Finally a policy to decipher

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Wednesday, March 5, 2014

THE National Internal Security Policy (NISP) is not based on rocket science. But does it need to be? True, the policy could have been written better. It could have been more direct in defining the vision, tangible goals and implementation strategy.

It could have omitted fluff, especially in the initial part that summarises the content of the concept paper. The interior minister could have been more candid in explaining how it all comes together. The prime minister could have shown charisma and gravitas in declaring that this nation will defeat terror.

But none of this obfuscates that NISP is a solid step forward. In a country where the civilian part of the state has never considered itself responsible for national security (whether internal or external), we have made a fresh start. Up until now we’ve had khakis pontificate exclusively on matters of security and brief ‘civlies’ on how to think and what to think about it.

Finally we have the civilian part of the divide waking up and taking stock, and the responsibility for the challenge confronting us. This is no small mercy and needs to be celebrated in its own right.

Except one (identified at the end), NISP flags all the root causes of terror: organised anti-state actors; their use of religious ideology to garner local support and recruit from amongst the poor and vulnerable; use of mosques and madressahs to nurture hate-based narratives; external patronage and funding for terror; inadequate capacity and inefficient performance of law-enforcement agencies; an intelligence black hole due to lack of coordination; dysfunctional governance and criminal justice systems that neither incentivise citizens nor deter crime.

The responses to these challenges are there even if scattered. The NISP seems to be simultaneously employing all three approaches to fight terror: anti-insurgency, anti-terror and criminal justice based. To the critics of military operations, it says that had operations such as the one in Swat not been undertaken, things would be a lot worse. But beyond clearing territory seized by anti-state militias, the military can’t build and develop institutions of governance and communities.

Thus, the military will probably be used in the anti-insurgency drive especially to reoccupy territory beyond the writ of the state, such as in North Waziristan. There will be an effort to talk to those who wish to talk, give up arms and submit to constitutional rule. Isolate those who wish to fight and give them a good fight. Undertake de-radicalisation programmes to reincorporate within society those who eschew violence. Strengthen governance to pre-empt emergence of fresh recruits and reform the criminal justice system to convict criminals and create deterrence.

Other than in insurgency-hit territories, terrorist organisations will be confronted by a new civilian-controlled paramilitary agency called the Rapid Response Force. And this will be dove-tailed with the criminal justice approach to fight crime and ensure that crime syndicates do not prosper or join hands with the terror syndicate.

Nacta is meant to run the show. It will bring together civilian (federal and provincial) and military leadership to oversee the implementation of both the hard and the soft measures comprising this policy. It will also coordinate intelligence sharing through the Directorate of Internal Security and its Intelligence and Analysis Centre. The composition and leadership of these organs is meant to bring together expertise from civil and military intelligence outfits without triggering a turf war between them.

What is missing from this policy is acknowledgement of Pakistan’s original sin: the use of non-state actors in pursuit of national security goals. While the abuse of religious ideology together with poverty forms part of our terror puzzle, what put the puzzle together was state policy. The creation and use of non-state actors in Kashmir and in Afghanistan was deliberate. The transformation of non-state actors into anti-state actors was a natural outcome of the adjustment made by Pakistan to its foreign policy mandated by the world changing around us. The legitimacy and desirability of our flawed jihadi project is ingrained in our security mindset. This project needs to be extinguished as a matter of principle. Our leadership needs to identify the decision to create and use non-state actors as a policy failure and not their transformation from non-state into anti-state. Thus, we must not attempt reconversion of anti-state actors to pro-state, but focus on the neutralisation of their militant gene and their transformation into peaceful citizens.

While isolating and fighting terror groups, we must not succumb to the temptation to carve out a pro-state TTP to fight the anti-state TTP or arm tribesmen to oust TTP. The state must fight the fight and tribesmen should only figure as part of the strategy to hold the peace once the territory has been cleared. A natural corollary of this thinking is that we must not nurture our reactive old assets such as Masood Azhar to signal that India better back off from aiding subversion in Pakistan.

Pulling this off will require Raheel Sharif to exhibit vision, leadership and resolve even more than Nawaz Sharif. The what-if-ers will argue that the world might change again and pro-state jihadis might still prove to be the best part of our national security arsenal. But they will be wrong, just as much as those who first conceived this venomous project. Nothing that claims 50,000 citizens can be called an asset in a sane place. Do the two Sharifs have what it will take to make Pakistan a sane place?

Author Information

Written by Babar Sattar

Author Information: The writer is a lawyer.

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