Asif Haroon Raja |
In the wake of the US war on terror initiated by USA in end 2001, Pakistan which was made a US ally and a frontline state to combat terrorism has borne the brunt of terrorist attacks that have killed more than 70,000 people including women and children. Not only has Pakistan suffered in terms of losing precious lives, it has also sustained economic losses in its fight against terrorism that has risen to $126 billion in 2017-18, which is more than what the country has suffered in its wars with India. No other country, not even the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, can claim to have suffered such tremendous loss, both in terms of lives and money.
When Fazlullah made Swat-Malakand region into a state within a state in 2008/09, it led to Operation Rah-e- Rast on April 2009. A terrorist attack on GHQ on October 10 that year led to Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan. 17 out of 18 administrative units in the control of TTP were retaken after launching series of operations in six tribal agencies. A terrorist attack on Jinnah terminal at Karachi on June 9, 2014 led to launching of Operation Zarb on June 15 in North Waziristan which had become the safe haven and strongest base of operation of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) affiliated with 66 proscribed militant groups. Following the vicious terrorist attack on the Army Public School (APS) in December 16, 2014 which resulted in the death of 149 people including 132 school children, Pakistan clamped down hard on the terrorist networks in the country through sustained counterterrorism operations, as part of the National Action Plan (NAP).
These military operations have substantially improved the overall security situation in the country. All bases of operations and safe havens of militant organizations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) called PATA (provincially administered) have been dismantled and flushed out. The handlers, facilitators, financiers of terrorists spread in all parts of Pakistan are being systematically dealt with by the military through countrywide intelligence based Operation Raddul Fasad. Likewise sleeping cells are being eliminated. Another tangible step that has been initiated is the fencing of the western border to prevent cross-border infiltration. Border management is also being improved.
Continuous intelligence-based operations and the stringent measures introduced under NAP including the re-institution of the death penalty, new cybercrime laws, the renewal of the Afghan Refugee Registration, the revival of the Pakistan Automated Fingerprint Identification System (PAFIS), and the establishment of the Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) to check cross-border infiltration of terrorists have today significantly eradicated terrorists, their networks and safe havens in the country.
To fix loopholes and strengthen the judicial system, a holistic approach was taken towards legislation for strengthening Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts. Special military courts were established through the 21st amendment in the constitution of Pakistan for the purpose of speedy trials and to protect the judges who prosecute the terrorists.
Eleven military courts were established and 388 cases have been transferred to these courts and their decisions have been forwarded to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa for his approval of the award of death sentence. Military courts in Pakistan have sentenced 186 terrorists to death and issued verdicts for more than 300 terrorism-related cases.
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Another milestone achieved by NAP was strengthening of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) – an anti-terrorism institution established by the parliament in 2013 with sole mandate of countering extremism and terrorism in country. Regrettably, it remained un-effective until it was made part of NAP. Following the zero-tolerance policy after the APS attack, NACTA pursued its mandate and jurisdiction with unparalleled vigour and etched the policies addressing the state’s goals in countering terrorism. A special budget of Rs. 1545.5 million was allocated in 2016-17, and in 2017-2018 Rs. 1643.019 million was demanded, however only Rs. 530.839 have been released. A Joint Intelligence Directorate has also been staffed in NACTA for the purpose of enhancing coordination and intelligence sharing mechanism among the provinces.
NAP which has a 20-point agenda has also taken a rigorous stance in dealing with the matter of sectarian violence, religious intolerance and extremism. As a result, 1373 cases were registered after 2014 regarding hate speech and publication of literature inciting religious sentiments. Around 2,566 persons were arrested against 1373 cases and 70 shops were sealed. Moreover, 19,895 cases have been registered pertaining to misuse of loudspeakers, 20,679 persons were arrested and 8,759 pieces of equipment have been confiscated. Sectarian violence surged in the country in the last two decade, sacrilegious and hate speech were the main causes of creating sectarian violence. NAP ensured the misuse of loudspeaker would not be tolerated and fiery speeches were banned. It is the fruit of NAP that in 2012, 185 sectarian attacks were recorded while in 2018 only two attacks were witnessed on the mainstream.
Steps have also been taken to check terror financing. Before the inception of NAP, there was no robust mechanism available to monitor terrorist funding activities. Terrorist could freely manipulate huge funds received by their sympathizers and stake-holders. They could receive huge sums of money through charities, NGOs, and international fund transfers, narcotics trade, and extortion. In an effort to overcome this drawback, NACTA took an initiative to choke the funding activities of terrorists and established a Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) in every province and it became an integral part of investigations. Furthermore, HUNDI/HUWALA transactions were also monitored and 919 cases were registered, 1209 persons were arrested and Rs. 1489.918 million was recovered. Another 426 cases were registered and 574 were arrested under money laundering charges.
NAP took effective measures to counter the re-emergence of proscribed organizations. Until now, 66 organizations have been declared as illegal and 4 are under observation, while 7,966 individuals have been placed under section IV of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. The government has so far frozen 4,962 accounts with over Rs. 93,980 million. Over 2,052 persons are also facing travel restrictions.
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NAP provided a strong mechanism to establish skilled anti-terrorist force in all provinces with an aim to reduce the burden from the police and to combat terrorists. Presently, out of 7200 sanctioned force, 6,038 security personnel are working all around Pakistan in different provinces.
Effective steps have also been taken to promote pluralism and diversity. The federal government has directed all the provincial governments to protect the lives and honor of all non-Muslims minorities. Their shops and places of worship are now secured by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA’s), and all discrimination and biasness have been expunged from the curricula.
Approximately 32,272 religious seminaries were functional all around the country. To address the issue of illegal seminaries, NACTA in collaboration with Ittehad-e-Tanzim-e-Madariss Pakistan has streamlined the Madrassas. The registration and data forms have been generated to keep record of Madrassas. Islamabad Punjab and Sindh have already carried out 100% geo-mapping (Special software technology that records data with visuals) on agreed parameters, while Baluchistan (80%), FATA (90%), and KPK (95%). Geo-mapping of all places of worships has also been undertaken.
FATA became a stronghold of the militant organizations like TTP. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched to eliminate terrorism and bring reforms in the region. Army played a key role in managing internally displaced persons lodged in makeshift camps and in resettlement of over 15 lacs displaced people and in reconstruction of destroyed houses and property. Recent merger of FATA with KPK and abolishment of Frontier Crimes Regulations is a milestone achieved by all the major political parties of the country as well as the Army. Only Fazlur Rahman led Jamiatul Islam and Achakzai led PkMAP have reservations about the merger.
Cellular technology was also exploited by the criminals, terrorists and affiliated organizations. There was no restriction on a person from having a number of Sim cards and the registration process was inadequate to meet the standards. NAP’s point 13 deals with dismantling communication network of terrorists. A colossal exercise was conducted and 98.3 million unregistered and illegal Sim cards were blocked. A new system was introduced by the authorities to streamline the Sim card registration process by working closely with NADRA and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. NACTA has also been granted special permission to block mobile services on special occasions.
NAP has also successfully addressed the growing issues of social media and electronic crime. In order to filter the social media and enable a strong vigilance, a special act of ‘Prevention of Electronic Crime’ was passed in 2016. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and NACTA are now working closely to monitor the internet traffic, monitoring electronic crimes, and trace and shutdown the sites that advocates extremism. Till March 2018, approximately 1447 websites have been blocked which exhibits extremism and hate.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Punjab witnessed a lot of bloodshed and sectarian violence because of fallout effects of 10-year Afghan war followed by civil war in Afghanistan. The growing Punjabi militias also had deep connections with Al-Qaeda and TTP. It was an alarming situation and required a special attention to protect the citizenry of Punjab and other provinces. NAP has shown zero tolerance to these groups in Punjab, and according to the Punjab Home Department Reports, a total of 91,666 combing operations were conducted between 2014-March 2018 all across Punjab, 400 terrorists were hanged under Pakistan Penal Code, 275 terrorists were killed in encounters with Police/CTD/LEAs, 897 were arrested by Police/Counter Terrorism Departments and 68,957 terrorists were entered in Digital Databank of Police/CTDs.
Metropolis like Karachi was also bleeding at the hands of terrorists and criminals, thanks to MQM-PPP unholy collaboration and involvement of RAW. Sindh Rangers backed by Army and intelligence agencies and NAP have worked hard to bring the Karachi operation to its logical conclusion. The post-2013 era in Karachi witnessed growing peace and stability. In three years only, target killings decreased by 97%, murder rate decreased by 87%, robberies were decreased by 52%, terrorist activities were decreased by 98%, and the bank robberies decreased by 72%, overall robberies decreased by 52%.
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Baluchistan also witnessed a policy shift by Islamabad towards it, since the province was lagging behind in literacy, health and other basic facilities. Terrorists, extremists, separatists and other militants filled this developmental vacuum and started exploiting Baluchistan and curbing the state’s writ. In 2009, Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Baluchistan package was launched by the government to ensure Baluchistan’s representation in public institutions and fulfil its demands. For this purpose, scholarships have been allocated to the Baluch students, 13,200 Baluch youth have been inducted in the army and many others were inducted in FIA, Utility Store Corporations, Civil Defence Department, Planning and Development Department, Anti-Narcotics Force and Ministry of Defense. A special quota has also been reserved for the Baluch in all employments. Baluchistan Frontier Corps assisted by Army, other paramilitary forces and police played a commendable role in smothering the dangerous agenda of separatism backed by foreign powers.
In November 2017, a ‘Khushal Baluchistan’ initiative was launched to improve socio-economic as well as security conditions in the province. The government of Baluchistan has also initiated a dialogue with the exiled Baloch separatist leaders. A large number of separatists have given up their weapons, while their reconciliation and rehabilitation is still in process.
Repatriation of Afghan refugees was also a major challenge for NAP to address. The last federal government approved the Repatriation and Management Policy in February 2017 and NADRA was assigned to identify the illegal Afghan refugees and register accurate number of refugees present in country. A tripartite agreement for voluntary repatriation program (the largest program ever recorded by the UNHCR) was also initiated. Till March 2018, 176,000 cases of illegal immigrants were identified and 1.38 million Afghan refugees were recorded and under Tripartite Agreement around 4.3 million have returned to their homes since 2002.
NAP is being implemented with full commitment and vigor in coordination with all provinces, security agencies and other stakeholders. The effective implementation of NAP has registered significant improvements in overall law and order and internal security situation in the country, including a nose dive decline in terrorist incidents from a high of 2060 terrorist attacks in 2010 to around 370 attacks in 2017. A lot of sweat and blood has gone into this herculean effort. Ordinary Pakistani citizens have also stood behind their police, military and their intelligence agencies, never faltering in their resolve to defeat terrorists and their twisted ideas. While terrorists have been pushed back and areas reclaimed, efforts to defeat militant mindset have already begun as per the vision of the National Action Plan.
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While Pakistan Army and ISI fought the war on terror singlehanded under extremely adverse conditions and achieved laudable results in spite of extensive foreign interference, tense civil-military relations, political instability, weak economy, ethnicity, religious divide, lack of rule of law, defects in criminal justice system and sold out media, the US led ISAF in Afghanistan that had military contingents from 48 countries of the world including 28 countries of NATO and had resources in abundance, failed to deliver. Pakistan military helped the ISAF in incapacitating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by handing over more than 600 leaders and operatives to USA.
The US strategic partners India, Afghanistan and Israel have a big role in pushing the US military to the precipice of defeat in Afghanistan and in making USA the most hated country in the world responsible for making the world a dangerous place to live. Whatever semblance of prestige that was left has been soiled by Donald Trump. He is not only a security risk to USA but also to the world at large.
Today, the US and its puppet regime in Kabul are in dire strait and unable to confront the onslaught of spring offensive launched by the Afghan Taliban. Their policy of achieving objectives through use of excessive force has boomeranged. To cover up their embarrassment and hide their ineptness, fiascos and botches, Pakistan has been made into a convenient scapegoat and is held responsible for all their failures. Continued instability in Afghanistan is attributed to so-called safe havens of Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. So far not a single hideout has been pointed out since there is none. To maximize pressure, India has kept the Line of Control in Kashmir hot, is breaking all records of human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and has resorted to water terrorism. Kabul has been poised aggressively toward Pakistan.
‘Do more” mantra was sung by USA for years and Pakistani leaders did its bidding obediently, naively thinking that by doing so it will make Pakistan safe. Gen Bajwa put an end to it by refusing to play their dirty game aimed at bleeding Pakistan and making it a failed state. He said that Pakistan has done enough and will not do any more and its now the turn of others to do more. His defiance is being described as ‘Bajwa doctrine’.
Finding themselves in a big dilemma, Pakistan was constantly threatened by Indo-US-Afghan nexus of dire consequences if it didn’t change its defiant stance. India and USA have been making efforts to place Pakistan on black list by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) this month so that the US and UN could impose sanctions. And when Pakistan didn’t budge, the belligerent regimes in Washington and Kabul descended from their high horses and entreated Pakistan to help in achieving temporary peace in Afghanistan.
Monstrous Fazlullah who was enjoying the hospitality and patronage of CIA, NDS and RAW since July 2009 was droned on June 14 in his safe haven of Kunar so as to earn the goodwill of Pakistan. His death will make little difference since another monster Mufti Noor Wali Mahsud has replaced him and safe havens at Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar are still intact, while Khalid Khurasani heading Jamaatul Ahrar, Faqir Muhammad heading TTP Bajaur chapter and Mangal Bagh heading Lashkar-e-Islam are under their good care.
Besides the fractured TTP, the US has brought in Daesh (ISIS) to reinvigorate war on terror in Pakistan. Fencing of border is being objected to and fence erectors often fired upon. Pakistan is also subjected to 5th generation war to create divisions in society, inject political instability, chaos and anarchy and foment civil war. Focus of enemies of Pakistan is on Pak Army and ISI, the two institutions that could not be penetrated.
Sole aim of sponsored Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) led by Pashteen Mehsud is to undermine the achievements and sacrifices of the Army and to discredit it in the eyes of the Pashtuns in particular. PTM is being backed by India, Afghanistan, USA, West and Israel as well as by Asfand Wali led ANP, PkMAP, NGOs and liberals in Pakistan.
The effects of the 5th generation silent war are being felt by the people of Pakistan that have largely been mind-cloned through media war. Intolerance levels have peaked, while polarization among the mainstream parties has climaxed. Despite the sustained bashing of PML-N and the dice being heavily loaded in favor of PTI, the former bereft of its leader is still intact and ready to contest the elections. For the first time there is infighting among all the major political parties over distribution of tickets for general elections due on July 25. With the political temperature touching boiling point, it is feared that there might be bloody clashes during election campaign and on polling day or after announcement of results. Analysts are not ruling out the possibility of occurrence of a political logjam due to a hung parliament, or the losers refusing to accept poll results and opting for strikes and arson.
What makes things ominous for Pakistan is the dangerous agenda of enemies of Pakistan which under no circumstances would allow nuclear Muslim Pakistan knotted with China due to CPEC and other mutually beneficial geo-strategic interests and inclined to get aligned with Russia to become militarily strong and to achieve political stability and economic prosperity. The CPEC is isolating USA, India and Afghanistan and is paving the way for emergence of China-Russia-Pakistan-Iran-Central Asia economic bloc. Under the circumstances, it is vital for the interim government under Nasirul Mulk to hold timely, transparent, fair and free elections and for the Army to ensure law and order and smooth political transition.
Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defense and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. email@example.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.