The Anti-Terror Treatment | Salman Tarik Kureshi

According to a news item, a Daesh (Islamic State or IS) cell has been discoveredin, of all places, the well-heeled, industrious city of Sialkot. Credit goes to our voluble interior minister’s men for having saved us from whatever terror plots this particular gang was in the process of hatching. It is inappropriate now to carp on about the forceful Chaudhry’s denials of Daesh’s presence in the land of the Indus. Those denials were made yesterday; this putrescent abscess has only now burst to the surface.The terror virus has mutated.

Has it been fully cleansed and cauterised? Only time will tell. My point in mentioning it here is to highlight the fact that, when a patient whose system is riddled with a malignant disease is finally undergoing treatment, there remains a likelihood of re-infection by the virus or mutations thereof, for the same reasons the disease was contracted in the first place.Strenuously safeguarding against such potential relapses is itself a part of the curative process. What I would like to emphasise in today’s piece is the process itself: the anti-terror prescription. The steps involved are the same as in any process of curing a systemic malignancy: diagnosis, emergency surgery, long-term treatment and restoration to normal life.

As writers like myself have been pointing out for a couple of decades, the perverted cells of this malignancy havelong been developing in the fabric of our society and the psyches of our citizens.Even inthe initial days of our national existence,our politico-bureaucratic establishmentteamed up with the avowed clerical enemies of our independence and contrived a narrative to plasterover Pakistan’s inherentregional, ethnic and class divisions. An early manifestation of this process was the Objectives Resolution of 1949. So,the infection is not recent,butthere are two periods of especially virulent escalation. The first of these is, of course, the dark age of the usurping tyrant ZiaulHaq, when thecarriers of this evil were consciously multiplied in hisblack laboratories and disseminated throughout the land. The second period is the age of hypocritical denial that followed.

At the climax of the denial, although death and destruction were manifest everywhere, we witnessed the extraordinary spectacle ofour interior minister virtually weeping over the death of a mass murdering terrorist. We also heard the minister’s fellowAitchisoniandharna(sit-in) leader declaiming that the Taliban are our “our brothers” and that, had he been in power, the Pakistani military would not have been “allowed” to enter FATA.

Strange times, indeed but the violent convulsions and massive haemorrhaging of the disease were so horrifically apparent that, finally, treatment had to be undertaken: emergency treatment through military surgery. The army’sCounter Insurgency (COIN) campaignis now in its final stages. That there are some shortcomings and errors of execution is inevitable but these are outside the scope of today’s piece. The key point is that this was an emergency surgical intervention and long-term treatment, and the rehabilitation measures beyond that have yet to be tackled. The latter are not military-related at all but fall squarely in the civilian domain. And this is where the concerns start multiplying

A prescription forthis long-term treatment (counter-terrorism or CT)wasproposed in the National Action Plan (NAP).The NAP lays great emphasis on the choking off of terrorist funding. We do know that, broadly speaking, the main sources of terrorist financing include funds flowing in from the Middle East, income from the narcotics trade, income from other large-scale criminal activities and collections by certain, so-called ‘charities’, in that order. Detecting and investigating such flows is complex and needs trained investigators, such as those in the FIA’s Terrorist Finance Investigation Unit (TFIU).But the position is thatthis unit has for some years now been headless and working with only a skeleton staff. In any case, even a properly manned and orientated TFIU would be insufficient. The need todevelop appropriate investigation outfits at the federal and provincial levels remains untouched. And the funds continue to flow to the terrorists.

Secondly, militant groups shouldhavebeen listed and banned, and members of banned militant groups denied arms licences, passports, travel abroad or financial facilities. It is highly doubtful that anything at all has been done to implement this. With Lal Masjid and JamaatudDawa (JuD) standing out as glaring examples, it is clear that even the list of what is or is not a terrorist group is not a settled issue. Ensuring valid lists of the members thereof and sharing these with all relevant stakeholders, so that their arms licences, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, etc.can be cancelled, is indeed a distant prospect.

We all recall that Senator RazaRabbani wept as he voted for a constitutional amendment setting up military courts to try cases of terrorism for a period of two years. One year has already elapsed but the government has not proposed any measures to enhance the capacity of civilian anti-terrorism courts to take up the task of dispensing justice in terrorism cases, as they must in another year’s time.And there are numerous other CT issues, including protection of prosecutors and witnesses (the refusal of the prosecutors of the Safoora Goth massacre to prosecute the case is an appalling example), absence of forensic labs and fingerprint databases, inability to disrupt terrorists’ use of the internet, failure to ensure proper safeguards against prison breaks and so on and so forth. Most importantly, the entity that has been given the role of monitoring implementation of the NAP is the National Counter Terrorism Authority(NACTA). But, as all concerned will confirm, this entity has still to take off. The government has not evencalled a single meeting of the NACTA board of governors in the last one year.

And the bombs continue to go off as in the MardanNational Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) office a few days ago.The point is that theCOINcampaign was undertaken by the army largely on its own initiative, support by political leaders being ex-post facto and far from universal. ButCT measures are not military in nature. They are a police matter,an issue of effective law enforcement. It is only the local police that can know who has moved into which mohallaor goth(neighbourhood) and what they are up to. But we know that our police force is undermanned, under-equipped, poorly trained and under-motivated. In his bookThe Idea of Pakistan, Stephen Cohen remarked that, while Pakistan was not yet a failed or failing state, the corruption and incompetence of its police apparatus could well drag the country down.

So, who then is going to take matters into their hands? Dare we hope for leadership from the prime ministerof both the COIN and CT campaigns? There is also the roadmap beyond, the recovery and reorientation stage, which includes reorienting education, reviving moral (as opposed to ritualistic) social values, revisiting national narratives and redesigning and rebuilding our tribal areas. I will leave these to another occasion to discuss.


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