struggle against terrorism requires nothing less than the complete and unhindered cooperation and coordination of all state stakeholders to ensure the success of the national endeavour to root out and eliminate the existential threat posed by terrorism.

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