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Charting Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy

SR368-coverFrom September 2014 to March 2015, I was a senior Pakistan expert in residence at the United States Institute of Peace. This opportunity gave me the time to take a break and do some writing. In May 2015, my report was published.

Can be downloaded here

Traditionally ruled by military or quasi-military regimes, Pakistan is struggling to strengthen its democratic governance but the military remains in charge of country’s security policy. This period of incremental democratization corresponds to the unprecedented rise in terrorism and domestic insurgencies that have challenged state capacity and taken a toll on both the morale of the country and the economy. This report reviews Pakistan’s progress in devising and implementing counterterrorism policy frameworks in recent years. In highlighting key related strategic and operational issues, it offers Pakistani policymakers ways forward on how best to ensure internal stability and security, reminding us that a balance in civilian and military institutions is vital for effective policy outcomes.

Summary

  • Pakistan’s recently announced National Action Plan focuses on combatting both terrorism and militancy and addresses endemic insecurity and radicalization. The plan follows in the wake of the National Internal Security Policy, which has been in place for more than a year.

  • These two policy frameworks underscore the commitment of the government to implement counterterrorism operations. Implementation of both, however, is affected by the civil-military divide that defines Pakistan’s power landscape and by the altered governance architecture since the onset of devolution reforms of 2010.

  • Pakistan’s historically entrenched civil-military imbalance puts the military in the driver’s seat on all issues related to national security. The current civilian government has enabled the military to take the lead on internal security arrangements as well.

  • Internal security challenges of Pakistan are directly related to its external security policy, especially with respect to India and Afghanistan.

  • Centralized management of internal security policies, however, is fraught with difficulties. It is unclear whether the provincial governments “own” the National Internal Security Policy and how far the central government is enabling reform to achieve results.

  • Progress to date remains mixed. In fact, recent decisions indicate that key counterterrorism goals, such as action against proscribed militant outfits and madrassa regulation, may have been diluted to prevent backlash from religious militias. Counterterrorism efforts cannot succeed without dismantling the militias that have operated with impunity.

  • To effectively counter internal militancy and external terrorism, Pakistan’s policymakers will need to harness both civilian and military institutions. To do so, they need to develop a multifaceted strategy that incorporates a national intelligence directorate, an internal security adviser, enhanced jurisdiction of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, parliamentary participation in counterterrorism, increased financial commitments, education reform, provincial counterterrorism strategies, and altering public narratives. Such measures need to be implemented in letter and spirit with complementary institutional reforms.

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June 6th, 2015|governance, Pakistan, Published by USIP, terrorism|0 Comments

Reboot the narrative

My views incorporated in The Jinnah Institute’s new brief on the urgent policy interventions for 2015:

Jinnah institute
Reboot the narrative. Pakistan needs a new narrative of nationhood and its security. This requires a parliamentary debate and resetting the public discourse. If the civil-military leadership is serious about changing […]

January 5th, 2015|education, Extremism, terrorism|0 Comments

New battle against old demons

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. […]

March 9th, 2014|Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|0 Comments

The future of Afghanistan – towards a regional solution

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.

[…]

August 29th, 2013|Afghanistan, India, Peace, Politics|4 Comments

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

‘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? […]

June 19th, 2012|human rights, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|2 Comments

Our collective psychosis

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s right wing has flourished on the crutches of a national security doctrine: A world view, which prioritises paranoia and ‘security’ of ideological and geographical frontiers. Never mind if the majority of Pakistanis have no access to water and sanitation or the public education and health systems have virtually collapsed. The events of May 2011 cast a long shadow over the merits of investing in security institutions and fuelling patriotism with conspiracies.

First, the poster-Shaikh of anti-Americanism has been ‘eliminated’ when the mighty guardians were asleep. The new round of WikiLeaks cables reveals anecdotal evidence of civil-military acquiescence to the grand designs of ‘evil’ Americaincluding the nasty drones that kill civilians. And now, the latest attack on a well-guarded naval base and destruction of high-value military equipment has jolted us all. […]

May 28th, 2011|Published in the Express Tribune|2 Comments

An existential crisis

On 4 January, Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer was killed by a member of his security detail, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. But as disturbing as the assassination itself were the circumstances surrounding and following the governor’s death… In the aftermath, the hold of Pakistan’s religious lobbies has proven to be so powerful that no mullah, not even one appointed and paid by the state, was willing to conduct his funeral rites. While progressive civil-society voices have condemned both the incident and the direction in which Pakistan is heading – an act of great courage in these times – they remain a desperately small minority.

The entire incident epitomises the very real existential crisis in which the Pakistani nation now finds itself – one that relates to its very identity. Successive governments in the country have been quiescent before the forces of religious fundamentalism, and over the years brought in legislation to appease the religio-political forces – including the blasphemy laws that have been under such scrutiny of late. Today, this has reached a situation in which the country’s religious minorities (constituting less than five percent of the national population) are beleaguered amidst a legal system that denies them basic human rights. In turn, this has enabled fundamentalist ideologies to take firm hold in the minds of government functionaries. The support of the state and its security agencies, including sections of the armed forces, to such sections has now reached a point where they are becoming a threat to the very existence of the Pakistani state itself – at least, in the form we know it. […]

February 2nd, 2011|Personal, Published in Himal Magazine|6 Comments