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December 17, 2014

No fund, no time to counter terrorism

Islamabad

December 17, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Counter-terrorism remains the lowest priority of the present government as neither were the required funds provided for the implementation of the much-trumpeted National Internal Security Policy (NISP) nor could the prime minister chair a meeting of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) even once. According to Nacta sources, the request for the Nacta board meeting under the prime minister was sent to the PM’s Office but it could not be held as yet. Instead not even a single meeting of the authority’s high-powered board of governors, headed by the PM and comprising all the key government players including spymasters, has been held since its inception in March 2013.
With terrorism haunting the country, Nacta direly needs funds as well as required push from its board of governors to take major counter-terrorism policy decisions besides ensuring close coordination between agencies and improving the capacity of law-enforcing agencies to check the terror attacks. However, nothing concrete is happening in this respect.
The implementation of the NISP, which was approved several months back and envisages multi-dimensional measures to effectively address the incapacity of the state to counter terrorism, is also dependent on the authority’s decisions and approvals.
Even otherwise, legally speaking, the Nacta board of governors is bound under the law to meet at least once in each quarter of a year — four times a year. Ironically, despite this legal binding, the Nacta BoG never met before or during the present PML-N government.
According to sources, the very constitution of the authority’s board of governors is such that its meeting itself would mean a lot. Nacta’s board of governors includes the prime minister as its chairman while its members are all the provincial chief ministers, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, prime minister of AJK, interior minister, law minister, defence minister, finance minister, DG ISI, DG

Intelligence Bureau, DG Military Intelligence, DG FIA, chief secretaries and inspector generals of all the provinces, secretary interior and others.
The board has a key role in implementing the NISP, which promises capacity building of criminal justice system, police, civil armed forces and other law enforcing agencies for border management besides setting up of a key institution to be called the Directorate of Internal Security (DIS), which would be established under Nacta to coordinate intelligence and operational work of all the civilian and military agencies to effectively counter terrorism.
“Thirty-three civil and military operational intelligence agencies will contribute centralised intelligence sharing and dissemination to the NISA,” the NISP said, adding that all the intelligence agencies would be bound to provide any intelligence solicited by Nacta.
One of the tasks of the DIS would be to provide early warnings to law enforcing agencies and other specific recipients with regard to violent/terrorist groups and organisations. The DIS will be led by a DG while its officers and personnel would come from the ISI, IB, MI, interior ministry, FIA, civilian armed forces and provincial police.
The DIS will also have specialised wings like intelligence and analysis centre, national internal security operational centre, operations planning centre, central intelligence team, air wing and rapid response force for different operational and analytical functions of Nacta.
It would have special groups focusing on all anti-state groups, non-state armed groups, armed wings of political parties, sectarian terrorism and proscribed organisations, criminal gangs and organised crime mafia. The DIS’s wings will also cover cyber crimes, border control and immigration, financial trails and money laundering, organised crimes and Interpol coordination and international cooperation.
Commenting on the capacity of security organisations, the NISP said: “There are 33 organisations in Pakistan at provincial and federal levels dealing with internal security. The total strength of these agencies exceeds 600,000 and it is more than the standing army of Pakistan. However, approximately 56,000 vacancies still lay vacant in police and civilian armed forces. Pakistan is spending approximately Rs155 billion on policing every year and this is seventy six percent increase since 2009. Extra expenditures have also incurred on maintaining CAFs and other LEAs deputed for national internal security purposes.
“Law enforcement capacity of the state has been put to test to counter militancy at times; however, it has not always managed to succeed against the terrorists,” the NISP admitted.
Another ironic aspect of the counter-terrorism priorities of the government, both federal and provincial, is that the NISP initially required Rs32 billion to set up some new institutions and strengthen some of the old ones, including the NACTA, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Civil Armed Forces Headquarters and Rapid Response Force.
However, the required money was not allocated both by the provincial or the federal governments. The implementation of the NISP needed Rs32 billion to get it implemented by December 2014. The provincial component of the estimated cost was Rs22 billion whereas Rs10 billion was the estimated cost of the federal component.
During the last government, former officials of the interior ministry and its subordinate departments used counter-terrorism budget for running kitchens, offering Sadqa, ordering food from five-star hotels, paying utility bills in millions, funding friends, staff and foreign trips, sending gifts to big guns and close relatives and fueling vehicles, documents disclose.
According to a report of The News, hardly a single penny of the secret fund allocated to the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) was used for curbing terrorism during the last regime. Around Rs500 million were earmarked for the NCMC that have gone unaccounted for, as the lion’s share was spent by officials on salaries of the contingent staff hired to oblige friends and family relatives.
Gifts at the marriage ceremonies of the sons of top officials; rent for the car of two leaders, and flower/sweet/donation to a Pir were financed through this fund. Telephone bill (Rs379,284) of a former key official was also paid from the same fund.
Whether there was a wedding ceremony of sons or nephews of top officials, gifts like wrist watches, gold sets, expensive carpets, sweets and flower bouquets, all items were purchased from counter-terrorism funds.