Tariq KhosaPakistan: A lethal nexus

IT is time to note the voice of anguish and

desperation of senior police commanders.

“The more serious problem in Pakistan is that the terrorists and insurgents are getting aligned with all kinds of criminals. We are heading for a situation like Mexico where drug lords and street criminals are operating like a corporate firm,” a senior officer told a Senate Committee on the Interior.

Police officers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan said in one voice that criminal gangs were working in tandem with the terrorists and unless the state security apparatus is revamped, the situation would get worse.

A senator from Karachi alleged that militants’ groups like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Baloch Liberation Army operated with the help of local criminals in Lyari and other parts of Karachi.

“If you catch a small fish involved in crime, his backing comes from the TTP whose field operations in Karachi are run by criminals belonging to Waziristan and other tribal areas,” the senator charged.

An inspector general of police conceded before the Senate body that statistics of kidnapping for ransom cases did not reflect the true picture as victims and complainants do not generally come forward out of fear and lack of trust in the police.

The consensus that is emerging is that police arrests and investigations are confined to low-level killers or operators and that the planners, facilitators and masterminds remain out of reach because of official incompetence and the lack of will or capacity to handle complex cases of terrorism with professionalism and integrity.

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Such a situation sometimes results in desperate remedies.

Stopping just short of recommending that the police should take decisions to “crush the known criminals” on their own, the Senate committee’s chairman suggested that law enforcement personnel should use strong-arm techniques to curb crime rather than wait for the outcome of court cases against the criminals.

Those subscribing to this school of thought believe in eliminating the criminals rather than the crime. Staged encounters and killing the killers are billed as a battle between ‘evil’ (the criminal) and ‘good’ (the cop).

This mindless and violent course of action is resorted to and encouraged in an environment that actually shows contempt for the rule of law and due process.

In fact, what is needed is an attempt at a deeper understanding of organised crime and its developing nexus with terrorism and militancy. Our policymakers and police officers should not ignore this any further.

State failure correlates with the presence of organised crime groups. Vulnerability may be at its zenith where the shared interests of terrorists and organised criminals generate a cumulative impact.

Over time, the weakening of intelligence and investigative processes, shoddy collection of evidence, poor follow-up and prosecution during the trial stage and the tendency to muzzle the voices of truth have greatly harmed the efficacy of the criminal justice system.

The intersection of organised crime and terrorism has taken different forms: we have seen alliances between criminal and terrorist groups or direct management by criminals in terrorist activities and involvement by militants in criminal activities.

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One of the main reasons why crimes are committed is to tap funds needed for carrying out terrorist activities — this is arguably one of the stronger links in the organised crime and terrorism nexus.

Examples include kidnappings for ransom and bank robberies by the sectarian terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and by the TTP. Similarly, ethnic and sub-nationalist militant groups are known to indulge in kidnappings, extortion, robberies and to even provide hired assassins.

Combating organised crime is futile if income opportunities in the documented economy do not exist and critical ‘enabler’ elements such as corruption are not addressed. Those resorting to organised crime probably have more ties to high-ranking politicians or state functionaries.

Meanwhile, the absence of good governance further strengthens the nexus between militants and criminals. Lack of capacity of the state to provide social services and dispute resolution mechanisms is exploited to the hilt by militants such as the Taliban.

The nexus between crime and militancy can be broken by strengthening state institutions that enforce the law and deliver justice without fear or favour. The writ of the state in the safe havens, usually in the country’s periphery, needs to be established through the creation of a benign and benevolent state machinery.

Instead of using the military or civil armed forces as a routine measure of establishing the state’s writ, a combination of effective policing and judicial institutions needs to be nurtured along with the establishment of local government systems.

The certainty of punishment is more important than the severity of the sentence. Zero tolerance against criminal activities and violence will lead to an environment in which organised crime will find it hard to form a nexus with militancy or exploit the governance machinery.

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An effective community policing model produces the community police officer who acts as a bridge between citizens and the state and keeps an eye on unusual and suspicious activities in his jurisdiction. Similarly, residents’ associations are encouraged to nominate motivated citizens to work with the police in identifying issues of concern.

This model leads to problem-oriented policing through which a cross-section of professional police and allied government machinery get together to address a certain type of lawlessness or a grave problem relating to organised crime and complete the task at hand to the entire satisfaction of the community.

Only committed, professional and honest police officers can earn and win the trust of the community.

Instead of giving in and losing hope, the police need to show leadership qualities and boost the sagging morale of the law enforcement services by standing up to the criminal mafia and its patrons in the corridors of power. They will soon find public support to be their true strength in serving the community.

The writer is a retired police officer

Courtesy: Daily Dawn