Implementing National Action Plan; An Assessment

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Pakistan’s new counter-terrorism policy measure known as National Action Plan (NAP) has yielded mixed results. The NAP is another policy instrument utilized by Pakistani policy makers following the terrorist attack on Army public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. Now after two years of announcement of NAP, there exists uncertainty about the effective implementation of NAP. This uncertainty stems from the fact that while devising NAP, no proper and scientific method of measuring progress on each segment of the strategy was put in place, which is still lacking after more than two years of policy implementation. Therefore, progress on NAP has become an issue of political point scoring at the cost of losing public support, which is crucial for fighting militancy.

Let us analyze what are the reasons and factors behind criticism on National Action Plan’s implementation.

Problems in Devising of National Action Plan:

The twenty-point NAP is like a wish list or objectives. There are also vague points with no clear logic or reasons to be part of National Action Plan such as ‘Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab’ or ‘Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorism’.  Those experts who took part in devising National Action Plan blame government for not sharing complete plan and only picked up the twenty points which were like recommendations or possible outcome of the plan

Lack of proper implementation Mechanism

It lacks implementation mechanism. Most of the law enforcement is now provincial subject. Apex Committees at provincial level were formed to implement NAP. These committees constitute both civil and military leadership operating in the province including all law enforcement agencies. Over the period, it emerged that clarity was lacking. Different provinces cites different types of actions under same point of NAP.  There was a need to delegate roles and responsibility at district and provincial level. Each point is related to different and sometimes more than one departments/ministries.

Oversight of NAP:

Initially National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was assigned to oversee the implementation of NAP. However, Prime Minister was not satisfied with the progress and in August 2016 NAP’s implementation oversight was handed over to National Security Division working under National Security Advisor Lt. General (r). Nasir Janjua. Interestingly, strengthening of NACTA is one of the twenty-points of NAP but ironically, NACTA was assigned to oversee the progress on the plan. NACTA could only record and report progress but it was in no position to coordinate due to its own institutional deficiencies. It is now six months that NAP’s implementation oversight has been assigned to NSD and the progress is being reviewed regularly during Apex Committees meetings in provincial capitals while NSD is trying to make the coordination better among stakeholders.

 No KPI Devised

It is also observed that no benchmarks or Key Performance Indicators were devised to gauge or measure progress on NAP. In the absence of KPIs it is almost impossible to evaluate progress or counter check government’s claims of progress. It has been observed that much progress has been done on many points but due to lack of benchmarks one cannot tell what exactly government achieved against which point.

Lack of Uniform Reporting Mechanism

No proper reporting mechanism was adopted. As mentioned earlier, different provinces reported different types of actions, totally unrelated to each other for same point of NAP. Due to lack of uniform reporting mechanism, the central coordinating body, which is now NSD, cannot gauge, evaluate and compare progress among provinces and administrative units. NSD needs to not only develop a uniform reporting mechanism but it should also train the focal persons at provincial level to follow the devised mechanism.

Progress so far

Brief assessment of NAP is as under:-

  • To ensure conviction and quick disposal of terrorism-related cases, military courts were established for two years (till 7 January 2017) via the 21st Constitutional Amend­­ment. Reportedly, a total of 275 cases of terrorism had been referred to the military courts. The courts sentenced 161 militants to death, whereas another 116 were given jail terms, mostly life sentences. Only 12 convicts have been executed so far.
  • To enhance the efficacy of the existing anti-terrorism courts and reduce the backlog of cases in Sindh, the apex committee decided to install 30 additional courts. No such development was seen in other provinces.
  • One point reiterates armed militias won’t be allowed to operate. It conforms to Article 256 of the Constitution. In FATA, the army dismantled the infrastructure and training facilities of such militias. In Karachi, the Rangers and police jointly reduced the operational space for such forces.
  • Strengthening and activating NACTA lies in the federal government’s do­main. There is still a need to empower NACTA. The authority has recently shifted to its new building. Joint Directorate of Intelligence is being developed, NACTA has initiated Countering Violent Extremism National Policy, it has created good atmosphere with Madrassahs but still there is long way to go to properly take charge of the fight against terrorism.
  • Countering hate speech and extremist material is the shared jurisdiction of the district administration, police, and special branches of the provincial police. Crackdown has been conducted against sectarian literature in the country but it is an unending struggle, which can be complimented through other soft interventions. Many books, magazines, and periodicals have been banned. However, social media is not under government’s control. A PTA team tries to block blogs of militants in Pakistan but they are accessible through proxy. Reporting of social media accounts is also underway. Although hate speech could not be stopped and it may not be stopped forever but a consistent pressure keeps the message limited to fewer audience now.
  • Choking financing for militant groups: On the orders of State Bank of Pakistan, banks froze accounts of at least 4000 individuals for suspicions of terror financing. Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) is operational since 2009 while the government recently decided to establish the National Terrorists Financing Investigation Cell to track financial transactions meant to fund extremism and terrorism. It is also pertinent to note that kidnapping for ransom was one of the major sources of finance, which is significantly dropped due to IBOs in the country.
  • Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations: In acting against the re-emergence of proscribed groups, the ministries of foreign affairs and interior have already notified such organizations. In the provinces, it’s the responsibility of the Counter Terrorism Department, Special Branch, police and administration to reduce the room for such groups. It is also their joint responsibility to ensure they don’t resurface with new names. However, government is blamed for not going hard on certain groups due to some political consideration. Surfacing of head of banned outfit Sipa-e-Sahaba Moulana Ludhyanvi in public rallies as well as meeting with interior minister Ch. Nisar stir sever criticism in the media.
  • Raising and deploying a dedicated Counter Terrorism force is linked to the provinces. No independent force erected at national level, however, counter terrorism departments of police have been reinforced and operationalized.
  • Taking effective steps against religious persecution: Constitutionally minorities are well protected however; government needs to give more attention to protect minorities. Sindh Assembly passed. A bill has been passed by Sindh Assembly against forced conversions of minorities. Senate of Pakistan also passed Hindu Marriage Bill.
  • Registration and regulation of Madrassahs: Considerable progress has been made in coordination with Ittihad Tanzeemat Madaras-e-Deenya Pakistan (ITMP). Madrassa boards agreed on a registration form proposed by ministry of interior. The boards have also agreed on audits of Madrassah’s. However, implementation of the agreed upon decisions are related to district administrations and it will take some time to produce the desired outcome.
  • Ban on glorification of terrorism and militant groups through print and electronic media is the responsibility of PEMRA and media gatekeepers. The drafting of the Electronic Media Code of Conduct is a positive intervention. Now mainstream media does not give coverage to statements and claims of militants. Glorification of terrorism was already not allowed but militants does not seek permission from government for their actions.
  • FATA Reforms: FATA Reforms Committee has completed its work and presented to the government a comprehensive reforms recommendations. However, some government allies like Moulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Achakzai are opposing these reforms and government wants to make them implemented with consensus.
  • Dismantling communication networks of terrorist organisations: Government made sure biometric verification of SIM Cards and in the process millions of unverified numbers have been blocked. Measures have been taken to stop Afghan SIMs in Pakistan’s border areas. Govt suspends mobile phone networks on the eve of important occasions which cause irritation for public but it saves many lives as well.
  • Measures against internet and social media abuse for terr­­orism purposes is the domain of the FIA’s cybercrime unit and PTA. Apart from legal intervention, the capacity-building of investigators is required. For which no worthwhile progress was witnessed. Cyber Crimes bill was also passed by National Assembly in April 2016 however, activists for freedom of speech declared it against the spirit of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
  • Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab: Province-wise operation against LeJ has been seen since NAP announced. Malik Ishaq and Haroon Bhatti and many other top militants have been eliminated in Punjab which was blamed previously for having an unannounced alliance with LeJ militants. Punjab has lost its interior minister to a suicide bombing in the process. Also DAESH remained prime target of security forces in the province during the year.
  • Taking the ongoing operation in Karachi to its logical conclusion, the federal agencies FIA, NAB and Rangers are actively assisting the Sindh government.
  • To make reconciliation a success in Balochistan is the responsibility of the center, the provincial government and the political parties. Progress has been made. Key rebel Brahmadagh Bugti showed readiness to reconcile. Hundreds of militants along with key commanders have laid their weapons with reconciliation efforts by the government. Last two years have seen unprecedented celebrations of Pakistan’s national days in the province. Alienated public is merging back into national folds.
  • Dealing firmly with sectarian militants pertains to home departments, police and special branches. Actions are being taken however, government is regularly blamed by rival leaders of opposing sects. Emergence of DAESH, its collaboration with Lashkar-e-Jhanvi Al-Aalami, recruitment of Shia youth by Iranian backed organizations for Syria and Iraq have made things further complicated for the State.
  • The policy on Afghan refugees rests with the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, the Foreign Office and the provinces. Some progress was made. Government has extended the deadline of repatriation of registered Afghan Refugees a number of times in 2016 and finally it is extended till the end of 2017.
  • Some background efforts towards reforming the criminal justice system was made but its pace is too slow.

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