By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Economically in the Intensive Care Unit (IUC), socially and politically in a chaotic phase after Project Imran backfired and thereafter was abandoned; Pakistan is again trying hard to kill the multi-headed serpent of terrorism.
Last Friday the supreme body of Pakistan that looks after the security dynamics of the country started three-day deliberations in Islamabad headed by prime minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to review economic, social, and strategic security. The supreme body, also known as National Security Committee (NSC), is a component of the civil and military leadership of the country chaired by the Prime Minister. The Committee can ask anybody to join the meeting if needed.
The recent meeting was attended by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Asim Munir and other top officials of armed forces were also present. The Committee was briefed about economic conditions, regional security, Afghanistan, terrorism, and reemerging of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Available information suggests the new COAS is quite clear-headed and is of the view that we cannot compromise our security to protect the interests of anybody. If it is so, I am confident that Pakistan shall think only about Pakistan instead of compromising Pakistan’s security to benefit Afghans in the future.
Pakistan fought against terrorism effectively through Operation Zarb-e-Azb which was followed by Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. Everybody who has an interest in security dynamics knows the foreground, background, and results of these operations therefore there is no need to go into details about them. The results were positive and security forces almost cleaned the country and Pakistan became a normal state to live in. However, it was short-lived and we saw things were not normal by the end of the year 2020. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) slowly but surely started coming back to Pakistan from their safe havens in Afghanistan and the situation became out of control by the beginning of the year 2022 when Swat valley called SOS call through huge public protests against TTP regrouping. However, the state had been telling us there was no need to worry. The state claimed that some TTP members had arrived back from Afghanistan to rejoin their families. This regrouping was apparently the result of talks Pakistan initiated with TTP on the advice of the Afghan Taliban. The public had no option just to accept what the state was doing and what the state was claiming. Censorship during the PTI era discouraged independent journalists to report the situation from the ground and TTP reclaimed areas it lost during several military operations in Swat valley as well in the erstwhile FATA region.
I have reasons to believe that the PTI government did not take security as a top priority and institutions that were responsible for follow-ups and keeping an eye on the situation like NACTA and office of the National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister were almost non-operational during PTI rule.
Without going into details about what happened in the past 40 years, we understand that after the massacre of children in Army Public School Peshawar the state understood that the sword that was cast and crafted in the Jihad era of the mid-70s was now slaughtering their own children and was not confined only to common people so the state decided to think otherwise and National Action Plan (NAP) was formed and it was decided that National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) that was formed in 2009 would be monitoring authority of the NAP. A revised NAP was formulated by the NACTA and approved by the government in 2021. Now, the revised NAP is the main pillar of the government’s policy initiatives against extremism and terrorism. What NACTA is doing can be judged by the fact that if someone visits NACTA’s website can find the last three news that are; “Change of Command of National Coordinator NACTA” publishing date July 2, 2018, “National Dialogue on Preventing Violent Extremism Programming in Pakistan: Challenges, Lessons Learned and Way Forward” publishing date October 23, 2021, and “NACTA & Shaoor Foundation Organized Vice Chancellors Conference at Peshawar” publishing date April 22, 2022.
I think the above references are enough to know the work pace of work and initiatives taken by NACTA in the last four years. According to the term of reference (ToR) of NACTA, it is a federal authority to formulate counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies. NACTA is responsible to do research about the causes of extremism and terrorism and publishes it periodically and makes liaison with international bodies to facilitate cooperation in relevant fields.
In reality, NACTA has no contact with the media to share the security situation in the country and does not share information about what NACTA has done so far since the latest wave of terrorism that started last October.
Meanwhile, National Action Plan (NAP) looks napping since 2018 if you talk about initiatives taken by the provinces to mitigate terrorism. In simple words, nothing concrete is done by civilian authorities to control terrorism in Pakistan, and results now we are facing with rise of TTP again in Pakistan.
Once upon a time, there was an office of National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister in Pakistan and I remember that this office used to work as a link among security organizations, media men, think tanks, academicians, and writers. Once headed by Lt. Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua who fought and won the war against terrorism and against separatists in Baluchistan used to hold deliberations, background discussions, seminars, talks, and conferences to get maximum input from the public and to get feedback as well as suggestions. Nasser Janjua knew the currents and undercurrents and threads of terrorism in Pakistan because he also served in Swat and led operations against terrorism and his successful handling of Swat operations was the reason that the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif placed him in Baluchistan as Commander XII Corps, also known as Quetta Corps because Baluchistan was burning and separatists were gaining a stronghold. There is no need to go into details about the successes of Nasser Janjua because his work had been appreciated by friends and foes and he became a buddy of youth and common people who were victims of terrorism and he left Baluchistan as the most trusted friend of Balochis. He was a “catharsis center” for everybody who was a victim or concerned about extremism in Baluchistan. In one of his interviews with this writer, he told me that he believes in seeking closure of conflict instead of winning it because he does not want to give a sense of losing to anybody who is a stakeholder in the issue. His desire to make Baluchistan a hub of economic activity is known to everybody. He resigned on June 27, 2018, when Pakistan had the caretaker government of Prime Minister Justice (retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk. Many friends had been asking him for reasons for his resignation but he never shared his reasons with anybody nonetheless I could feel that the system was not ready to accept a straightforward and blunt person after Mian Nawaz Sharif was removed. I could also smell that former COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa had not had very cordial interaction with him. After the removal of former Mian Nawaz Sharif from the PM Office, Janjua was confined to his office practically with no resources, staff, and desire for the civil and military leadership to utilize his expertise. He wanted to work but the state had something else in its mind. We thereafter saw that the office of NSA had been non-operational till Moeed Yusuf was brought from United State to hold this sensitive seat and he failed to get trust and respect from regional stakeholders like central Asian republics as well as from the then Afghan leadership.
I am of the view there is a need dire need of revamping the entire system responsible to manage terrorism-related issues if the multiparty government is really serious to mitigate the non-serious and nonsensical strategy the PTI government had about the issue of clamping terrorism in Pakistan.
Note: This article was originally published by the daily Pakistan Today