View Full Version : Roots of terror - Andleeb Abbas - 31st January 2016

31st January 2016, 01:22 PM
The biggest problem is not admitting that you have a problem. The reluctant admission by the head of the country that the National Action Plan (NAP) is not really what it should be is the first step towards damage prevention. During the one year of NAP’s implementation nearly every review has pointed out that there are serious gaps in implementation. The apex committee’s results, defence analysts and the media have been crying out loud on the “non-seriousness” of the government in taking hard action. However, the government has been in public denial of this danger, terming it as just political point scoring. The fact that it took another attack in a university where teachers and students were the victims of political apathy is the sad reflection of a mindset that believes plans would have actually been detrimental to the construction of the Taj Mahal. However, the realisation that mere talk and heavy powered apex meetings are not going to work is also an achievement of sorts.

The first step is to shift the focus from damage control to damage prevention. Anti-terrorism activities have to be preceded by counter and proactive strategies. Thus, as we do in any plan, we need to draw out a whole map of the pre-suicide jacket acceptance flow, the wearing of the jacket operation flow and beyond the blow up flow. This three-stage approach will identify critical points of sowing the seed, fertilising the seed and spreading the seed underground to intertwine with other roots. The time before the young mind becomes polluted enough to wear the suicide jacket has received minimum effort and resources. The polluters who in recent times have mostly quieted down and are a bit subtler in their preaching and outreach due to operations, are far from being eliminated or minimised. Points number three and seven in NAP, which specify banning militant wings and banned outfits with any name, have almost zero progress to show.

The very fact that India had to give us evidence about Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operating under some other name and being involved in the Pathankot attack is clear evidence of the will of the state in this direction. Azhar Masood’s arrest has been made but we all know that after a while he may be back under some other name. When we knew that he was operating under the name of Saadi and publishing hate literature, why did we not take action? There have been some attempts in south Punjab to dismantle a few dens but concerted effort is lacking. The height of Punjab operations is the cracking down on the Chotu gang but the other big and famous alligators are all lurking just beneath the surface ready to attack whenever it is opportune.

Also, the fertiliser that feeds this seed in terms of arms and financing has not been choked and thus the spurts of attacks continue. The funding of many seminaries from almost a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and India, is still not assessed when it comes to their usage and distribution. The fact that the Bacha Khan terrorists were in possession of Indian and Afghan money is not just a cross-border transition but also an indication of how easily money gets transferred illegally in this country. If Ayyan Ali cannot be apprehended carrying illegal millions in one whole year then God knows how we can possibly choke money channels that are being sponsored by political parties themselves with the help of overseas sponsors.

Many areas of NAP have to do with substituting the terrorist narrative with an alternative narrative to make it difficult for terrorists to infiltrate these unexposed minds. The environment and the soil have to be changed for a different plant to grow. For this purpose, a counter-narrative committee was formed that comprised scholars and religious leaders who were to make this narrative and ensure that it gives an alternative thought process to the target population. In one year not a single meeting of this committee has been held. Similarly, the only communication strategy to get the nation activated on an alternative thought path has been done by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), which is using the media to create some support for the anti-terrorism stance.

The most fertile terrorism areas of FATA and Balochistan have a long history of being deprived and alienated, leading them to become breeding grounds for terrorist dens. These have just been treated as battlegrounds where the army goes and dismantles the dens only to find them being restored with the passage of time. No reforms, no development, no education and no engagement will lead to no change. The anger and resentment in these areas is an ideal base for terrorists to make them all rebels for a wrong cause. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the border is as secure as a national park. It has been decided that the Frontier Corps (FC), who are specialists in border manning, will be restored to this duty. Of the 25,000 required hardly 500 are present at the most dangerous point for crossing over. Of the three million Afghan refugees who were to be repatriated, only 55,000 have gone back.

The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is now a familiar story of failure as the 23 intelligence agencies that are operating in the country are not coordinated under the umbrella of an apex organisation that lacks funding, empowerment and credibility. The result? Four terrorists hop across the border talking non-stop on Afghan Sims to their masters and barge into a university to hold the country hostage. The rest is a sickeningly familiar story: the bravery of teachers, sacrifice of students, valour of security guards, great combat of police and army and the rehearsed grief-stricken condemnation of the politicians.

The route to the root of terror is much before the happening of the event. The fact that all steps on the flow chart of pre-attack have been treated with disdain by the government is itself the reason why after one year of a relative lull, the winds of terror have started blowing again. That is why more pressure is needed from all ends to make the government do what it is not doing, to crack down on internal supporters, to choke financing channels, to make reforms in FATA and other areas, to run a counter-terror narrative, to collate, disperse and ensure action on intelligence, to negotiate better with border countries, to use local governments to do community policing. However, if the two most important people to drive this agenda, i.e. the prime minister, who decides to extend his Davos trip to London for “personal reasons”, and the minister of interior, who decides to disappear due to “health issues”, then this ‘committed’ approach may be the biggest reason for having an amazingly inactive NAP.