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Countering Terrorism

The many reasons why Pakistan is now the “ground zero” of terrorism are well known, it is mostly our own fault for giving this menace time and space. We allowed others to fight their proxy wars on our soil, even worse we actively collaborated in fighting their proxy wars. Negotiations are part of the “soft sell” mechanism to counter terrorism, both the government and opposition are on the same page on this. This must be within the framework of the Constitution with no ambiguity about what to talk about and whom to talk with. Appeasement is not an option, the militants have been single-mindedly vicious targeting mosques, schools, hospitals, funerals, etc, the innocent blood of many old men, women and small children is on their hands.

This minority cannot be allowed to dictate terms at the point of a gun to the “great silent majority” under any circumstances.
Non-violent initiatives required to combat terrorism are, viz (1) dispensing equitable justice (2) providing sound education (3) curbing religious militancy (4) building viable political institutions (5) spurring the economy (6) creating effective police forces and (6) maintaining absolute credibility. Alleviation of the common man’s misery cannot happen without the good governance mechanism of Local Bodies (LB) working effectively, without that democracy is a farce. Why are our ruling politicians are averse to democracy functioning at the grassroots level? Citizens must be active stakeholders in the peace, stability and prosperity of their communities. The local police with their extensive informer network are usually aware of terrorist presence, they seldom pass this on for fear of terrorist reaction. Active information flow about every locality, spotting of strangers among local residents denies the terrorists “safe houses” from where to operate.

Three concentric spheres support the process of death and destruction that terrorists employ to create fear and apprehension in the population. Money provides necessary logistics e.g. explosives, hideouts, travel and the observation of soft vulnerable targets, etc. Within the inner-most circle are the terrorists themselves, surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners, commanders, religious personalities, etc, serving as the terrorism infrastructure. The third circle is of religious, educational and welfare organizations. Spouting a litany of hatred, lies and ignorance, they operate mostly through mosques, madrasas and other religious establishments. The only way to break this evil chain is to make the second circle the primary target, one must be mindful not only of hatred being viciously propagated through incitement in the electronic and printed media but the dissemination of false information by blatant hypocrites.

Corruption not only supports but morphs naturally into “organized crime”, in urban areas in Pakistan this takes the form of land mafia, water mafia, transport mafia, sand mafia, “protection“ rackets, etc. “Organized crime” thrives in our feudal system, they criminally monopolize the civilian administrative mechanism to hold the population in virtual bondage. Exception asides, most local police is a willing partner in both their corruption and organized crime.

Motivated by ideology terrorists need arms and money, criminals are motivated by greed. There is a nexus between corruption, organized crime and terrorism. “Organized Crime” linkages include money-laundering, fabricating passport and identification documents, providing safe houses, supplying explosives, providing couriers who can smuggle drugs, arms and human beings across countries and regions, etc. Drug trafficking supports both criminal and terrorist activity. Terrorist organizations also include common criminals with special skills or access to networks or criminal opportunities. Criminal groups sometimes turn ideological over time. It may be impossible to destroy the logistical network supporting terrorist groups without striking major blows at supporting criminal networks. With increased criminal activity replacing ideology, profit and greed are major motivating factors for operations of some terrorist groups.

Technology has become an essential weapon in the “war against terrorism”. Those fighting terrorism are developing and enhancing technology’s effectiveness to counter terrorism. Conversely, the terrorists can acquire existing technology with relative ease and narrow the huge resource gap that they have to contend with. Developed countries facing the “terrorist sword” are developing technologies on a crash basis to reduce their vulnerability and increase counter terrorist activity.

Politicians engaged in corruption and/or on the fringes of, if not actually involved in, will always be averse to National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) becoming a powerful body. Law and order may be provincial subject, terrorism is Federal problem. The despicable Rahman Malik was behind making NACTA non-functional. Only the very best professionals must be inducted without any political interference or maneuvering for an effective NACTA. It must be given the tools and funding necessary to viz (1) make risk assessments and site vulnerability assessments (2) promote crisis, disaster and emergency situation management (3) Develop and implement national security strategy, policies and procedures and (4) make assessment of quality of current security services, with their recommendations for improvement.

Identifying the most dangerous threats and likely targets thereof, NACTA must be able to: (1) detect people organised in terrorist activity, and monitor their movements; (2) detect the sources of supply of explosive materials: (3) mobilise the defence capability to recognise and counter specific threats; (4) mobilise adequate and coordinated intelligence capability, utilising both human and electronic intelligence; (5) focus on air, sea, rail and road travel as potential terror targets; and (6) use both electronic and physical means to guard the country’s frontiers, involving monitoring and observation of thousands of miles of our borders.

Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) set up in the 90s to eliminate the drug problem can be the model for a Counter Terrorist Force (CTF). Keeping within their mission statement, ANF reduced poppy growth from 30,000 hectares to less than one thousand hectares as of today. The ANF Act covers the collection of information, investigation, complete judicial process, forfeiture of property, destruction of poppy growth, treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and providing alternate means of livelihood to the people involved in this mess, it has latitude to interact with international agencies and bodies. Well-funded to handle its informers, it pays good reward money to its enforcement component.

ANF has its own intelligence set up to identify the flow of drug money. In a symbiotic relationship terrorists thrive on drug money and drug barons provide protection to drug trade. Employment of ANF in CTF role can succeed if the following conditions are met (1) Anti-terrorist laws are passed by Parliament (2) Requisite judicial reforms are introduced to make the electronic evidence admissible in the court of law (to convict the terrorist). (3) A psyops organization is created to feed the media, with a view to bring changes in dogmatic thinking of the people of Pakistan (4) As highlighted by the Abbottabad Commission, an effective mechanism is created to coalesce and coordinate “activate intelligence” and (5) adequate funding is allocated. The ANF Act can be amended for ANF itself to conduct anti-terrorist operations. Capable serving and retired Armed Forces and Police officers must man the CTF.

Given the militant focus on KPK, PTI’s contribution is important for political consensus. The APC is an important milestone to save the country from sliding into an abyss, the Federal Govt must translate the combined political will into reality.

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