National Security and Law & Order in Pakistan

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 21 September 2013 0 comments

National Security and Law & Order in PakistanThe definition of national security varies from country to country, and from regime to regime: in some cases, national security is defined as the perpetuation of the country’s system of governance, or the regime in place; in other cases it is – rightfully so – defined as the protection of the country’s strategic and conventional assets, its national interests, and most importantly, the safety and security of its public. In countries where the former interpretation of national security is implemented, it is more likely that an autocratic or despotic system is in place that curbs rights and freedoms to protect the regime in power (an extreme case would be the North Korean example, which has enlisted almost its entire population into a communist army dedicated to the preservation of the Kim dynasty – from Kim Il Sung, to Kim Jong Il, to Kim Jong Un now). If national security is defined as the latter, then the security of the system of governance (which sets legal limits on the regime in place at a certain point in time) go hand in hand with public security: the protection of citizens, their lives, livelihood, property, and future. Though modern political movements can be plotted on a spectrum that ranges from left-wing countries to right wing countries, many research organizations and institutes for democratic development have studied regime types over the years. One such illustration – a global map showing regime types according to freedom, or lack thereof – is as follows:
global map showing regime types according to freedom
Again, there is no certain method of measuring how democratic a country is, and various metrics come into play when making analyses or decisions regarding how free a country (or its citizenry) is – or not. Variables like access to (and delivery of) justice, quality of state services, freedom of information, freedom of association, freedom of speech, and many other qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) indicators must be studied before one makes a viable and verifiable conclusion about freedom and autocracy. For instance, in the above map, the U.S. is listed as a “full democracy”, but it must also be noted that its citizens are under constant surveillance by the government, especially in the online dimension by the National Security Agency – but in the same vein, not only have violations of privacy been brought to light, but the issue of right to privacy has also become a major discussion in the American consciousness after the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Nevertheless, the fact remains that if only this indicator – the amount of privacy a citizen has in his/her country – is considered, the U.S. is more or less in the same category as China and North Korea, painted as autocracies in the map above. Other countries may be autocratic in other forms, but may not be able to maintain surveillance on their citizens in as stringent a fashion as the U.S. or China (or even North Korea) do.
The case of Syria – and its raging civil war, an insurgency now in its second year – shows that if national security (and the focus of law enforcement agencies and the security apparatus, including the military) is defined as the perpetuation of the regime in place, then it is very likely that the citizenry will resort to its right to protest, and when that right is denied (or suppressed by the state, as is the case in Syria, and as was the case in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Libya – all with different outcomes) the general public – or enraged, marginalized factions within – would resort to violent means of protest, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the regime if not replacing it (as the case of Libya shows: the insurgent factions were united in the goal of overthrowing Gaddafi, but the successor regime fails to show any signs of viable statehood or centralization of authority). Therefore, it is important that the safety and security of the general public – the citizens of the country – be of paramount importance, and an important component of national security; this not only includes the citizen’s life, property and source of livelihood, but also includes the rights granted to the citizen as per the laws of the country.
For a long time, Pakistan has been considered a “national security” state – in part, because it has been directly governed by the Army for most of its postcolonial history, but also because most of its policies focus on the “security of the state”. Even as Pakistan fights the War on Terror – and remains a frontline state in this global war – it has suffered over 30,000 civilian casualties and more than 5,000 military casualties (the number of policemen killed since 2001 is yet to be ascertained). For its participation in the War on Terror, Pakistan’s economy has also suffered – directly and indirectly – to the tune of approximately US$ 68 billion as of government figures released in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-11; a cost that is now reaching US$ 100 billion as of 2013. For a developing country like Pakistan, which has now been relegated to the status of a frontier economy, such costs are more than unbearable. Pakistan also faces an energy crisis that pervades its households as well as industrial sectors, making daily life for the public more miserable as the years pass, and sources of livelihood even scarcer as factories shut down and industries relocate to countries and regions where there is consistent supply of energy and a growing demand for products backed by purchasing power. Though the War on Terror was a necessity for Pakistan – especially in terms of recognizing and arresting (if not reversing) the growing levels of radicalism and extremism in its society since the 1970’s and 1980’s – there are no clear gains that Pakistan has achieved in this military engagement so far. This is why major political parties of the country recently held a conference and authorized the government to initiate peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a version of the Afghan Taliban whose prime target is the government, military and citizenry of Pakistan. The TTP models itself on the style of the Afghan Taliban, and claims to have links with it even though the Afghan Taliban – particularly its leader, Mullah Omar – have disowned the TTP. The TTP is an umbrella group of outlawed militant groups and sectarian organizations in Pakistan, unlike the Afghan Taliban, who have been in government in Afghanistan from 1994 till their ouster by U.S.-led NATO forces in 2001, and have a strict command and control structure: to this effect, their supreme leader, Mullah Omar, regularly issues edicts and orders to the Afghan Taliban, such as the1,800-word statement of November 2011 on Taliban fighters facing sharia justice if they harm Afghan civilians in their fight to expel the “invading forces” from their country. The TTP, on the other hand, is known for its infighting and frequent quarrels, which leads to the killing of members – even leaders – of one group by cadres of another (perhaps more powerful) group under the umbrella.
Despite previous accords between various factions of the TTP and various elements representing the Pakistani state, it has become abundantly clear that the TTP breaks its word and cannot be trusted on any deal that it makes. Cases from 2004 onwards verify this, including the takeover of Swat by Fazlullah-led militants who wanted the imposition of sharia law, and were granted that by a Presidential Ordinance for Malakand Division alone in 2009, yet refused to lay down arms, prompting another – more forceful – military offensive against them that wiped out their cadres and forced Fazlullah into hiding in eastern Afghanistan, where he hides to this day and plots against the Pakistani state, mainly carrying out attacks in Swat and Malakand Division. The fact that the TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, took responsibility on behalf of the organization for the assassination of GOC Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi on Monday implies that – whether Fazlullah or the TTP were behind the attack or not – Fazlullah’s group is considered part of the TTP umbrella: or, at least, the TTP would like the official record to be construed that way, so that a deal with the TTP also means a deal with Fazlullah, and no separate peace deals for Swat with the latter would have to be concluded with the latter.
In the 21st century, national security and law & order go hand in hand, especially for the case of Pakistan, since the country is not only facing an Islamic militant insurgency in its western tribal areas, but is also facing the fifth Baluch insurgency that commenced after the unfortunate death of Baluch tribal leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti – who was one of the few Baluch leaders in 1947 to promote accession to Pakistan instead of independence or accession to India, when independence from colonial rule was implemented by the British colonial regime. The Baluch nationalists – as opposed to the TTP and Islamic fundamentalists – espouse overtly secular beliefs, and they use this as a point of separation with the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan.
Apart from this two pronged threat on its western front, Pakistan now faces radicalism and extremism within its cities and rural areas: kidnappings for ransom, extremist attacks on minority sects such as Shi’ites (or inter-faith killings, such as attacks on Christian communities and on Ahmadi’s, who claim to be Muslim but are not considered so by the Constitution of Pakistan), target killings, and the unchallengeable “street power” of the fundamentalist right – a mob mentality that forces even moderates to join the fray because neither the state nor its institutions would protect them and their beliefs – are a reality that law enforcement agencies cannot seem to grapple with. Recent arrests of terror cells in Lahore, and targeted operations in Karachi (which have been going on for three years now), do not fall under the category of counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism, nor do they appear as attempts to deal with radicalism and extremism that still pervades Pakistani society, and embeds itself in the mindset of Pakistani citizens for reasons of religious belief, association and marginalization, even economic backwardness and poverty (there are studies that show links between poverty and terrorism; and there are also studies that show the existence of no link between poverty and terrorism).
National security at the state level – that is, security and speedy justice for citizens of FATA as well as of Baluchistan – ensures law and order at ground level not only in these areas, but in other settled areas of Pakistan as well, which are suffering from the “financial operations” of the War on Terror as well as growing radicalism and extremism among poor, marginalized, destitute communities and constituents of society. Neither Pakistan’s legal system, nor its educational curricula, not even its law enforcement agencies have developed a holistic mechanism to reverse the tide of Islamic radicalism and extremist thought that has become a consistent feature of Pakistani society since the 1980’s if not the 1970’s. Before General Zia’s “Islamization” of Pakistan and before the Taliban’s ascendancy in Afghanistan, both countries used to be peaceful, calm, progressive, and home to moderate Muslims who believed in modernization, development, education of women, better relations with the West, and other thoughts and ideals which Islamic radicals – who now control the streets of Pakistan and even the vacuum of ideological thought on the internet (there are hundreds if not thousands of websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of not only radical belief systems, but fundamentalist organizations – proscribed or otherwise – as well as extremist groups, not just in Pakistan, but all over the world). There is no rally taken out by any liberal, moderate, let alone secular, party or movement or association that can match the power of the religious right, and whether the state or “the establishment” is to be blamed for it or not, the civil society of Pakistan is to be equally blamed – if not more – for not organizing on a single, unified platform to counter extremism and radicalism in Pakistan.
By developing mechanisms to counter Islamic extremism, radical fundamentalism, and archaic thought that masquerades as – and is preached as – the teaching(s) of Islam, Pakistan can truly defend itself from terrorism and extremism, since the true teachings of Islam espouse peace, goodwill, justice, and the rights of humanity, not the barbaric attitude and regressive thought process espoused and promoted by right-wing so-called “Islamic” groups, associations, political parties, and militant groups. If one tries to kill a snake by attacking its tail, the snake will only turn around and bite the hand that touches it. Therefore, one must target the head of the snake in order to kill it. It is not just Pakistan’s national security, territorial integrity, sovereignty, public safety and institutional well-being/development that depend on it: the very future of Pakistan is threatened by this existential menace that has been created, promoted, consolidated and perpetuated by forces – ideological and real – who wish to destroy Pakistan.
Law and order in the streets, communities and cities ensures national security in the civil dimension, leaving the military tacticians and intelligence experts to do their work and simulations for internal and external threats. But there is a severe law and order problem in Pakistan’s urban centers now; one that has been created by inequalities of various kinds, and promoted by terrorism and its linkages with criminal elements already present in these urban centers. This is how one can explain – not lucidly enough, sadly – the links between the LeJ, the SSP, and the TTP: the former two are mainly sectarian organizations bent upon killing Pakistani Shi’ites, while they connect with the latter on the basis of their shared Wahhabi ideology and the “takfiri” concept whereby one who does not accept the tenets of Islam shared by these elements is automatically labeled a heretic, an infidel, and is condemned to death in absentia (with the threat conveyed in the form of a letter, and actually carried out, as in the case of Salmaan Taseer, the assassinated Governor of the Punjab, Shahbaz Bhatti, the assassinated Federal Minister for Minority Affairs: the list is endless). Even more so, after their proscription in the early days of the Musharraf regime, the LeJ, the SSP, and other banned militant organizations have either changed their name and continue to function under different names or aliases, or have found safe haven and shelter in areas controlled by the TTP, swelling their ranks and acquiring modern training in anti-state and subversive activities from them.
It is sad that while at an international level, the allies in the War on Terror – namely the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan – are operationally “less allied” than their enemies – the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) – at the same time, Pakistani authorities, the judicial system, the intelligence agencies and even the law enforcement organizations lack the capacity, the legislative backing, perhaps even the will to take on this coalescing monster of sectarian outfits joining forces with entrenched anti-state elements that refuse to accept the Constitution of Pakistan and want to impose their version of sharia law (emphasis on “their version”: Pakistan is already an Islamic Republic, with various Islamic rules and regulations in place, including safeguards that ensure no law repugnant to Islam can be promulgated or brought into affect) on the country and its citizens, taking the nation back to the Stone Age if not 1,400 years back, and – to the consternation of the international community – getting control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, strategic assets, and other weapons of mass destruction that the state possesses or has developed.
Does Pakistan’s new National Security Policy – developed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and presented at the same all-parties conference that “authorized” the government to start peace talks with the terrorists (with or without preconditions, it is unknown) – account for the growing radicalism and extremism in Pakistan, and the threat it poses not only to national security and public safety, but also to any peace talks and treaties with anti-state or “estranged” elements, to the outcomes that the state and government wish to obtain from these talks, and to the future peace and prosperity of Pakistan, which has suffered immensely in the first decade of the 21stcentury while others have prospered to new heights?
The Karachi conundrum is the latest backlash that Pakistan is facing for its role in the War on Terror. Target-killings, kidnappings-for-ransom, mobile-snatching, armed robberies, murders and assassinations have picked up pace in the city, with as many as 1,726 citizens being killed in acts of violence in the first six months of 2013 alone. Yearly death figures – from reported acts of violence alone – for the port city range between 2,000 and 3,000 casualties, and these figures have been consistent for the past few years. Not only are terrorist organizations running amok in the provincial metropolis, but it also appears that Karachi has become a battleground for sectarian groups, and a stage for the “New Great Game”, where international powers seek to establish and protect their interests by any means necessary. Whether it is the U.S. fighting the Taliban, or Saudi Arabia and Iran battling out for hegemony in the Muslim world, Karachi is one of the theaters where such engagements also take place. This adds greatly to Pakistan’s woes, since Karachi is the hub of Pakistan’s economic activities and the main port city that connects it to the rest of the world. If a shutter-down strike takes place in the city – in response to a terror attack, or a call from a political party – it results in a loss of Rs. 10 billion to the Pakistani economy in a single day. The energy problems being faced by the country for the last 5-10 years are a subject of a different debate altogether. The previous PPP government, which had a majority in the federal parliament as well as the Sindh assembly, failed to grapple with the menace of lawlessness in Karachi from 2008 to 2013, despite help from the MQM – a political party with whom the PPP “buried the hatchet” when it came to power – and even the paramilitary Rangers units. The present PML-N government, which has low political stakes in Sindh, have also made securing Karachi a priority, at least as far as media pronouncements go. But as far as implementation is concerned, the old practice of “targeted operations” in select areas of the city is being followed. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone so far as to identify 458 terrorists who are responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. The following map shows volatile areas in Karachi, with “no-go” areas highlighted in red:
Volatile areas in Karachi
Whether the security situation of Karachi will improve or not, only time will tell. But many people from Karachi are leaving their hometown for other areas in Pakistan, while others are abandoning the country altogether and moving abroad. In addition, the “bhatta” or extortion culture, which seemed limited to Karachi, is now spreading across Pakistan, with cases being reported in the Punjab and even in the federal capital of Islamabad. On administrative action ordered by the Interior Minister, it was revealed that two officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and four policemen were involved in the extortion operation that was going on in the Sabzi Mandi (vegetable area) alone.
While Pakistanis flee the country in droves, the “missing persons” issue also brings shame to Pakistan: but this issue is complicated, and befuddles one who tries to place this problem within the overall scenario the country is facing. Have the persons gone missing involuntarily, i.e. have they been kidnapped? And if so, is it likely that they have been kidnapped by the state, or (as would be more likely) by anti-state elements? Or have the persons gone missing voluntarily, without telling their families or their loved ones (because the families might stop them), to take part in a cause that they believe in and, more than likely, are willing to disappear or “go dark” for?
Both scenarios can be studied for Balochistan, FATA, and even for the rest of Pakistan, particularly urban areas, where it is clear that kidnapping-for-ransom is a growing phenomenon. But in Balochistan, one must understand that young males may have left their families without telling them that they are going to take part in a so-called “freedom movement”, i.e. the Baloch insurgency, maybe in part to keep their families secure: if the families know that their males are going to engage in anti-state activities, then of course the families will be subject to investigation and even interrogation by state authorities.
But the issue is played up to demean Pakistan, malign its state, slander its agencies (particularly sensitive agencies whose local mandate is unclear, or more likely secret and classified) and smear its anti-terror and law enforcement efforts.
The role of the media in all these cases and issues does not serve the public’s interest or that of the state. The media considers itself the fourth pillar of the state, yet acts very negatively when reflecting on the executive and legislative pillars. The media’s criticism of the government, and of the Parliament, sometimes exceeds the bounds of “freedom of speech”, and appears to be “opposition for the sake of opposition” (or for the sake of increased viewership and greater TRPs, rather). But the “free and independent” (yet irresponsible and wholly unprofessional) media does not dare to speak against the judiciary, for fear of contempt of court – and also because it was a concerted media campaign that rallied for the restoration of the judiciary in 2007.
While information media in other countries appears to be – and states that it is – free and independent, it is strictly controlled by the government through information dissemination authorities and through regulatory bodies that control the licenses of TV channels, radio channels, and other media. In Pakistan, PEMRA is not as effective as other comparative regulatory organizations around the world – the U.S. has the FCCC, which regulates all broadcast content on all channels that are shown in the country. PEMRA, however, has been reduced to a powerless organization, despite the fact that the government asked media organizations themselves to develop a code of conduct for media outlets to follow. Instead, media organizations signed a pact that if one media channel was censored or shut down by the government, all media channels would follow suit and cancel their transmission broadcasts in solidarity with the targeted media channel and in pursuit of freedom of the media and of expression – though it is quite obvious that the “free and independent” media is just a shoulder from which the shot may be fired, and that multifaceted business and political interests are behind the mushroom growth of Pakistani media as well as this unprecedented show of solidarity (rather than healthy competition) between information media channels.
It is anti-terror officials, not terrorists, who should be masked when presented to the media, as is the practice in all countries where terrorism is a major sociopolitical problem. Revealing the identities of anti-terror operatives exposes them and their families to terror threats. Do anti-terror forces in Mexico, or the Indian MARCOS, reveal their faces to the media?
In fact, it would be safe to say that in terms of terror attacks that happen in Pakistan, the media reports it with such fervor and zeal that one could call it psychological warfare against the people of Pakistan, against their very mindset, against the international perception or “soft image” of Pakistan. The only “improvement” in media coverage of terror attacks is the blocking out of carnage scenes where blood is visible: news media outlets thankfully put a “PG” rating on the footage and transform it into black-and-white. But the coverage, as a whole, remains disturbing, and is imprinted in the minds of Pakistanis at home and abroad. It contributes to negative thinking among the general public and the citizenry, who continue to abandon their homeland and search for safer havens in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, where they won’t be attacked for their religious beliefs, or their attire, or the sheer incapacity of their civil law enforcement agencies to protect them from these monsters in their backyard.
Unless and until Pakistan clarifies what “national security”, “internal security”, “public safety” and “public interest” mean to the state, and reveal these definitions to the people for open debate, discussion, discourse, scrutiny, and amendments in Parliament, Pakistan – as a nation-state and as a polity of citizens – will continue to face 21stcentury challenges, and will only have its 19th and 20th century tools and implements to deal with these problems. So far, the state has failed to adequately deal with 21st century problems, but if there is political will and public support for modernization of the state apparatus, of the governance mechanism as a whole, and a reorientation of the state from a postcolonial “ruler” of the people to the main service provider of its taxpaying citizenry, there is a possibility that things might change for the better.
It remains to be seen whether the government, the political parties, or the people themselves take the first steps in resolving these multifarious crises.
Tacstrat Analysis


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