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Counterterrorism: rhetoric vs reality

Amid the controversy of Pakistan joining the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the media focus has shifted from the implementation of theNational Action Plan (NAP), the guiding counterterrorism policy framework. After months of heralding the NAP as the panacea for all that afflicts Pakistan, there are signs that some of the policy commitments may be waning.

This is not to say that progress has not been made.  The most recent monthly report stated that between December 2014 and March 2015,32,000 ‘suspects’ were taken into custody on various charges and over 28,500 operations were conducted across the country. In Punjab, the security agencies undertook 14,791 operations. In addition, law enforcement agencies arrested thousands of individuals and killed 37 terrorists. Of those arrested, the government claims, 727 were “hardcore terrorists”. The details of who these are, and the charges made, remain unknown.

Nearly 4,000 people were also arrested for violating the rules on using loudspeakers and 887 cases were also registered for hate speech. Apparently, the Federal Investigative Agency, the FIA also registered 64 cases for illegal financial transactions and arrested 83 people. The State Bank of Pakistan froze 120 accounts containing Rs10.1 billion under the NAP drive.

These otherwise encouraging claims have been challenged. First, as of early April, only 22 of 61 convicts executed were terrorists. A report by a leading national daily revealed that among the thousands who had been detained, only 140, or less than one per cent, had links with terrorist organisations. The most important link in bringing alleged culprits to justice is prosecution; and it remains unclear how many would actually be prosecuted and tried in a court.

Another positive development has been the drive to verify mobile SIMs. Nearly 25 million (out of 103 million registered earlier) unverified SIMs have been blocked by early April. This has happened after inexcusable delay. Mobile phone is now a key instrument used by techno-jihadis globally. Similarly, the government claims that due to operations by paramilitary agencies, target killings have gone down by 57 per cent and extortion by 37 per cent in violence-ridden Karachi.

All these coercive actions constitute tinkering on the margins of the problem. The core actions under the NAP have been, not unsurprisingly, brushed under the carpet. In March, Nacta stated that the drive against proscribed militant groups, reform of madrassas and the repatriation of Afghan refugees were “no more under consideration” for these were time-consuming and needed long-range planning. Isn’t that precisely what a state under siege ought to be doing?


Analysis: Attackers punch hole in Islamabad security

Raza Rumi

A police commandos stop a photo journalist near a local court building after a gun and suicide attack in Islamabad on March 3, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Today’s suicide bombing at the Islamabad courts complex suggests that the capital and its sensitive installations are vulnerable. The premeditated murder of a judge, who had turned down an appeal made by the Lal Masjid clerics, has raised question marks for the future of Pakistan’s battle with terrorism. If judges are not secure in the capital, one wonders who will ensure their safety in less developed, remote districts where terrorist networks run their bases.
A few weeks ago, interior ministry officials had told the nation that the capital was not safe. While briefing a Senate committee, the ministry termed Islamabad’s security situation ‘extremely dangerous’ due to the presence of militant groups. In particular, the risk was heightened due to the presence of alleged sleeper cells al Qaeda, TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) within the limits of Islamabad. The interior minister was quick to contradict his own ministry’s report and told the nation last week that reports of sleeper cells operating in Islamabad were exaggerated and that the capital was safe. He also insisted that neither foreign agencies nor terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, were operating from Islamabad.Nisar also announced a set of measures, which were being taken to improve the situation. Sadly, the political rhetoric has been exposed as today’s attack in Islamabad comes as a major security lapse right under the nose of the interior minister, leaving the prime minister red-faced for saying a bit too much.

But at the end of the day it is about collective responsibility in a parliamentary system. The government’s vacillating policy on negotiating or fighting the militants has much to contribute to the worsening security scenario across the country. […]

Issues in Madrassa Education in India

Yoginder Sikand’s new book Issues in Madrasa Education in India published by Hope India, Gurgaon is a promising publication. Here is a review by Nasir Khan:

A number of books have been recently published on the madrasas of India, and, in addition to this, madrasas have become a subject of considerable debate in the mass media. This latest addition to the writings on Indian madrasas makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the subject.

The issue of madrasa reform is much debated today, and several of the articles in this volume examine the question from various angles. The opening article of the volume, titled ‘A Day in Deoband’, based on the author’s visit to the Dar ul-Ulum madrasa in Deoband, India’s largest madrasa, suggests that even many traditionalist ulema, wrongly berated as being wholly opposed to change, actually do support madrasa reforms to some extent, although the way in which they imagine the project of reform substantially differs from that advocated by many outside the madrasa system. This emerges even more clearly in the following article, titled ‘The State and Madrasa Reform: An Indian Deobandi Perspective’. The point is reiterated in subsequent articles, such as one on a Deobandi madrasa in Kashmir which is engaged in providing new forms of technical education in addition to traditional religious instruction, another on traditionalist madrasas in Kerala that have launched innovative experiments to combine religious and secular education, and yet another, on the educational model of the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, Syed Abul Ala Maududi. A piece on the growing number of women’s madrasas in India makes the argument that promoting women’s rights from within a broader Islamic paradigm is also part of the project of madrasa reforms as even several traditionalist ulema see it. The author argues that this might have important consequences
in the future for the nature of religious authority as well as gender-relations among the Indian Muslims. […]

September 28th, 2008|books, India, Islam|7 Comments