By S. M. Hali

Terrorism, which has plagued Pakistan and the region for over a decade, demands the utmost utilization of all faculties to defeat the demon. Pakistan’s participation in the war on terror (WoT) is no longer a choice but a compulsion, which envisages not only comprehending the deep complexity of the problem but also devising strategies to defeat it. The armed forces as well as the law enforcing agencies of Pakistan have had to relearn the concepts of warfare from preparing to meet the challenges of conventional threat to mitigating sub-conventional warfare, which includes militancy, insurgency, proxy war and terrorism employed  as  a  means  in  an  insurrectionist  movement  or  undertaken independently.

Sub-conventional war operations necessitate a multi-pronged thrust by all elements of national power to address the root causes. The application of security forces in the initial stages is aimed at providing a secure environment, wherein various institutions of the government can function devoid of any inimical interference. Having provided this environment, the security forces, thereafter, function in a manner that strengthens the hands of the government. The strategy commences with taking cognizance of the threat posed by terrorists and their support networks. In our milieu, the terrorists exploit the feelings and emotions of innocent Muslim inhabitants who are naturally inclined to favor cause of Muslims and promote teaching of Islam. Hence, they inadvertently become targets of terrorist propaganda who project their unfair and illegal designs as Jihad and undertake attacks inflicting serious loss of innocent lives and damage to property in the garb of the holy ritual. The aim of the terror mongers is to create anarchy to further their politically motivated agenda. The real perpetrators plan the suicide bombings but launch innocent individuals to sacrifice their lives promising the simple souls permanent abode in paradise. The modus operandi of the executors of the heinous crime of terrorism is training the hard core recruits to explode bombs, while motivating the informers to play a vital role in the successful execution of the terror attacks. The informers may not be directly involved in suicide bombings and other terrorist activities but rounding them up enables in taking preemptive action to disrupt the terrorist’s machinations.

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As pointed out above, all elements of the national power need to operate in cohesion and coordination to nip the evil in the bud. Currently, law enforcing elements and intelligence agencies undertake sensitive and difficult assignments to identify and locate the terrorist networks including their informers/financiers who provide intelligence support to the terrorists in the implementation of their odious tasks.

The main impediment to the implementation of this strategy by the law enforcing agencies is being asked to justify the legality of their actions. Judicial diktat is that the law holds good for both the assailant as well as those assigned to thwart them. It is essential to take cognizance that combating a faceless enemy, which knows no bounds, hides amongst common folk, operating under the cloak of anonymity; necessitates the employment of unconventional tactics, to smoke out the culprits as well their abettors and aides.

Advanced nations like the USA and Britain have modified anti-terrorism legislature so that the government forces are not encumbered by the need of proving the legality of their actions, lest the real culprits escape the dragnet set up to ensnare them.

The legal system of every country is devised to ensure that every citizen can benefit from legal cover. However in dealing with terrorists, who have neither any national bindings nor respect for the law or human lives, one cannot compromise security and safety of common citizens by exposing the law enforcing agencies to judicial grilling.

In the case of Pakistan, it is imperative that all organizations are on the same page as far as taking concrete steps to eradicate terrorism is concerned.

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Judicial injunctions are suitable for an ideal world, but unfortunately, we dwell in extra ordinary times, which call for extraordinary measures. Terrorists presently under custody, if released by the court due to any plea/judicial discourse will certainly rejoin their organizations bent upon wreaking terror,  and be emboldened by the lacunae in the judicial system, which could not find ample evidence to continue their incarceration.

It has been observed in the near past that hardened terrorists have been made to escape imprisonment through carefully orchestrated jailbreaks so that they could contribute to the monstrous attacks on humanity.

Perhaps the time is ripe to provide legal cover to anti-terrorism organizations so that they continue with their yeoman but thankless service of safeguarding humanity.