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Pakistan: COUNTER TERRORISM POLICY

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By Brig Samson S Sharaf

With a new government in power, there is a sudden end to political rhetoric and electioneering slogans. As the cleaners get to the job of removing hoardings and flags, the Federal and Provincial Governments get busy in the serious business of governance. Many promises that they made to their vote banks will be eclipsed by the challenging business of addressing Pakistan’s most critical issues. Energy crises, circular debt, slow growth, law and order cannot be prioritised to handle piecemeal. They are all intertwined and affect the other. The government will have to move in broad breasted military columns.

For instance there can be no growth without more energy and a better environment for investment which means that improving the law and order becomes a prior priority. Similarly, that rise of crime, organised violence and lawlessness is directly related to poverty and cost of living means that economics should be the main priority. The fact is that these issues cannot be prioritised and the government must deal with these issues on a broad front with dedicated team of managers is a challenge that Prime Mister Nawaz Sharif and his team shall have to meet. This means long working hours, analysis, policy papers, in house discussions, debates in the parliament and an overtime schedule for select parliamentary committees. In fact, these challenges can only be addressed if the federal secretariat and the parliament become a busy bee-house for the next few years.

….the challenging business of addressing Pakistan’s most critical issues. Energy crises, circular debt, slow growth, law and order cannot be prioritised to handle piecemeal. They are all intertwined and affect the other. The government will have to move in broad breasted military columns.

The first of the abreast challenges will be civil military relations in the context of the war on terrorism. The reason why it is listed first is because of its effects on the domestic and international political economy and the caucus belli of Pakistan’s plight.

The military has taken ownership and responsibility of fighting the conflict in the speech made by General Kayani on Marty’s Day, in GHQ Rawalpindi. His speech was explicit in suggesting a consensus-based national counter-terrorism policy built around the evolutionary principles, with the Constitution of Pakistan providing a realistic space for a negotiated settlement. As written earlier, the final decision to adopt these suggestions will rest with the Parliament and government. The discussions that follow and the plans that evolve will definitely be in the shadows of Drone War and US led exit from Afghanistan. In all probability the joint resolution of the parliament on this conflict could assume importance.

Notwithstanding General Kayani’s wish, this will become a fiercely debated issue. Parties that built their electoral campaigns against ownership of this conflict will consent to a military option only after all other options are exhausted. Paradoxically, the military would be urged by its tactical compulsions to enhance the momentum of its on-going operations in Orakzai/Khurram Agencies and Tirah Valley with the objective to contain and mop up trapped remnants of TTP.

Another issue will be the dilemma whether the drone war is to be divorced from the WOT and handled exclusively by the foreign office or will it become part of the strategy that oversees the exit of US forces from Afghanistan.  This will be testing for civil-military relations. In case it is the latter, then both the military and the civil governments will be under tremendous pressure to perform and meet the aspirations of the people. Perhaps a compromise that will emerge is a continuation of the ambivalent policy practiced during the tenures of the past two governments with resistance coming from the Khyber government.

The question that every analyst will wish to be answered is the response of the federal government to this pressure. The parties representing status quo and familiar with the contours of these suggestions would prefer to work quietly towards this objective in the guise of national reconciliation. However, this would become a burning issue and sour relations between the federal and KPK government without whose consent the military pursuit of the conflict is impossible. It remains to be seen if the policy planners of PTI have actually gone back to the drawing board and analysed the speech made by General Kayani in light of their present electoral position and the fact that preoccupation with counter terrorism may become their major agenda to contend.

Though time consuming, the prudent option would be to build the entire edifice of the policy on the basis of the Joint Parliamentary Resolution into a National Counter Terrorism Policy validated by the Parliament followed by new laws. The policy ratified by both houses would provide space for law enforcement agencies and the KPK government to comply in national cohesion. But this is easier said than done.

One of the most crucial issues to be resolved in a national counter terrorism policy would be the inclusion of an element of oversight to secure Pakistan’s interests. This means, a system of inherent accountability of the executive to have their actions reviewed, sometimes in advance, by an impartial group. In democracy, the legislature is the classic model that enforces its unlimited writ (policy related) through parliamentary committees on the Prime Minister.

With relation to the closed world of intelligence operations, the policy will also have to cater for the inherent extra-constitutional sovereign authority under a higher law of self-preservation not subject to normal judicial review. Judicial oversight will have to limits itself to legal questions. In developed democracies, a selected judicial cadre is co-opted with twin objectives to deal with questions of law related to security and to act as surrogates for public and fundamental human rights. Most governments around the world invoke special legislations to deal with the issue, ensuring that there remains in place credible legislative and judicial oversight. Under the ‘political question doctrine’, judges invariably avoid jurisdiction over intelligence controversies, allowing resolution of national security disputes to the government and its select parliamentary committees. As written earlier, this is neither outlawry nor a measure to facilitate sinister intelligence and enforcement officials to operate in a space of an operational extra-judicial mechanism.

In addition, the continuing standoff between the judiciary and the parliamentary democracy (Executive and Legislature overlap) is taking its toll on the counterintelligence, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. In the past few years, the judiciary in the absence of checks and balances, has overarched beyond the ‘question of law’ and ‘political question doctrine’ to exercise its powers of oversight in public interest. The new policy will have to lay down the procedures and legislate accordingly to remove such legal anomalies. This will not be an easy task in view of the existing decrees of the Supreme Court that carry the effect of a law and its vigilance over every notification of the government.

In case the government fails to formulate a National Policy as suggested and gets into a laissez faire syndrome, expediency and outlawry will be the norm setting the snail pace in the fields of energy, debt, growth and poverty alleviation. In addition, the credibility of elections will also be questioned.

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