It is rightly said that he who throws dirt always loses ground. The criticism against Ch Nisar Ali Khan as the Minster for Interior unfortunately not only reflects lack of understanding of the factual realities but also indicates a strong bias against a person who has served the country at the most difficult moment of our history. Turning a blind eye to various achievements that can rightly be credited to the ex-interior minister and confusing his role with that of the Islamabad Police chief have raised many questions.
There can be no denying of the fact that today's Pakistan is a much safer and peaceful country as compared to the one that we all had seen during the years 2006-2013. From an all-time high figure of over 2060 terror related incidents in 2010, the number this year stands at around over 200 incidents during the first 6 months. Is it not a fact that before 2014 the country had no policy vis-a-vis fighting the menace of terrorism and ensuring internal security? Have we forgotten that only a few years back one of our most important cities -- the economic hub of the country and the city of Quaid, was plagued with all kinds of crimes including target killing, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and various other street crimes? Haven't we seen the time when drug traffickers and criminals all around the world were dumped into our country even without our acquiescence? One such reflection could be seen when loads of deportees used to arrive at our ports without even proper determination of their nationalities. Is it a secret that our national database was infested with thousands of aliens who had obtained Pakistani identity through fraudulent means?
Political detractors and his opponents may level as many charges against him as they could possibly think of, but the fact remains that Ch Nisar Ali Khan has contributed immensely in restoring the image of the country at national level as well as internationally when it comes to rule of law and making the presence of the state felt. Indeed Ch Nisar Ali Khan during his tenure has emerged as an honest, upright, patriotic and one of the most competent interior ministers that the country has ever seen. A very senior and seasoned bureaucrat of 70s who had served as interior secretary for many years besides holding many important posts during his long career as civil servant is recently reported to have remarked that Ch Nisar Ali Khan is the best interior minister this country has ever had. (The name of that person is not being quoted here because his permission has not been sought to make his comment public).
In all fairness to Ch Nisar Ali Khan and to our political history, let us not deny the immense contribution that the minister and his ministry have made towards giving a sense of security at a time when the existential threat of terrorism had engulfed our society with an average of 6-7 terror incidents happening on daily basis in 2013. Preparation of National Action Plan and first ever National Internal Security Policy at a time when the country had witnessed one of the most gruesome tragedies of massacre of innocent children in APS attack is one of the most notable achievements of the ex-interior minister.
The internal security framework put in place on the initiative of Ch Nisar Ali Khan who envisaged a three-tier security apparatus within the large cities of the country. The police was to be the first line of defence, civil armed forces (Rangers, Frontier Corps and Frontier Constabulary) constituted the second and the Pakistan Army, the third. Under the NISP, thousands of Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) and combing operations were carried out countrywide on account of intelligence sharing and fusion at the local levels, by this integrated security apparatus. Needless to add that hundreds of attacks have been averted and the country witnessed sharp decline in the terrorist incidents in 2016 and 2017.
Let us also not forget the fact that as a result of various measures taken under National Internal Security Policy, Pakistan emerged as the only country in the world where terror related incidents nosedived in the recent years -- the fact that is admitted and appreciated worldwide.
Let us also not be oblivious of the fact that today's improved law & order situation in Karachi is the result of tireless efforts of ex-interior minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan who had the courage to take up the challenge of deteriorating law and order in the metropolis and provide his leadership at most critical juncture.
Let us also remember that it was during the tenure of the same interior minister that we all witnessed re-invigoration of Nacta and improved coordination among law-enforcement agencies and various intelligence agencies of the country despite constraints and difficulties. The Nacta from a dysfunctional department and with paltry budget of Rs9 crore now has a budget of Rs1.5 billion and has been functioning in a robust and effective manner over the last one and a half years.
It was also for the first time in the history of the country that any interior minister had the will and determination to ensure implementation of the laws of the country. Biometric re-verification of over 103 million mobile SIMs across the country in a record time of 90 days (which for years no previous interior minister could do) is no small achievement of the interior minister. The significance of this step towards ensuring security and checking misuse of cellular services for terrorist activities needs no further elaboration to any person who has even the slightest understanding about the issues of national security.
Again, the Mullah Mansour episode and his possession of Pakistani identity since 2006 not only caused disrepute to the country but serious questions were raised about the transparency and security of the national database. It was interior minister once again who embraced the challenge of re-verification of 101 million CNICs and ensured completion of the Herculean task within the stipulated period. During this comprehensive countrywide re-verification drive, 95,959 CNICs issued to non-nationals through fraudulent means, were detected and cancelled.
Similarly, in another drive undertaken on the instructions of the minister, more than 32,000 passports issued to non-nationals through bogus antecedents have been cancelled. This figure does not include the 2002 officials and diplomatic passports issued to unauthorised individuals, which were also cancelled in spite of monumental pressures.
It is also a matter of record that not only various policies, including INGOs, ECL and others were framed during the tenure of Ch Nisar Ali Khan but any incident of deviation and violation was taken seriously and punitive measures were taken to restore the sanctity of Pakistani laws.
For the first time in the history of the country we saw around 400 houses in the federal capital being inhabited over the last 10 years by the foreigners who using their “immunity” refused to disclose their identities to the administration -- the ridiculous situation whereby the government was not even aware of the identity of the inhabitants of its capital. Under the direction of the interior minister they were given the option to cooperate or face expulsion. The law was implemented and today there is not a single house in the Capital whose residents are not accounted for.
It also goes to the credit of the ex-interior minister that Safe City Project for which the government of Pakistan had already paid millions of rupees in advance five years earlier was materialised thus equipping the ICT police with better monitoring facilities and state-of-the-art technology for checking crime rate in the federal capital.
As far as working and improvement in various departments of the ministry is concerned, it is also on record that all the departments attached with the Interior Ministry witnessed qualitative change in their working environments and their output. May that be Federal Investigation Authority, National Database Registration Authority, Anti-Narcotics Force, Rangers, Frontier Corps, Coastal Guards or any other entity, all were allowed to work in a transparent manner without any political interference during the tenure of Ch Nisar Ali Khan as Interior Minister.
Federal Investigation Agency during this period recovered and deposited billions of rupees in the national exchequer, launched country-wide crackdown on human traffickers and drug peddlers, arrested thousands of criminals involved in white-collar and other crimes and emerged as one of the proactive and vibrant organisations fighting crime.
Nadra, the custodian of national database, also witnessed massive administrative reforms and improvements. Besides purging the database of thousands of intruders and aliens, a comprehensive cleansing drive was undertaken on the orders of the Interior Minister to rid the organisation of corrupt elements who felt no qualms on their conscience selling Pakistani identities to the aliens. Around 700 employees were terminated from Nadra on corruption and other serious charges. The administrative actions that were taken on the orders of Interior Minister transformed Nadra into a profit making organisation with annual profit of Rs5 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15 and Rs6 billion in the following year.
Similarly the revenues of Directorate General IMPASS jumped to Rs20.8 billion (2015/16) from Rs16 billion (2012/ 13). It is also extending its reach to the citizens by establishing 73 new Regional Passport Offices (RPOs) in a record time of one and a half years, as against 93 established in the last 68 years. Fifteen Executive Passport Offices (EPOs), with the latest and state-of-the-art facilities, are also near completion in major cities. Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) facility has already been installed at 93 Pakistani missions abroad. Home-delivery of passports has started on the directions of the minister.
The Minister for Interior, with the support of the military initiated a gigantic programme of Capacity Building of Civil Armed Forces (CAFs). Twenty-eight (28) new wings of HQs Frontier Corps (KP/Balochistan) & HQ Pakistan Rangers (Punjab/Sindh) were raised for security of the borders and capacity enhancement during the FY2015/16. Twenty-nine (29) new wings of HQs Frontier Corps (KP/Balochistan) with a personnel strength of 24,771 raised for security of borders during the FY2016/17 at an aggregate cost of Rs79 billion. The initiative of the interior minister to strengthen CAFs will surely protect the borders by checking the movement across unfrequented mountain channels, while movement through formal routes will be documented and monitored.
It was commonplace for many foreign countries to detain Pakistanis and deport them on fabricated charges of terrorism like teaching Quran and visiting Jihadi websites. There were instances of such deportations from a number of western countries, on record. On the directions of the Minister of Interior, they were returned to the ports of embarkation and were denied entry unless accompanied by incriminating evidence of involvement in terrorism. The firm stance taken by the interior minister on this count resulted in discontinuation of the practice of deporting Pakistanis on flimsy charges, which tainted the country’s image. Similarly, another practice of deporting non-nationals (like Afghans, Burmese and Bengalis) to Pakistan was also put to stop after the interior minister showed no flexibility despite huge international pressure.
From the formulation of the policies to their implementation, from administrative actions to punitive measures, from facilitating citizens and addressing their issues vis-a-vis long queues and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures to instantly responding to public appeals, the minister's contribution towards the country, his ministry and most importantly towards the people of Pakistan needs no elucidation.
Now we come to the issue of registration of INGOs and measures taken by the interior minister against those who were tarnishing the repute and image of national organisations. It is no secret that quite a few foreign organisations with their set agendas have been working in the country under the garb of humanitarian and social work. Often the locals were hired for visible jobs while some foreign elements were busy implementing their own agendas and at times playing with our national security. Since the launch of internal security policy, many concrete evidence surfaced leading the state to take firm decisions vis-a-vis the INGOs and foreign organisations working in the country. Taking into consideration various dimensions of the entire issue, the government finally decided to hand over the affairs of INGOs to interior minister and his ministry. Without succumbing to any international pressure, the interior minister gave a clear-cut policy for not only registration but also for the working of the INGOs in the country. No patriotic Pakistani can have any objection to the efforts aimed at introducing transparency in the affairs of working of INGOs. It is quite understandable why some international organisations have launched their stooges to unleash criticism and target a policy that has been implemented purely in the interest of the state and is aimed at inducing transparency in the working of INGOs in the country. The interior minister, of course, is their prime target for his refusal to bow down before the international pressure and refusing to allow any organisation with questionable agenda to work in the country.
As far as the issue of bloggers and social media activists is concerned, the mayhem and chaos that we have recently witnessed in the name of freedom of expression can hardly find any parallel in the civilised world. We have seen a trend where not only the state institutions were ruthlessly targeted but the integrity of heads of judiciary and the armed forces was unnecessarily questioned to the extent of their character assassination. Should the state have been a silent spectator to all this? We must guard our liberties but let us not forget that the concept of freedom can only be sustained with a sense of responsibility.
Let us learn to be fair and have a heart to give credit to all those who have contributed in one manner or the other in making the country safe and secure. I had the honour of working under Ch Nisar Ali Khan, first as an additional secretary in Ministry of Interior and then as National Coordinator of Nacta and above narration of facts is based on my personal and first-hand experience of working on such sensitive assignments. No human being is free of faults and the ex-interior minister was no exception but let me end by saying that here is a public figure who practised what he preached, simple in his ways but strong in his faith, a hard task master, a patriot and an emotionally committed son of the soil.
The author is ex-additional secretary Ministry of Interior and Nacta NC