EVERY Pakistani wants to find a solution to terrorism. At such a challenging juncture, the mere realisation that peace must be cultivated is itself a ray of hope, and the leadership can use this to its advantage.

The widespread impression that counterterrorism (CT) is solely the responsibility of the security forces and police is erroneous. It is a collective responsibility. Everyone — from ordinary people, the clergy, our political leadership to the bureaucracy and media — must be part of the long-term CT strategy.

Anti-terror legislation, capacity building, intelligence sharing and enforcement need a synchronised approach. Without a dedicated CT body, even an ideal piece of anti-terror legislation may not yield dividends. Tough enforcement is required. This war cannot be waged just with the blood of law-enforcement officers; there must also be better intelligence, improved financing and professional capacity, enforcement as well as the use of technology.

The quest for peace is a collective duty.
The country’s CT strategy should focus primarily on the human aspect, including de-radicalisation and reintegration of extremists. The registration of citizens requires a more rigid and transparent process and ought to be linked up with all law-enforcement agencies.

The Foreigners Act 1946 needs parliamentary review, and deportation procedures need simplification. To displace illegal nationals, multilateral arrangements have to be worked out and the monitoring of foreigners requires a more organised effort. The National Alien Registration Authority must play its due role — as Nadra did in 2010 when it foiled almost 11,400 attempts by foreigners to obtain CNICs.

In terrorism, vehicular mobility plays a decisive role. When a vehicle is armed with an IED, it is being used as a lethal weapon. The preference is for vehicles that have been stolen or those on which duties have not been paid, referred to as non-custom paid. Such vehicles are easily available in parts of Malakand division, Fata and Balochistan. Since they aren’t registered, when they are used in a bombing it is almost impossible for investigators to proceed in the probe.

To evade tax, many vehicle owners retain them on ‘open transfer letters’. The government needs to impound such vehicles after a grace period of three months. They should be returned only after the payment of taxes and transfer to the real owners. Such an initiative will not only help fill the exchequer, it would also reduce the likelihood of such vehicles being used in terrorism.

Undoubtedly, technology is costly but at sensitive places such as embassies, schools, airports, military installations and police buildings, automatic number plate recognition can be employed.

Without communication, a terrorism mission cannot be accomplished. The government recently directed the country’s telecommunication authority to curtail the operation of Afghan cellular phones in Fata and parts of KP. This is a positive step since some 40,000 illegal Afghan SIMs were operating in Pakistan. To minimise the use of illegal SIMs, their registration should be linked to identity card numbers, biometric impressions, and a postal address. The number of SIMs per person should be limited to two.

All the provinces have their own anti-terrorism wings, but without effective coordination with other provinces. Thus, counterterrorism needs an integrated model to be administered by a unitary command structure. A national-level CT body that is present in all provinces will have no jurisdictional barrier.

Before the military operations were undertaken, Fata was a launching pad and sanctuary for perpet-rators of terrorism, while urban areas were repeatedly targeted. Administrative reforms in Fata must, therefore, be part of the CT strategy. The tribesmen who are now scattered need to be attracted back to Fata. The resumption of communications and educational and health facilities will encourage economic activity. If major reforms are not feasible, at least traditional security mechanisms, coupled with local government institutions should be there to inculcate confidence among the tribesmen.

The training of the police, too, is not keeping pace with the challenges. Militants undergo intense, goal-oriented training, in accordance with their needs but the training of our law-enforcement officials is modelled on the colonial fabric. Training modules must include dealing with would-be suicide bombers, IEDs, hostage situations, etc. Then organised information-sharing between the law-enforcement agencies, Nadra and the motor registration authorities is necessary.

Gaps within the criminal justice system must be plugged. The conviction rate in cases of terrorism presents a dismal picture, which requires urgent improvement. Pakistan also needs to revisit how to dry up the financing of terror organisations. The mere increase in manpower and resources cannot quell militancy; the task also requires missionary zeal, agility, preparedness, innovation and public cooperation.

The writer is a police officer.