THE HOUNOURABLE PRIME MINISTER PLEASE
(Capacity and Terrorism)
By Brig Samson S Sharaf
Not many men have greatness repeatedly thrust on them. Twice you squandered opportunities. You are at the helm for the third time through a contentious process. There are many instances in your present tenure that reflect past conduct. Please overcome your limitations of unidirectional thinking and accumulation of unbridled power and lead this nation to a new era of pluralistic peace and prosperity. It is time you prove many wrong.
The modern notion of politics is moral. It is about inclusivism and sharing. Expediencies and impulsivenesswill ruin a nation at war on multiple dimensions. As the chief executive of this scarred nation, it is your responsibility to forge unity beyond the circle of few trusted patrimonial. Your biggest challenge is not foreign policy but counter terrorism for national consolidation. It is possible if you forge national consensus and delegate institutions to function within the established frame works.
The recent incident at Karachi airport exposed the chunks in your capacity to handle challenges. Disaster management reflects a sorry tale of inefficiency and politicalised administrations.Temporary relief only comes through armed and civil armed forces.Politicised civil administrationsare notorious for misusing power or holding it to appease bullies.
The assault on Minhajul Quran headquarters in Lahore reinforces my argument that Punjab administration and police are highly politicised.Combined with a lower judiciary, they form a trio to let wrongs happen on the weak and perpetuate high handedness when it suits.This questions the ability of civilian led counter terrorism operations particularly in Punjab. You have to ensure this stigma is removed.
I am an affected witness to many such events. In 2009, police stood as bystanders when a Christian colony was burnt by Punjabi Militants. The federal government was helpless. Noculprits were apprehended.Later same militants attacked a rival Muslim group in Faisalabad. Robert Masih was beaten to death in Sambrial and the funeral procession fired upon by police.Gosha e Aman a 100 years old Christian relief centre in GarhiShau Lahore was forcibly occupied by the Punjab Government and remains so today. This centre was run by the same organisation that was once ther alma mater and your trusted colleagues attended. St Joseph’s Colony at BadamiBaghwas burnt to ashes while the police watched. Very recently the Government of Punjab forcibly took over Idara e Kissan, Pakistan’s five star community subsistence programme producing Halla pasteurised milk against orders of a court. Strangely Inhar milk got a kick-start. Model Town tragedy is a sour icing on a rotten cake. You have a challenge to forever break linkages with high handedness in Punjab.
Pakistan’s counter terrorism operations are multi-dimensional. All central directives are yours. In the tribal areas, they are military led with civil administration in tandem. In the frontier Regions (FR), the provincial governments operate under the governor. Sooner than later military will have to go back to barracks and your skills at civilian capacity will be tested. Start building them now before the flames conflagrate to your power centres.
The expected backlash in major urban centres scares me for lack of preparedness. Operations will be civilian led. Militants will target vulnerable points and leaders. Though article 245 of the constitution provides broad guide lines, they were not designed to combat 21st century floating non state actors. Existing constitutional procedures will be a limitation. These holes are likely to be used for political expediencies, party interests and self-aggrandisement.In Model Town, afragile national consensus was scuttled within 48 hours.Hazy directives and injudicious use of force will disrupt synergy and provide relief to militants.
My fear is,if the federal government does not enunciate a comprehensive counter terrorism policy (CTP) backed by legislation,the sweat and blood of LEAs in FATA and innocent Pakistanis could end in nothingness. There are reasons for this argument.
First, the multi-dimensional operations need to be handled in entirety and not piecemeal. The CTP must enunciate immediate, short and long term measures that are to be taken across the entire spectrum of policy with the ultimate objective of making Pakistan a truly egalitarian state that transcends all divides. In terms of the use of force, it means elimination/neutralisation of sectarian, ethnic and separatist militant groups. For Punjab it means operations against Punjabi Taliban and mafias; for Sindh and Balochistan additional action against ethic and sub nationalist armed groups. It also means elimination of armed qabza groups, extortionists, criminal gangs and armed wings of political parties. This is a tall order for affected political parties but you have to set the precedence.
Secondly, the present laws leave yawing gaps for exploitation. The Criminal Court Procedures and Evidence Act are suited for peace time trials. The handling of this menace in courts, preparations of criminal proceedings, protection of witness and prosecutors are not effective. 8000 of 11,000 accused released by courts returned to acts of terrorism. Judges had to leave the country after passing death sentences. Police investigators and intelligence officials have been murdered in broad day light. Trials through court martial will only be possible in limited scenarios. Civil courts in urban centres will remain under immense pressures. The CTP will have to cater for the inherent extra-constitutional sovereign authority under a higher law of self-preservation not subject to normal judicial review. Judicial oversight will have to limit itself to legal questions. A selected judicial cadre could be co-opted with twin objectives to deal with questions of law related to security and to act as surrogates for public and fundamental human rights. This would ensure credible legislative and judicial oversight. Under the ‘political question doctrine’, judges will have to avoid jurisdiction over intelligence controversies, allowing resolution of national security disputes to the government and its select parliamentary committees.
Thirdly, absence of a foreign minister is damning; the interior ministry also appears to be out of the loop. The synergy to counter terrorism operation warrants a powerful central authority with its tiers in provinces and districts. You have to think on lines of National and Provincial Strategic Command Centres to direct and control the operations. The fiasco at Karachi airport and massacre at Model Town Lahore should form respective case studies on how to use force and how not to encourage outlawry. Together, the exercise should result in detailed standing operating procedures for judicious and timely employment of force.
Fourthly, the counter terrorism operation sanctioned in North Waziristan must meet logical ends in elimination of terrorists’ and criminal sanctuaries in Punjab and Karachi. The approach has to be even handed and consistent. This is homework you accepted on becoming the Prime Minister and please do not leave it for others.