WASHINGTON: Describing Pakistan as an important counterterrorism partner, a US report on terrorism acknowledged that continuous military operations in Khyber and North Waziristan eliminated significant number of militants and removed safe havens for terrorist groups.
“Pakistan remained an important counterterrorism partner in 2016, continued military offensive in North Waziristan further degraded the group’s (Al-Qaida) freedom to operate,” according to the Country Reports on Terrorism released by the US State Department.
It also acknowledged that pressure on AQ’s traditional safe havens has constrained the ability of terrorists to communicate effectively with affiliate groups outside South Asia.
As a result of continued military operations, terrorist-related violence in Pakistan declined for the second straight year in 2016.
“The number of terrorism-related civilian deaths in 2016 was approximately 600, far lower than the peak years of 2012 and 2013, when terrorist acts killed more than 3,000 civilians each year,” the report said citing statistics from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which records and tracks terrorism-related incidents in the region.
The report noted that the Pakistan government continued to implement the national action plan against terrorism, but added that the progress had been slow on “regulating madrassas, blocking extremist messaging”, and empowering the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
“The Pakistani military continued operations in Khyber and North Waziristan to eliminate anti state militants. Security forces in urban areas, including the paramilitary Sindh Rangers in Karachi, arrested suspected terrorists and interrupted plots.”
“In the aftermath of a high-profile terrorist attack at a Lahore park, the Rangers were also called temporarily into southern Punjab for law enforcement operations against militant groups,” the report said, and citing many commentators, added that military operations helped reduce number of terrorism-related deaths in Pakistan.
The report also noted that the Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban.
The Pakistan government has not joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, but it designated ISIS as a terrorist organization in 2015. Police and security forces detained and killed a substantial number of ISIS-affiliated terrorists.
The Government of Pakistan, the report said, continued to implement the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) of 1997, the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the 2014 Investigation for Fair Trial Act, and 2014 amendments to the ATA.
These efforts allowed enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers for terrorism cases. Under the 21st amendment to the Pakistani Constitution, passed in January 2015, military courts were empowered to hear terrorism cases through 2016.
The Pakistani Supreme Court rejected an appeal and approved 16 death sentences for terrorism handed down by a military court, the first ruling by the Supreme Court that addressed capital sentences by military courts.
“Military, paramilitary, and civilian security forces conducted counterterrorism operations throughout Pakistan. The NACTA received a significant budget in July. The Intelligence Bureau has nationwide jurisdiction and is empowered to coordinate with provincial counterterrorism departments.”
Pakistan is a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Pakistan criminalizes terrorist financing through the ATA. In 2015, FATF removed Pakistan from its review process due to progress on countering the financing of terrorism (CFT).
Pakistan’s national action plan includes efforts to prevent and counter terrorist financing, including by enhancing interagency coordination on CFT.
The report said that the government operated de radicalization camps offering “corrective religious education,” vocational training, counseling, and therapy.
A Pakistani NGO administered the widely-praised Sabaoon Rehabilitation Center in Swat Valley, which was founded in partnership with the Pakistani military and focused on juvenile violent extremists.