LUBP Exclusive: Proposed Counter Terrorism Strategy of Pakistan – July 2013


LAHORE: The Centre for Peace and Security Studies (CPSS) has proposed changes in the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NCTS) and sent its draft proposals to the premier and the interior minister, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The proposed strategy revolves around 4Ts — trace, trail, tackle and transform – to deal with terrorism by Jihadist-sectarian terrorist groups (mainly Takfiri Deobandi militants of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba, Taliban (TTP) etc). The outline is also published in Express Tribune newspaper by Mr. Asad Kharal.






Strategic Context

1.          Pakistan is facing peculiar circumstances. The elements resorting to insurgency in FATA are also carrying out terrorism in urban centers of Pakistan. They have sympathizers, facilitators, sleeper agents and activists across the country.

2.          Karachi and Balochistan are also suffering from same ailments but are different in nature.

3.          More than 48000 people have been killed by terrorists in Pakistan. The efforts to bridle them have been disjointed and lacked sustainability. Resultantly the terrorists and militants have become more well-entrenched and stronger than they were a few years ago.

4.          Albeit some serious damage has been done to the command and control of al Qaeda by the US drone campaign and to Tehreek-e-Taliban by military operations yet they are alive and vibrant and are striking with full fury. They continue to pose a threat to our own security; and groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi etc affiliated TTP and Al Qa’ida have emerged over the past four years to be a substantial threat in their own right.

5.          Some other groups, independent from Al Qa’ida and TTP but broadly sympathetic to their aims, in FATA and other areas, continue to emerge and to conduct attacks across Pakistan.

6.          It seems that the following factors will continue to enable terrorist groups to grow and to survive: sectarianism and religious extremism; spillover of violence from Afghanistan; presence of foreign militants and their sympathizers in Pakistan; weak control over mullah, masjid and madrassah; radicalization;  economic disparity; weak writ of the government and absence of security policy/counter terrorism strategy.

7.          The threats we face are multi dimensional which, in addition to al Qaeda, TTP, LeJ etc include foreign interference and separatist forces as well. The splinter groups of jehadi organizations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa are equally dangerous. They all have mingled up.

8.          The threat from these groups is of very high level. It has struck hard at our economy. We have been gradually isolated from international community. Foreigners, investors and tourists, do not come to Pakistan and we are not very welcome to their countries. We are living in isolation and vacuum which is becoming deeper day by day.

9.          There is a need to formulate comprehensive and coordinated counter terrorism and counter insurgency strategies to handle the multi pronged hydra. The policy makers must realize that there is an existential threat to Pakistan and it must be neutralized within this period. Therefore a more aggressive approach to counterterrorism must be adopted.

The Goals of CT activity


The strategic goal of first phase of counterterrorism strategy is the reduction of the scope of terrorism and the damage it causes. This goal is dynamic and will change according to changing circumstances.

Long term goal is the eradication of terror.

The 4Ts Strategy

The strategy will revolve around the following work streams:


Ø Trace   To find out/identify the targets i.e. terrorists, supporters, sympathisers, financers etc.


Ø Trail  To keep a persistent and focused eye on their activities, hide-outs, modus-operandi.


Ø Tackle  Arrest, Prosecute, Punish, Negotiate (from position of strength), Rehabilitate.


Ø Transform Mullah – Masjid – Madrassah, Hearts and Minds Policy. Our Response to attacks.


TRACE:  ‘Know Thy Enemy’ is rule number one to unleash successful campaign against the enemy. The purpose of Trace is to carry out sustained intelligence work to identify and find out the terrorists, their supporters, sympathizers, financers and sleeper agents. Intelligence agencies are supposed to do this job in a sustained manner. This data building would require pain staking intelligence work through humint (human intelligence like agents and sources) and techint (technical intelligence like telephone tapping etc) Trace stage would require active and agile intelligence agencies equipped with modern technology.


Trail –   Intelligence has to do more work after tracing the terrorists. They have to keep track of their activities, formation of networks and plans. Trailing would be essential to know the modus operandi of different groups and to create a data of patterns of their actions. Trailing also aims at finding out the factors and financers that help the terrorist groups thrive and flourish. A close and sustained coordination among the intelligence agencies would be required to perform this job. Like intelligence cycle, trailing would be a continuous cycle that would cover all aspects like extremism, sectarianism, militancy etc. It would require proper legislation to employ wire tapping and eavesdropping in a just and correct manner.    


Tackle – The efforts of first two stages would be employed at this stage to neutralize the terrorists, militants and extremists. The operations against them would be carried out on basis of intelligence collected during first two stages. At this stage the intelligence, police and courts will have to work in unison and with great level of trust otherwise terrorists will take advantage and get acquitted.

Proper tackling can debilitate the terrorist groups resulting in strong position for the government to start negotiations to achieve desired results. Those who surrender would be rehabilitated by training them to earn for themselves and become useful citizens again.

Transform:-  Religious extremism and sectarianism give birth to terrorism. The trio of Mullah-Masjid-Madrassah, though essential part of our society, is sadly being misused due to peculiar circumstances prevailing in Pakistan ever since the inception of Afghan jehad against the soviet forces. It needs to be addressed through educative and corrective measures. It would be counter radicalization attempt too.

If the hearts and minds of the public are won through various measures i.e. employment, development etc, it would be difficult for terrorists to survive in the area.

Transformation of emergency services is required to ensure coordinated and quick response to terrorist attacks.

Reforms to Run the Strategy

                     i.        National Counter Terrorism Force (NCTF) shall be established. It will have intelligence and law enforcement powers. It will collect information and strike at the terrorists itself.

ii.        Regular police will continue to do its routine crime control work and cooperate with NCTF in target hardening and cordoning etc.

iii.        National Counter Insurgency Force (NCIF) shall be established. It will replace armed forces in insurgency hit areas. NCIF will operate in insurgency hit areas. (Arguments given at p-11 para-4)

iv.        Withdrawal of Army. Army would be withdrawn gradually and replaced by NCIF piecemeal unit by unit, when fully trained and properly equipped to meet the challenges of insurgency in FATA area.

v.        Intelligence Directorate will be set up to overcome the perennial issue of the difficulty of coordinating intelligence between various intelligence set-ups belonging to a different element of the security apparatus. It will cater to the intelligence needs of NCTF and NCIF. (Intelligence is the major weapon against terrorism)

vi.        Ministry of Security and Counter-Terrorism shall be formed to work as the controlling authority of all counter-terrorism endeavours. Ideally the PM or the Interior Minister shall hold this portfolio himself to ensure effectiveness and overcome bottlenecks of coordination. (Coordination of the various bureaucracies and departments engaged in counter terrorism is absolutely essential.)

vii.        Legislation. The enactment of certain new laws and the revision of some old ones will play an important role in bringing about the collapse of terrorist groups. During British campaign against IRA the laws were repeatedly amended and enacted, i.e. The 1973 Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act (EPA), Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). This act extended the government’s powers of arrest and detention and strictly controlled movement of terrorist suspects between Britain and Ireland, the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act, etc

India enacted Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1987, familiarly known as TADA, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which superseded it. Under TADA, all of Punjab was designated a “notified area” in 1988.

           viii.        Revamping of Intelligence. Intelligence is the main weapon against terrorism. It must be honed up to meet the challenges. It must be ensured that intelligence does not become the information provider only. It should be empowered to take action on basis of its intelligence. The following steps must be taken to make it effective:

      i.        Revamping of intelligence agencies.

     ii.        Reliance on professionals having experience and training in intelligence work.

   iii.        Continuous efforts to enhancing the capacity of the intelligence officers.

   iv.        Tasking them properly.

    v.        Equip them with modern technology.

               ix.        Counter Radicalization. There have been isolated and luke warm efforts like ‘Sabioon’ run by army and TEVTA based rehabilitation by Counter Terrorism Department, Punjab. It must be more wide spread, pro active and preemptive. Mullah-Masjid-Madrassah should be targeted for counter radicalization.

                  x.        Revival of systems in FATA. The writ of civil administration through Political Agents and Maliks should be revived to give a semblance of return of normalcy. State power should be behind their backs for their protection and to enable them to work effectively.


1.        Target the Middle level leadership:   

Strike continuously and comprehensively at the local medium-rung cadres amongst the terrorists with all means including killing, arrests, amnesty and recruitment as sources. It can debilitate or even annihilate the terrorist groups. The capture or killing of a terrorist group leader can be a bonus. Successful targeting of middle level operational commanders can also render the leading terrorists unimportant.

2.        Selectiveness in offensive counterterrorist activity.

In order to avoid backlash and resentment it is essential to be selective when choosing the means. Offensive activity should be used for the purposes thwarting certain attacks, disrupting the terror organization’s activities, inflicting damage on its infrastructure, and deterrence, but not just for punitive reasons. It is important to ensure the use of selective offensive methods and means that will minimize damage on innocent parties as much as possible.


3.        Defensive-protective activity.

Due to the fact that security activities necessitate extensive recruitment of manpower, the security system should be based on at least partially recruited volunteers. The activation of volunteers within the counterterrorist system will also help reinforce the public’s morale and provide the public with psychological support when contending with terror.


4.        Replacement of Army with NICF.

Image and morale are fuel for the fighting spirit of the armed forces which must remain intact to enable them to clinch successes and victories in battles and wars. But both, image and morale, are likely to be the casualties when army has to fight prolonged internal wars. Hundred successes of army can be easily marred with just a few excesses which are not very unusual in protracted military campaigns within the country. This necessitates replacing army with NICF to save its image and morale.

Nevertheless it might not be an easy decision and process to replace army with NICF due to strategic and financial constraints. It would require deep and objective deliberations and discussions between the army and the civil government to reach a workable transition plan.

Once NICF takes the charge the army would be largely confined to its role in the insurgency hit areas to patrolling and cordoning instead of directly fighting the militants. It can run medical camps in “terrorist-infested areas” from which most doctors have fled.


5.        Control.

The subordination of all security entities to the legislative body must be clearly defined. Representatives of the public must supervise the secret activities of intelligence community, especially the armed forces agencies, and make sure they are carried out only within the framework of the law.


6.        Jurisdiction.

It must be clarified that all operative actions taken in the framework of the country’s counterterrorist activities are subject to jurisdiction, and it is important to establish the right of anyone who regards him or herself as victimized by counterterrorist activity to receive remedy from the courts.


7.        Administrative punitive measures.

All types of administrative punitive measures must be subject to judicial review, be as limited as possible, and be confined to a definite period of time. They must be implemented for the purpose of achieving operational goals that are defined in legislation and never for other purposes.


8.        Collective punishment.

Collective punishment should be avoided at all times. It is vital to ensure that any punitive or operative activity (such as closure, curfew, or encirclement or even knee jerk ban on pillion riding) that affects a wider population than is actually involved in terror will be used solely for operative and not for punitive goals.


9.        Avoid Inciting.

Counterterrorist measures should avoid inflaming nationalism whenever possible. We must recognize how counterterrorism measures may provoke a nationalist backlash that, in turn, generates support for the insurgency.

10.        Mercurial Nature.

The terrorist threat often mutates, becoming less direct but no less dangerous. SSP, Jesh-e-Muhammad, Jamat-ud-Dawa, and even al Qaeda have displayed their forte to emerge in new guise which can be at times totally unpredictable. It requires new categories of analysis as well as new policies.


11.        Be careful with proxies.

There is a limit to how much we can “outsource” our counterterrorism efforts, for reliance on proxies (Lashkars etc) poses its own set of challenges. Lashkars become new headache.


12.        The Primacy of Politics.

It is essential that political grievances that garner support for terrorists must be addressed.


13.        Surveillance and Support Network.

Tackling terrorists and controlling extremism requires not just intelligence but also surveillance of entire communities. There is a need to maintain a constant operational surveillance over the wide spectrum of civil society in order to prevent terrorist and extremist networks from developing in Pakistan.


14.        Two Pronged Attack.

TTP’s tendency to inflict violence against the public and forces especially the Pushtun civilians can cause resentment against TTP. Government should take advantage of the anti TTP sentiments and step up attacks on them. Flogging of a girl in Swat had created strong resentment against the Swati TTP which paved the way for army operation Rah-e-Rast. Attack on Malala also generated wide spread resentment against the terrorists.


15.        Initiatives.

Negotiations have to be pursued consistently and with integrity but from the position of strength. Negotiations involve at least two major stages. First is developing a process for serious negotiations and arriving at a settlement. Second, and equally important, is implementing the agreement. Lack of trust, which is intensified when terrorism is involved, is a key factor inhibiting the first stage.


16.        Due Process of Law.

The rule of law is an essential framework within which response must proceed. Whatever the harsh edges of the counterinsurgent campaign, incorporating necessarily a sub-campaign to neutralize terrorism as a method of action, the state should not find it necessary to suspend or destroy its democratic system. The rule of law should continue, in all its imperfect particulars, and meaningful debate should continue throughout the contest as to both means and ends that ought to be used and pursued.

17.        Correct Beginning.

A correct strategic approach is the first and foremost requirement of the state in responding to insurgent/terrorist challenge. Insurgency and terrorism must be assessed in realistic terms appropriate to framing a correct response.


18.        Responding with limited capacity.

Learning and adaptation are constant features of an approach that, even if unbalanced, tilted toward repression as opposed to accommodation and nevertheless prove capable of dealing with ferocious insurgency and terrorism of TTP.


19.        Problems for military.

Like all campaigns of counter insurgencies the military has its fill of problems with desertions and indiscipline. Pakistani military is no exception. The answer is to build and field new units of NCIF with relative cohesion and effectiveness. Particular efforts should be made to maintain morale through variety of reward and incentives.


20.        Intelligence remains key.

There is need for sustained supply of information that can produce the basis for taking effective action against the terrorists. It is not only tactical, actionable intelligence that is necessary but the knowledge required to formulate strategy and plan campaigns. Sri Lanka developed a reasonably detailed picture of its insurgent foes during the course of its conflicts. This accomplishment allowed it to sustain the fight even in the face of severe reverses.


21.        International image.

During all this process there is a necessity of maintaining a positive international image on other issues.

22.        Prime Minister’s Oversight.

The National Security Council chaired by the Prime Minister, will have oversight of FOUR Ts and take regular reports on its progress. The Interior Minister or the Minister of National Security and Counter Terrorism will be the lead Minister for counter-terrorism work.

23.        Implementation requires close cooperation and coordination not only among the departments but also among the Federal and Provincial governments. It must be ensured that various ministries, departments, agencies and the police work closely together to a common set of objectives, with transparency and openness. They will be assessed accordingly.




1. Ministry of Interior Oversee the entire process of counter terrorism and security issues.
2. Ministry of Security and CT Lead Ministry to handle counter terrorism and counter insurgency process.
3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Look after the international image of Pakistan during operation/keep the world abreast of our sincere efforts to curb terrorism/defend and clarify ambiguities/accusations regarding our approach and policies.
4. Ministry of Law (Federal & Provincial) Legislation according to changing needs of CT/COIN strategies. Monitor progress of terrorism cases and performance of prosecution and judiciary. It would be done with close cooperation of provincial law ministries and prosecution departments.
5. National Counter Terrorism Force (NCTF)

Proposed to be established.

It will have intelligence and law enforcement powers. It will collect information and strike at the terrorists/terrorist networks. It means it will be self-reliant force having two arms i.e. Intelligence and Operational force.

It will constitute of 50% direct young recruits and 50% from police, army, IB, ISI etc.

It will be under the administrative control of the proposed Ministry of Security and Counter Terrorism.

6. Police Police will help and cooperate with NCTF in target hardening, cordoning, support in raids and intelligence sharing.
7. National Counter Insurgency Force (NCIF)

Proposed to be established.

It will replace armed forces which will revert to their prime job of protection of borders. NCIF will operate in insurgency hit areas.

It will constitute of 50% young direct recruits mostly from the insurgency hit areas including those who have been part of Aman Lashkars and 50% from army, especially who have already fought in FATA against insurgents.

It will be under the administrative control of the proposed Ministry of Security and Counter Terrorism.

Enough budget should be placed at its disposal for capacity building and for COIN operations.

It would be headed by a Major General of Army. Its intelligence wing would be headed by an IB officer of BPS 20 and Watch and Ward would be headed by a DIG Police.

Other senior level officers would be inducted from Army, IB and Police.





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