Terrorism and the responsibilities of NACTA, NSA Office and NAP

A Letter from Prometheus

Economically in the Intensive Care Unit (IUC), socially and politically in a chaotic phase after Project Imran backfired and thereafter was abandoned; Pakistan is again trying hard to kill the multi-headed serpent of terrorism.

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Last Friday the supreme body of Pakistan that looks after the security dynamics of the country started three-day deliberations in Islamabad headed by prime minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to review economic, social, and strategic security. The supreme body, also known as National Security Committee (NSC), is a component of the civil and military leadership of the country chaired by the Prime Minister. The Committee can ask anybody to join the meeting if needed.

The recent meeting was attended by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Asim Munir and other service chiefs were also present. The Committee was briefed about economic conditions, regional security, Afghanistan, terrorism, and reemergence of the TTP. Available information from insiders indicates that the new COAS is quite clear-headed and that we cannot compromise our security to protect the interests of anybody. If it is so, I trust that Pakistan shall think only about Pakistan instead of compromising its security to benefit Afghans in the future.

Pakistan fought against terrorism effectively through Operation Zarb-e-Azb which was followed by Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. Everybody who has an interest in security dynamics knows the foreground, background, and result of these operations, therefore there is no need to go into detail about them. The results were positive and security forces almost cleaned the country and Pakistan became a normal state to live in. However, it was short-lived and we saw things were not normal as the state was telling us by the end of 2020. Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) slowly but surely started coming back to Afghan-Pakistan border areas and then the situation became out of control by the beginning of the year 2022 when Swat Valley made an SOS call through huge public protests against the TTP regrouping.

However, the state had been telling them there was no need to worry and some TTP members had arrived back from Afghanistan to rejoin their families. This regrouping was apparently the result of talks Pakistan initiated with the TTP on the advice of the Afghan Taliban. The public had no option just to accept what the state was doing and what the state was claiming. Censorship during the PTI era discouraged independent journalists from report5ng the situation from the ground and TTP reclaimed areas it lost during several military operations in Swat Valley as well in the erstwhile FATA region.

I have reasons to believe that the PTI government took security as a top priority and institutions that were responsible for follow-ups and keeping an eye on the situation like NACTA and the office of the National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister were almost non-operational.

Without going into details about what happened in the past 40 years, we understand that after the massacre of children in Army Public School Peshawar the state understood that the sword that was cast and crafted in the Jihad era of the mid-1970s was now slaughtering their own children and was not confined only to common people; so the state decided to think otherwise and the National Action Plan (NAP) was formed and it was decided that the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) that was formed in 2009 would be monitoring authority of the NAP.

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A revised NAP was formulated by NACTA and approved by the government in 2021. Now, the revised NAP is the main pillar of the government’s policy initiatives against extremism and terrorism. What NACTA is doing can be judged by the fact that if someone visits NACTA’s website can find the last three news that are; “Change of Command of National Coordinator NACTA” publishing date July 2, 2018, “National Dialogue on Preventing Violent Extremism Programming in Pakistan: Challenges, Lessons Learned and Way Forward” publishing date October 23, 2021, and “NACTA & Shaoor Foundation Organized Vice Chancellors Conference at Peshawar” publishing date April 22, 2022.

There is a dire need of revamping the entire system responsible to manage terrorism-related issues if the multiparty government is really serious to mitigate the non-serious and nonsensical strategy the PTI government had about the issue of clamping terrorism in Pakistan.

I think the above references are enough to know the pace of work and initiatives taken by NACTA in the last four years. According to the term of reference of NACTA, it is a federal authority to formulate counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies. NACTA is responsible for doing research about the causes of extremism and terrorism, and publishes it periodically and makes liaison with international bodies to facilitate cooperation in relevant fields.

In reality, NACTA has no contact with the media, no regular briefings given to media about threats and scope of work, and no information on what NACTA has done so far since the latest wave of terrorism that started last October. You can find in the record the last annual report that is the annual report for 2020. You can find the “NACTA Watch” for June 2020 and June 2021.  You cannot find any Pakistan Journal of Terrorism Research on the NACTA website though I believe they uploaded one in June 2020.

Meanwhile, the National Action Plan (NAP) looks as if it has been napping since 2018 if you talk about initiatives taken by the provinces to mitigate terrorism. In simple words, nothing concrete is done by civilian authorities to control terrorism in Pakistan, and as a result, we are facing the rise of the TTP again in Pakistan.

Once upon a time, there was an office of National Security Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister in Pakistan and I remember that this office used to work as a link among security organizations, media men, think tanks, academicians, and writers. Once headed by Lt. Gen (retd) Nasser Janjua, who fought and won the war against terrorism and against separatists in Balochistan, used to hold deliberations, background discussions, seminars, talks, and conferences to get maximum input from the public and to get feedback as well as suggestions.

General Janjua knew the currents and undercurrents and threads of terrorism in Pakistan because he also served in Swat and led operations against terrorism, and his successful handling of Swat operations was the reason that the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif placed him in Balochistan as Commander XII Corps, also known as Quetta Corps, because Balochistan was burning and separatists were gaining a stronghold. There is no need to go into details about the successes of General Janjua because his work had been appreciated by friends and foes and he became a buddy of youth and common people who were victims of terrorism and he left Baluchistan as the most trusted friend of Balochis. He was a “catharsis center” for everybody who was a victim or concerned about extremism in Baluchistan.

In one of his interviews with this writer, he said believed in seeking closure of conflict instead of winning it because he does not want to give a sense of losing to anybody who is a stakeholder in the issue. His desire to make Balochistan a hub of economic activity by making Balochistan a focal point for trade is known to everybody. He resigned on 27  June 2018, when Pakistan had as caretaker Prime Minister Mr Justice (retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk.

Many friends had been asking him the reasons for his resignation that he never shared with anybody, but I could feel that the system was not ready to accept a straightforward and blunt person after Mian Nawaz Sharif was removed. I could also smell that former COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa had not had very cordial interaction with him. After the removal of Mian Nawaz Sharif from the PM Office, General Janjua was confined to his office practically with no resources, staff, or desire of civil and military leadership to utilize his expertise.  He wanted to work but the state had something else in its mind.

We thereafter saw that the office of NSA had been non-operational till Moeed Yusuf was brought from the USA to hold this sensitive seat and he failed to get trust and respect from regional stakeholders like the central Asian republics as well as from the then Afghan leadership. He might have had no connection with people on the ground therefore his work looked just on the surface.

I am of the view that there is a dire need of revamping the entire system responsible to manage terrorism-related issues if the multiparty government is really serious to mitigate the non-serious and nonsensical strategy the PTI government had about the issue of clamping terrorism in Pakistan.

Agha Iqrar Haroon
Agha Iqrar Haroon
The writer is an international award winning journalist who has been in the field since 1988 and appears in national and international media as analyst and political scientist.


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