The National Action Plan against terrorism is revised; a new secretariat set up
The federal government has scaled back its 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism to 14-points and strengthened the role of the military in the internal security matters.
The newly-established NAP Secretariat will be the key office to implementing the revised 14-points agenda of the NAP, with a serving brigadier in the driving seat, sidelining the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA), the civilian body earlier created to implement the NAP.
Government officials contacted by The News on Sunday (TNS) say the changes would not undermine any department’s role. They say the coordination mechanism will improve and be more responsive to the situation on the ground.
Some of the most important revised points of the NAP are: countering the spread of terrorism through all forms of media including social media; tribal area reforms (including National Finance Commission, local body polls and land reforms); the Balochistan reconciliation process; and the repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Various security agencies had reviewed the scope of the NAP in consultation with all stakeholders. Their recommendations were then approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
A Rs 110 million budget has been approved for the current fiscal year with 28 new contractual posts in order to implement the revised NAP. The newly-sanctioned posts include a grade-20 NAP coordinator and five deputy directors (one each from Pakistan Army, Law and Justice Ministry, Ministry of Interior, Information Ministry and the Ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination. The secretariat is functioning under Brig Mussaddiq, a former sector in charge of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) in Lahore, as its first coordinator. The NAP Secretariat will coordinate implementation, progress review, evaluation and monitoring of the revised plan. Four new implementation committees are proposed to be set up.
Some officials say the revised NAP has curtailed the role of the NACTA, a civilian body created in 2009 to combat terrorism and implement NAP. The implementation of the 20-point NAP had been the primary responsibility of this civilian body. Over the years, they say, the NACTA’s role has been limited to information gathering following a power struggle ending in the dominance of the military. With the new NAP Secretariat, the security issues would become more military-centric. This will further marginalise the role of the NACTA, which since its inception has been headed by officers from police/ civil services. A National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC), a liaison body for the official intelligence networks, was separately set up a few months ago. Instead of empowering the NACTA and relying on it, Prime Minister Imran Khan set up the NICC to share/ oragnise key information to counter the threat of militancy and terrorism.
Tariq Parvez, a former head of the NACTA, says the development is a step towards “militarisation of internal security” and a downgrading of the NAP. “The National Action Plan for counter terrorism is not a plan for the military alone; it has many non-military dimensions,” he says. “In the latest circumstances there is a need to emphasise the non-kinetic dimension, too,” he adds. He says the civilian institutions have a constitutional role and responsibility in this regard. “There is a need to reduce the predominance of military. The NACTA was given the responsibility to implement the NAP after a through political consensus. If there are issues with the NACTA, those should be resolved. The counter narrative to curb extremism needs a vast civilian dimension and a large role for civilian bodies.”
“It looks like the revision has downgraded the NAP to the level of a serving brigadier and is meant to weaken the civilian coordination by ignoring the civilian dimension of countering violent extremism,” he adds.
On the other hand, the officials involved in the NAP revision and the establishment of the new NAP Secretariat claim that the NACTA has not been sidelined. “The execution of the NAP was never the mandate of the NACTA. It was meant for coordination,” a senior official, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media, tells TNS.
“The NACTA will continue to work in a different dimension. The intelligence coordination committee too is a high-level body for decision-making and policy making. It has a separate role. With the changing situation, the NAP Secretariat and organisations like the National Crisis Management Cell have been set up for effective coordination on security issues,” he says.
The original NAP was formulated in December 2014 following the Army Public School attack. A working group of professionals drawn from both civilian and military organizations had developed the NAP with help from the Interior Ministry. The 20 points included short-term as well as long-term measures. The NACTA was the lead organisation for its implementation.
“There is a need to reduce the predominance of military. The NACTA was given the responsibility to implement the NAP after a through political consensus. If there are issues with the NACTA, those should be resolved. The counter narrative to curb extremism needs a vast civilian dimension with a large role for civilian bodies,” says Tariq Parvez, the former NACTA chief.
The setting up of special trial courts under the supervision of the army; strengthening the National Counterterrorism Authority; establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force; zero tolerance for militancy in the Punjab; and completion of the Karachi operation against terrorists; have been removed from the original 20-points.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, on September 9, chaired the first meeting of the apex committee of the NAP. It was also attended by the chief of army staff, the ISI director general, the national security advisor and the provincial chief ministers. The participants of the meeting affirmed their commitment to fast-track implementation of various measures to meet emergent security challenges including cyber security, espionage, judicial and civil reforms, capacity building in law-enforcement agencies, counter violent extremism and other issues having a bearing on national security. The PM emphasised the need for enhanced coordination and effective measures to achieve various short-, medium- and long-term targets under the revised NAP. Earlier, in August, the PM had chaired a meeting, to take up security challenges and discussed the revised NAP and the setting up of the NAP Secretariat.
Following the fall of Kabul, there have been reports of Taliban regrouping and an upsurge in attacks by terrorist groups in Waziristan resulting in the death of a number of security forces officials and soldiers. The Pakistan Army also claims to have destroyed a number of terrorist hideouts in the recent days. In the last days of September, security forces had conducted an intelligence-based operation in South Waziristan district and killed 10 terrorists, including four commanders. These terrorists, according to the Pakistan Army, were planning acts of terrorism in the South Waziristan district. “The Pakistan Army is determined to root out the menace of terrorism from the country at all costs,” a statement by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) read.
While TTP attacks continue, PM Khan has announced that his government is in talks with some TTP groups to arrive at some reconciliation. He said the Afghan Taliban were helping in the talks taking place in Kabul. Interestingly, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said last week his ministry was not aware of any such talks.
“There are chances of a further escalation in terrorist violence over the coming days,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, a security analyst and the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) director. He says the NAP will only be successful once something is done practically.
1. Execution of capital punishment awarded to convicted terrorists.
2. Intolerance for militancy – no militant/ armed/ criminal/ gangs to be allowed to operate.
3. Capacity building / strengthening of Counter Terrorism Departments (CTD’s).
4. Action against spread of terrorism through media (electronic, print and social media),
communication and cyber networks.
5. Choking of terror financing and proscribed organisations.
6. Taking effective measures against religious/ sectarian persecution and terrorism.
7. Regulation and registration of religious seminaries/ madaris.
8. FATA reforms (NFC, capacity building of LEAs, local government elections and land reforms).
9. Balochistan reconciliation process.
10. Repatriation of Afghan refugees and dealing with their issues.
11. Reforms of criminal justice system.
12. Legislative/ legal oversight for espionage/ subversion.
13. Institutionalisation and implementation of Counter Violence Extremism (CVE) policy.
14. Curb increasing trends of illegal spectrum.
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com