Posts Tagged security

New battle against old demons

9 March 2014

Raza Rumi

After 30 years of self-defeating policies, the new National Internal Security Policy may be the right way to make a fresh start

 

New battle against old demons

National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz

 

Pakistanis should be grateful for small mercies. The federal cabinet finally approved the draft of the internal security policy that was pending for review since December 2013. This is some improvement from the earlier performance of civilian authorities and complete outsourcing of security question to the military. The approval does not suggest that the military has backed off and the civilians are fully in charge. In fact, reports suggest that the military leadership has proactively argued for a cleanup in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and had advised the Prime Minister for not delaying the final putsch any further.

The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) has a detailed conceptual part that highlights the extent of damage that Pakistan has suffered during the last 12 years. While reporting on the victims of terror, the NISP notes that from 2001 to November 2013, 48,994 people were killed in the country including 5,272 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies. The attacks on security apparatus accelerated during 2011-2013 as 17,642 casualties including 2,114 security personnel took place during this time period. The NISP notes that with more than 600,000 strong personnel in 33 civilian and military security organizations provide adequate capacity to the Pakistani state to fight terrorism. The impact of terrorism has been calculated as losses worth $78 billion to Pakistan’s economy. Surprisingly, the draft also refers to the foreign policy priorities with respect to Afghanistan, Kashmir and India and limited civilian input in policy process. Governance failures also find a mention in the draft.

The democratic process in Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist narratives

Perhaps the most important feature of the NISP refers to the emphasis on the narratives – political and martial – which have increased the domestic support for terrorist outfits and mislead many a citizen in believing that terror tactics are justifiable at a certain level. This area has been largely unaddressed by Pakistan’s political parties and permanent state organs. While the PPP-led coalition tried to make some amends, it was often cowed down into acquiescence by militancy all around. In fact, the elections of 2013 took place under the threat of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that decided which political groups had more space to campaign and contest. Certainly, the democratic process in Pakistan has also been a victim of terrorist narratives. (more…)

The future of Afghanistan – towards a regional solution

29 August 2013

Here is a video podcast I did for the Pak-China institute. The transcript follows the video.

The situation in Afghanistan, especially as its unfolding before the NATO pull-out in 2014, obviously has already started to manifest some of the key critical issues there. First of all is the problem of stability and security for the people, because it is widely expected now that if there are no basic agreements, and durable regional agreements which include Pakistan, China and India, the country may once again fall into anarchy, and with different militias and power wielders vying for space in the country. So that is a major challenge that, not just the Afghan people or Pakistan but the world is concerned about… The unfortunate part of the story is that for 30 years, Afghanistan has been in the throes of instability.

(more…)

A welcome shift

6 January 2013

Here’s what I wrote for The News on Sunday about the Pakistan Army’s revised security and threat assessment

The Pakistan army has reportedly revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than the external enemies

Media reports suggest that the Pakistan army has revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats rather than the external enemies which have informed its strategy as well as operations. This is a welcome development. The details of its new doctrine are unclear but there have been three indications in the recent past. First, the tacit support to the civilian government’s thaw with India and undertaking the unimaginable: trade with India. Second, the chief of the army staff, Gen Kayani, while speaking at an official ceremony, cited the threat of extremism and reiterated the moderate ethos of Islam. Thirdly, the continued battle against militants in the northwest of the country continues without any major policy reversal.

There are two issues with the internal shifts, if any, with the way military is proceeding with its strategic rethink. First of all, due to its structure and institutional culture it is not an open and engaging entity. Decisions are centralised and are taken by a coterie of top commanders. Secondly it is also learning to readjust its power and influence within the context of a changing Pakistan.

After five years of civilian rule and emergence of new power centres (judiciary and media), its exclusive monopoly of power had been eroded. For instance, launching a coup though not impossible is a far more complicated endeavour. In this fluid political environment, the Army has yet to find a comfortable equilibrium with the political forces and the parliament. It might have been more useful had the army tried to engage with the national security committee of the parliament thereby giving its rethink more depth, public input and long term legitimacy.

(more…)

Paradigm Shift? Reassessing Pakistan’s Security

6 January 2013
Published in The News on Sunday
The Pakistan army has reportedly revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than external enemies

Media reports suggest that the Pakistan army has revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than the external enemies which had informed its strategy as well as operations. This is a welcome development. The details of the new doctrine are unclear but there have been three indications in the recent past. First, the tacit support to the civilian government’s thaw with India and undertaking the unimaginable: trade with India. Second, the chief of the army staff, Gen Kayani, while speaking at an official ceremony on August 14, cited the threat of extremism and reiterated the moderate ethos of Islam. Thirdly, the continued battle against militants in the northwest of the country continues without any major policy reversal.

There are two issues with the internal shifts, if any, in the way military is proceeding with its strategic rethink. First of all, due to its structure and institutional culture it is not an open and engaging entity. Decisions are centralised and are taken by a coterie of top commanders. Secondly it is also learning to readjust its power and influence within the context of a changing Pakistan.

Secondly, after five years of civilian rule and emergence of new power centres (judiciary and media), its exclusive monopoly of power had been eroded. For instance, launching a coup though not impossible is a far more complicated endeavour. In this fluid political environment, the Army has yet to find a comfortable equilibrium with the political forces and the parliament. It might have been more useful had the army tried to engage with the national security committee of the parliament thereby giving its rethink more depth, public input and long term legitimacy.

Let’s not forget that the ideological propaganda of al Qaeda and its affiliates has penetrated various sections of the Pakistani society. Whilst the Pakistani population does not want a Taliban type regime that bans women’s education, a vast majority of the population considers the US as an enemy of Islam and the Muslim. More often than not the West — as a vague construct — is also employed in this xenophobic and violent ideology of resistance. This narrative has gained ground in the country whether we like or not.

Sadly the elements of the state, especially the military, have added to this paranoia by firstly allowing the torchbearers of this ideology to live safely in the country for over a decade and secondly to operate from within the country. In this lax environment, the al Qaeda and its junior partner, the Taliban, have made some local alliances (more…)

‘The government should investigate the source and nature of threats to Asma Jahangir’s life, and take appropriate action’

19 June 2012

‘The government should investigate the source and nature of threats to Asma Jahangir’s life, and take appropriate action’

Here is an interview with Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch, which was recently published.

Raza Rumi: A year after the murder of Saleem Shahzad and in light of the strong reaction by journalists to his killing, are media professionals safer in Pakistan today? 

Ali Dayan Hasan: The revulsion and outrage with which not journalists but society more broadly reacted to Shahzad’s gruesome murder was both commendable and brave. But the sad fact is that his killers remain at large and the right to freedom of expression and information is under persistent pressure by both militant groups and state security agencies. And the government has been able to do little to change that situation.

Pakistan is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. At least 10 journalists were killed in Pakistan during 2011 and six have been killed so far this year. Four journalists were killed in the month of May alone. These are not just statistics but real people. Tariq Kamal and Aurangzeb Tunio were killed on May 9 and May 10 respectively. On May 18,the bullet-riddled body of Express News correspondent Razzaq Gul was found dumped in a deserted area near Turbat. Security agencies are suspected of involvement in his killing. On May 28, Abdul Qadir Hajizai was killed in Balochistan when armed men on a motorbike shot him dead. Reportedly, the Baloch Liberation Front claimed responsibility for his killing. In none of these cases has anyone been held accountable.

RR: So you are describing a situation, particularly in Balochistan, where both state and militant groups are killing journalists…

ADH: Not just in Balochistan but also in FATA and KP. A climate of fear impedes media coverage of the military and militant groups. Journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military in counterterrorism operations and the Taliban and other armed groups regularly threaten media outlets. Meanwhile, legitimate media scrutiny of the judiciary also stands greatly curtailed due to fear of contempt of court proceedings.

RR: Increasingly there are fears that human rights defenders are being targeted. Does HRW also see threats to human rights defenders as an emerging danger? (more…)

Will the civilians seize the moment?

1 July 2011

It is too early to determine whether Nawaz Sharif is seeking a structural transformation of Pakistan’s governance culture or is merely hankering for acceptability within the power matrix.

By Raza Rumi:

Pakistan’s civil-military imbalance is now embedded in the very nature of the Pakistani state and the way it works. The “idea” of Pakistan has evolved into a wide-ranging and somewhat irreversible militarisation that has penetrated into the society, economy and the very imagination of Pakistan. Prima facie, there is a Constitution at work with civilian institutions that come and go as side characters on the grand political theatre of Pakistan.

However, as they say, societies are dynamic entities and evolve over time. Since the 1971 defeat of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, the trajectory of military supremacy was quite consistent. It is a separate matter that the 1971 moment arrived amid a complete information blackout in the western wing of the country. The West Pakistani newspapers were reporting victory, until the inglorious surrender of General Tikka Khan at today’s Ramna Park in Dhaka on December 16th 1971. Interestingly, the headline printed by daily Dawn on December 17th was: “War till victory”. A small news item below this vain headline read, “Fighting ends in east wing”. The 1970s witnessed the revival of a demoralised and defeated army by none other than populist and pro-poor Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Ideology of militarism: It was Mr. Bhutto who provided the grand ‘ideological’ narrative for the next four decades. Whereas he mobilised people for rights and seeking voice in the manner Pakistan was to be governed, he reinvented the framework for a martial state. First, fighting with India for a thousand years and regaining Kashmir became the plank of state policy. Second, the active pursuit of nuclear prowess became the overarching objective of the security doctrine positioned in relation to the enemy, i.e., India. (more…)

Pakistan: Fixing the civil-military imbalance

21 June 2011

Pakistan: Fixing the civil-military imbalance

By Raza Rumi:

Sovereignty is the flavour of the month in Pakistan. Since the capture and questionable assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistani discourse has been dominated by endless references to national sovereignty, honour, defence and pride. This jolt to the Pakistani state of mind has come at a time when media is relatively free, a vibrant boundless Internet flashes news by the second and there is quasi-democracy straddling between opportunism of the political elites and tunnel visions of the permanent ruling class: the security establishment.

That the Americans would conduct a surgical strike in the heart of military complex and ‘eliminate’ the poster-boy of Islamism has perturbed the right wing and their patrons who had worked hard for decades to construct a xenophobic, paranoid mindset justifying the country’s military machine. Arguments on incompetence or complicity are lethal for the uber-nationalist narratives; and hence the dilemma, perhaps the greatest of crises for the right wing in Pakistan. (more…)

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