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Counter Terrorism Policy Measures: A Critical Analysis of Pakistan’s National

Action Plan
FARHAN ZAHID07/19/2016, 9:00 am

Abstract

Pakistan’s new counter-terrorism policy measure – the National Action Plan (NAP) – has yielded mixed
results. The NAP is another policy instrument utilized by Pakistani policy makers following the terrorist
attack on a military-administered school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, that killed 132 children.

A critical analysis of NAP would allow policy makers to gauge its successes and failures, as well as rethink
and re-analyse the counter-terrorism policy framework that exists in Pakistan. Unfortunately however, no
critical analysis at a government-level has been conducted. Either the policy makers are too cautious of
their actions or they have not been able to get a positive nod from the powerful military
establishment.1 In either case, the Pakistani people remain under the threat of terrorism.

Introduction

Despite the fact that Pakistan experiences one of the highest rates of terrorism-related deaths in the
world (3rd behind Iraq and Afghanistan), with a large amount of the causalities being civilians (shown in
the figure below), it does not have a concrete counter-terrorism policy. Instead, successive governments
have implemented rudimentary, and event-driven measures in order to pacify public opinion.

Terrorism in Pakistan 2003-2016

(Data provided by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, as of 07-05-13)

Civilians Security Force Terrorists/Insurgents Total


Personnel

2003 140 24 25 189

2004 435 184 244 863

2005 430 81 137 648

2006 608 325 538 1471

2007 1522 597 1479 3598

2008 2155 654 3906 6715


2009 2324 991 8389 11704

2010 1796 469 5170 7435

2011 2738 765 2800 6303

2012 3007 732 2472 6211

2013 3001 676 1702 5379

2014 1781 533 3182 5496

2015 940 339 2403 3682

2016 308 151 623 1082

Total 21185 6521 33070 60776

Since coming into power in May 2013, the Muslim League (spearheaded by Prime Minister Muhammad
Nawaz Shariff) has introduced two counter-terrorism policy frameworks.

The first was the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2014-18 presented to parliament in May 2014,
and the second was the National Action Plan (NAP) presented in December 2014. The NAP in particular,
was a swift policy reaction to the tragic terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014.
Technically speaking however, both the NISP and the NAP are not ‘counter-terrorism policies’ per se,
rather these policies are surface rearrangements of security measures amid growing terrorist threats,
developed in reaction to public outcry. No concrete or broad policy guidelines - coupled with rules of
engagement – were adopted. Concrete counter-terrorism strategies, such as the United
Kingdom’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST), provide security and law enforcement agencies with
an exact set of measures alongside categorically defined enemies of the state. These requirements of a
counter-terrorism police are found neither in the NAP nor the NISP.

National Internal Security Policy

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is a federal government agency established in 2008. It
was modelled on the United States government’s Department of Homeland Security and Directorate of
National Intelligence. The Pakistani Parliament did not ratify the NACTA ordinance until 2013 however,
primarily because of bureaucratic hurdles and tussles over the control of NACTA between the powerful
Pakistani military and the civilian administration.2 The raison d’ etre of NACTA, as defined in the NACTA
ordinance, is to “receive and collate data/information/intelligence and disseminate, and coordinate
between all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments with periodical reviews to be
presented to the Federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and
extremism.”

Essentially, NACTA is supposed to act as a coordinating body, synchronizing the efforts of all of the security
and law enforcement apparatus’ in the country in order to combat terrorism in a concerted manner.

In May 2014, NACTA presented the National Internal Security Policy(NISP) 2014-18. Key issues highlighted
in the NISP were madrasahreforms, capacity building of security forces, development of an anti-terrorist
force at the federal level, cooperation and coordination, and curbing terrorist financing; as well as the
repatriation and registration of Afghan refugees. The NISP endeavour failed to yield the desired results
however, primarily because the civilian government and the military establishment were unable to reach
a consensus as to how to implement the policy. Moreover, the implementation phase of NISP required a
hefty funding of Rs 32 bn, ($305m USD) which the newly elected government could not afford, according
to reports.3 Just a few months later however, a tragic event would cause the government to attempt
another policy endeavour to counter-terrorist activity in the form of the NAP.

National Action Plan

On December 16, 2014, six Islamist terrorists belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Fazalullah
faction, stormed the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar and massacred 145 people, including 132
children.4 It was categorized as a Fidayeen5, because the terrorists first targeted the students, and then
targeted the security forces once they arrived. Amid the public outcry over the APS carnage, Prime
Minister Nawaz Shariff announced the National Action Plan (NAP) with the purpose of curbing terrorist
activities. The Prime Minister announced the 20-point NAP during his televised speech on December 24th,
after the conclusion of the All Parties’ Conference, which was called together following the declaration of
a national emergency by the government.6Despite the fervour of the time, the NAP itself was a haphazard
policy, and it cannot be categorized as a proper counter-terrorism strategy because it lacks detail,
coherence and rigor. Even still, the step received admiration throughout the government and the country,
with the exception of Islamist political parties, which took issue with the word “religion” being used
specifically in the text regarding the trying of persons in military courts belonging to a “terrorist group or
organization using the name of religion or sect.”7 They felt the word usage was objectionable.

The 20-Points of the NAP are outlined below:

1. Execution of convicted terrorists

2. Establishment of special trial courts

3. Ensure no armed militias are allowed to function in the country

4. Strengthening and activation of NACTA

5. Countering hate speech and extremist material

6. Choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations

7. Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organisations

8. Establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force

9. Taking effective steps against religious persecution


10. Registration and regulation of madrassas

11. Ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media

12. FATA Reforms

13. Dismantling communication networks of terrorist organisations

14. Measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism

15. Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab

16. Taking the on-going operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion

17. Balochistan reconciliation

18. Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists

19. Policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees

20. Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system

Measuring the Successes

Despite its rudimentary character, the government has worked to implement the NAP in bits and pieces,
thanks primarily to public pressure and frustration. The successes however, are few. The next part of this
piece will outline the points from the NAP, which can be deemed “successes.”

Lifting of the Death Penalty Moratorium

The President Asif Ali Zardari’s previous government had promulgated a moratorium on capital
punishment in 2008, but the current regime ratified it again after coming into power in 2013.8 Point No.
1 of the NAP – Execution of convicted terrorists – essentially lifted the moratorium, and since December
2014, 3459 prisoners have been executed. According to a Reuters report however, “fewer than one in six
were linked to militancy.”10 Reports suggest that not all of the prisoners executed were convicted
terrorists, except a few high profile terrorist operatives of the TTP, such as Aqil alias Dr Usman, and Arshad
Mehmood alias Maharband.11 The government claims however that the policy is indeed effective,
because according to official statistics the number of terrorist attacks have decreased from 1,823 in 2014
to 1,009 in 2015. Fatalities from attacks have also decreased from 1,761 in 2014 to 1,081 in
2015.12Although the statistics may point towards an improvement, there are other indicators that
suggest terrorist attacks and fatalities from said attacks are still a prominent issue in Pakistan. This will be
discussed further in the second part of this article, “Measuring Failures.”

Military Courts

The second item on the NAP agenda – the establishment of special trial courts or the military courts to try
terrorists in camera trials – proved difficult to execute.13 In January 2015, the Pakistan Parliament – in a
joint session of both Houses (Senate and National Assembly) – passed the 21stAmendment14 to the
Constitution of Pakistan, establishing military courts for trying Islamist terrorists with a sunset clause of
two years. The Supreme Court of Pakistan initially issued a “Stay Order” on the parliament’s decision, due
to petitions filed by human rights activists, but later allowed the courts to commence in August
2015.15 Until this amendment, the military courts had only announced six sentences.

The Act also amended Article 175 of the Constitution, which then led to further amendments to the first
schedule of the constitution (i.e. clause XXXIX of The Pakistan Army Act 1952, VI of The Pakistan Air Force
Act 1953, XXXV of The Pakistan Navy Ordinance 1961, and X of The Protection of Pakistan Act
2014).16 These amendments officially allowed the trial of terrorists in the military courts of each military
branch.

Countering Hate Speech and Extremist Material

The development and distribution of ‘hate-material’ was a significant part of the 20-point NAP. All of the
provincial home departments were directed by the Federal Ministry of Interior in Islamabad to curb the
distribution of hate-material distributed by proscribed organizations. Law enforcement agencies,
especially police at the district level, were the primary agencies tasked with implementing these policies.
According to official figures, the police have so far booked 3,906 people for violating the Sound System
Ordinance 2015 – an Act that was framed to curb hate speeches (mostly sectarian) by prayer leaders of
mosques.17 The Act states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to use, or assist in using, permit or allow use of a sound system which
generates any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise or any noise which annoys, disturbs, injures, or
endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of persons in or beyond the vicinity.”18

Counter-Terrorism Force

Terrorism is not considered a ‘regular’ or ‘usual’ crime, and that is one of the primary reasons that
terrorism is dealt separately through special anti-terrorist, and counter-terrorist forces. Though
practitioners use the terms anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism interchangeably, technically and
academically speaking they are different. Counter-terrorism utilizes offensive strategies intended to
prevent a belligerent, in a broader conflict, from successfully using the tactic of terrorism. Anti-terrorism
utilizes defensive strategies intended to reduce the chance of an attack using terrorist tactics at specific
points, or to reduce the vulnerability of possible targets.

Ultimately, law enforcement forces all around the world are traditionally trained to combat crime, not
terrorism. Dealing with the highly trained, ideologically driven, and motivated terrorists requires
specialized measures and training.

In this regard however, the NAP only reiterates the establishment of a specialized anti-terrorist force as
initially pointed out by the NISP. Although the NAP does not mention anything about police, the NISP
requires that the police play the primary role in countering-terrorist threats.

Thus the four provincial governments have taken independent measures to raise specialized police forces,
and many already maintain anti-terrorist units. Punjab province for example, despite having the Elite
Police Force already19, recently created a new force called the Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) under the
Punjab police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) with an estimated 3,000 police. Other than this
Punjab police endeavour however, the other provincial police departments opted to use their existing
forces.

Zero Tolerance for Militancy in Punjab and Dealing Firmly with Sectarian Terrorists
Another major decision taken specifically by the provincial government of Punjab province (which is
headed by the Chief Minister Shahbaz Shariff, the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff), was
combatting the Punjab-based Islamist terrorist organizations.20 The Punjabi jihadi organizations maintain
strong links with Al-Qaeda and the TTP, because many of their leaders and members received training at
Al-Qaeda-run training camps during Taliban-ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

The provincial government flexed its counter-terrorism muscles by killing the Emir of the sectarian
terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), as well as his deputy, and 14 other members of LeJ in a
police encounter on July 28th in Muzaffargarh district of southern Punjab.21 Although the circumstances
of the police encounter appeared suspicious to many, the actions taken by the police showcase the new
resolve of the Punjab government to root out sectarian terrorism.22

Taking the On-going Operation in Karachi to Its Logical Conclusion

The federal government, in collusion with the Pakistani military, also sought to tackle political opponents
and opposition parties. The Mutahida Quami Movement23 (MQM), a staunchly anti-Taliban, overtly
secular, and anti-Islamist party has become the target of Karachi operations. Spearheaded by the
paramilitary force, the Pakistan Rangers. During the on-going operation in Karachi, hundreds of MQM
workers have been arrested, and the Rangers also raided the party’s headquarters. Some were killed in
custody and many simply ‘disappeared.’ So far, it appears that the targets of the operation were primarily
MQM members, and no significant action was taken against sectarian, and proscribed organizations
openly operating in Karachi. According to MQM sources the Rangers, and police have picked up dozens of
its workers, and at least four are still being held illegally by the Rangers.24

Some of the MQM workers were reportedly involved in criminal activities, but most arrests appeared to
be politically motivated in order to weaken the influence of the MQM’s secular politics in Karachi.

It appears that no significant action has been taken during the Karachi operation to counter the growing
influence of TTP in the city’s suburbs, particularly in the Pashtun-dominated areas. This is a result of the
military operation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, which paved the way for
a continuous influx of refugees from FATA to the suburban areas of Karachi, where the TTP has reportedly
gained a stronghold.

Baluchistan Reconciliation

Apart from Islamist insurgency in northern parts of Pakistan, Baluchistan – the country’s largest province
– has experienced ethnic Baluch nationalist-separatist insurgency since 2006. The insurgency began
following a 2005 incident where a female Baluch doctor was raped by a captain of the Pakistan Army
stationed in the Dera Bugti district.25 The subsequent uprising by Baluch tribes led to a military operation
in the region. There were no serious rifts between government and Baluch tribes before the incident,
although Baluchistan has a history of insurgencies since 1948.

The killing of Baluch tribal chief, Sardar Akbar Bugti, in an encounter with the military in 2006 only added
fuel to the fire. Due to this ongoing conflict, reconciliation with the Baluch separatist groups is an integral
part of NAP. The current Pakistani government appeared determined to implement a reconciliation plan,
which was announced by the Chief Minister Baluchistan province – Dr Abdul Malik Baluch – in 2015.26 To
further the process, amnesty has been offered to Baluch militants who are willing to unconditionally
surrender to security forces, which a group of 400 Baluch insurgents did on August 14, 2015.27
A Policy to Deal with the Issue of Afghan Refugees

Another major issue addressed in the NAP was the repatriation of the estimated 1.5 million Afghan
refugees who have been living in Pakistan for the last three decades.28 To address this issue, the federal
government formulated a new policy for the repatriation of Afghan refugees called the National Policy on
Management and Repatriation of Afghan Refugees.29 More recently, the Capital Development Authority
(CDA) in Islamabad flattened a decades old Afghan slum in the outskirts of Islamabad, forcing more than
50,000 Afghan refugees to leave the area.30 The eviction of Afghans from Islamabad was indeed seen as
a “successful” implementation of the NAP agenda.

Registration of Religious Seminaries

There is no exact number available to gauge how many religious seminaries currently exist in Pakistan,
however the local estimate is 22,052.31 In order to address the issue of illegal madaris, the federal
government is currently contemplating whether or not to create an Islamic Education Commission in order
to regulate the religious seminaries in the country.32 Interestingly, the Saudi Arabian government, the
primary financer of religious seminaries in Pakistan, has reportedly decided to stop directly funding these
religious seminaries as it has done historically. Instead it plans to devise a mechanism to directly assist the
Pakistan government instead.33

Measuring the Failures

Despite the few successes outlined in Part One of this article, a majority of the NAP’s objectives have not
been achieved. Either the government is incremental in its efforts, or has only planned to act upon some
of the policy measures outlined by the NAP. The following section outlines the objectives of the NAP that
the government has so far failed to achieve.

Complete Eradication of Armed Militias

Despite the government’s efforts to curb violent-Islamist, non-state actors in the country’s most populous
Punjab province, there has been no policy dealing directly with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).34 The LeT,
considered a Salafi jihadi organization, could be designated as the most dangerous of all jihadi groups
operating in Pakistan because it appears to be the Islamic State’s ideological twin. LeT was designated as
a proscribed organization by President General Pervez Musharraf’s military regime in 2002, after it was
revealed that the organization was involved in the 2001 Indian Parliament attack in New Delhi. Despite
this, the LeT continues to operate under the name Jamaat ud Dawa, the proselytization wing of the Markaz
ul Dawa wal Irshad – the parent organization of LeT.

Activating the NACTA

Another missed NAP objective is the restructuring and strengthening of the National Counter Terrorism
Authority (NACTA). Since its inception in 2008, NACTA has not been able to perform at its optimal level.
The organization was established to coordinate with the plethora of security and intelligence agencies in
Pakistan in order to gather, collate and analyse data. As well as function as a wider-network hub.
Unfortunately however, no significant efforts have been made to activate the almost dormant NACTA
under the aegis of the NAP.35

Choking Terrorist Financing


The Financial Monetary Unit of the Ministry of Finance, and the Special Investigation Unit at the Federal
Investigation Agency (FIA) track and investigate crimes related to money laundering, as well as curb other
financial aspects of terrorist organizations. The Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2010 was amended
amid pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other international agencies in 2014. The
federal government also wanted to enhance its counter-financing of terrorism (CFT), and place AMLA and
CFT in line with the requirements set by the international organization, the Financial Action Task Force
(FATF).36 Although the government has made some leeway in this regard, its CFT and AML policies are
still in their preliminary stages of development.

Preventing the Re-emergence of Proscribed Organizations

After the implementation of the NAP, many of the previously banned Islamist terrorist organizations
continue to operate, but under new names. Jaish-e-Mohammad is now known as Khudam ul Islam, and
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) now operates under the umbrella of Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD). Therefore it appears
that the government has only effectively targeted a select few jihadi organizations, and many are still fully
operational. For example, the TTP (Fazalullah) recently struck another educational institution, Bacha Khan
University in Charssada this year – a town just 20 miles from Peshawar – killing 21 students.37 As far as
international terrorism is concerned, the Kashmiri Islamist terrorist organization, Jasish-e-Mohammad
(JeM), was suspected of perpetrating the Pathankot Air Force Base attack in India in January 2016, killing
7 security officials.38

There are other NAP agenda items that have not been acted upon; such as implementing policies to
reduce religious persecution, FATA reform, dismantling the communication networks of terrorist
organizations, disrupting the abuse of the Internet for terrorism, and revamping the criminal justice
system.

Conclusion

The implementation of the NAP has hitherto been partially successful. As stated earlier, this may be due
in part because not all of the major stakeholders (the civilian government, and the military establishment)
have reached a consensus regarding strategy and tactics. Some policy makers may be too cautious to
disrupt the status quo, or act contrary to the military’s interests. In either case, it is the Pakistani civilians
who continue to face the threats from terrorism. With no properly designed, framed, and concrete
counter-terrorism policy it appears that Pakistan is far from achieving any major successes. The best
counter-terrorism practices stem from strategies formulated with consensus, and implemented with
fervor. A wide range of successful counter-terrorism policy examples could be quoted here; such as the
UK, Israel, Peru, Italy, Germany, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

The haphazardly framed 20-point NAP agenda lacks proper direction, as well as coordination between the
federal and provincial governments. It also appears to lack the full backing of the powerful military
establishment. It is this lack of commitment, and coherence that led a Supreme Court Judge to ruthlessly
criticize the federal government during a proceeding regarding the NAP. He lamented that it was “nothing
more than joke with the nation” because of the government’s lack of perceived willingness to implement
it fully.39

After the terrorist attack by TTP-Fazalullah in December 2014, the situation was ripe for the development
of a concrete and comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. All opposition parties gave a carte
blanche to the government to adopt any measures needed to combat Islamist terrorism. Pakistani citizens
were ready for action, and public opinion was drastically in favor of a meaningful operation against the
terrorists. Ironically however, no major operation was launched against terrorist strongholds in urban
centers (the much-talked about Operation Zarb-e-Azb was already in progress against TTP strongholds in
North Waziristan district of tribal areas). In reality, only a few of the NAP’s unanimously adopted measures
following the massacre were implemented in true letter and spirit.

The eyebrow raising question is:

If the APS attack was not enough to spark a significant, and far-reaching policy shift from anti-terrorism
to counter-terrorism by the Pakistan government – then what is enough?