Pakistan most terror-hit nation – by Ismail Khan

PESHAWAR: Pakistan is the country most affected by terrorism in the world after Iraq, but if the severity of the incidents is considered, it even surpasses the Middle Eastern nation, according to a policy document on internal national security.

The draft of National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2013-2018, currently being fine-tuned by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan before presentation to the cabinet, describes the scenario as dangerous, posing an existential threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the state.

“From 2001 to 2013, there were 13,721 incidents in Pakistan which is marginally less than Iraq. From 2001 to 2005, there were 523 terrorist incidents in Pakistan but from 2007 to November 2013, the total number of incidents has risen to 13,198.”

Similarly, the number of suicide bombings between 2001 and 2007 stood at 15 only, but from 2007 to November last year, suicide attacks jumped to 358 – the highest anywhere in the world.

According to data released by the US National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses for Terrorism (Start), Pakistan led the chart with 1,404 terrorist attacks in 2012, surpassing Iraq (1,271). Even Afghanistan was behind Pakistan at number three with 1,023 incidents.

More than one-third (33 per cent) of those attacks occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, followed by Balochistan (23pc), Fata (19.6pc) and Sindh (18pc), Start noted.

Ironically however, authoritative sources have revealed to Dawn that while KP has been the hardest hit, the interior ministry never asked it to join formal consultation while formulating the national internal security policy. “We were asked to give our input, but were never invited to formal discussions,” an official said.

The national internal security policy document says from 2001 to November 2013, 48,994 people were killed in the country including 5,272 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies, a large number of them – 17,642 – having been killed in just three years from 2011 to 2013 including 2,114 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies.

So far the interior minister has offered only snippets of the 86-page document which largely remains shrouded in secrecy. So much so that according to sources privy to deliberations on what is being billed as the country’s first internal security policy, all those in attendance were asked to return its copy within 24 hours of receiving it.

Loss to economy

The document goes on to estimate the total loss to economy in the last ten years because of terrorism at $78 billion. It provides a grim picture of the state of security in the country facing what it describes as serious traditional and non-traditional threats of violent extremism, sectarianism, terrorism and militancy.

“Terrorist networks lurk in shadows and thrive on a strategy of invisibility and ambiguity. They operate in an ideologically motivated environment to embroil the state on physical, psychological and ideological levels,” the document notes.

Offering a situation analysis, the document blames flawed and myopic foreign policy choices relating to Afghanistan, Kashmir and India, prolonged military rules and declining capacity of the state institutions and poor governance for the internal security threat.

All categories of violent groups in Pakistan, it notes, have hierarchical leadership, organisation and sources of funding. “They have weaved supportive political narratives and have carved out a domestic support base through which they operate,” it points out, adding that the most troublesome aspect of the entire phenomenon was their connections of varying degrees with external adversaries.

On pursuing dialogue, the document notes that while it seems a noble idea to proceed on a non-violent path, it also create confusion in the minds of the foot soldiers and police officers. “Without holding a strong position in negotiations, it is difficult for any party to reach…a favourable conclusion,” it argues.

Underscoring the need for capacity building of national internal security apparatus, the policy document however, notes that the total strength of 33 national security organisations, including the police and other civil armed forces, both at the federal as well as the provincial level, exceeded 600,000, which is more than the sixth largest standing army of the world i.e. Pakistan.

Pakistan spends Rs150bn on policing in a country where the citizen to police ratio, it notes, was well within the Police Rules, except for the Punjab and Sindh. It notes, however, that the countrywide crime rate registered a spike since 2008 and in 2013; the nationwide reported crime figures stood at a whooping 64,4554.

However, it acknowledges that the metamorphosis of crime accompanied by non-traditional challenge, has prompted the law-enforcement agencies to realign their preparation and posture accordingly, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan where the police forces have gone into an operational mode with other important areas of police work being relegated to the back seat.

The document puts forward three elements of the NISP framework revolving around Dialogue, Isolation and Deterrence, providing for an open-door policy for negotiations with “all” anti-state and non-state groups within the limit of the Constitution and “without compromising” the primary interests of the state territorial integrity and sovereignty, developing a national narrative to counterterrorism and extremism, de-radicalisation and reintegration & reconstruction and capacity building of the criminal justice system and law-enforcement agencies.

The document offers a comprehensive analysis of counterterrorism models in many countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Germany, India, Turkey and Singapore and ventures to offer its own solution to overcome the behemoth of terrorism.

The interior minister has indicated he intended to revamp and revitalise National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) to prepare a comprehensive response plan, rapid reaction force and an integral air wing.

But central to the revamped Nacta, according to the document, would be the establishment of a `directorate of internal security’ to collate intelligence from six intelligence agencies, including the special branch operating at the provincial level, and coordinate efforts between 20 law-enforcement agencies. The whole operation is to cost Rs21bn, according to the document.

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