NationalVolume 12 Issue # 10

A monumental failure exposed

A recent inquiry commission report on a deadly terrorist attack in Quetta early this year has indicted the federal and provincial governments for their failure to implement the National Action Plan (NAP). It shows the provincial and federal governments are not interested in the war on terror and think it is the responsibility of the military only. The inquiry commission, formed under the Supreme Court of Pakistan, has also slammed the federal interior minister, the Balochistan chief minister and home minister for providing misleading information following a deadly terrorist attack in Quetta which claimed 70 lives. Over 112 people were also injured on August 8, when a powerful explosion ripped through Civil Hospital in Quetta when Balochistan Bar Association President Bilal Kasi’s body was being brought to the emergency department. Kasi was gunned down in a targeted killing earlier that day.

The commission, formed by the Apex Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, took 56 days to complete a 110-page report. It criticized the government and state apparatus for “monumental failure to combat terrorism and perform basic protocols”. It recommended that action should be taken against people broadcasting statements by banned organizations and terrorists. In its findings, the commission said the Federal Interior Ministry lacks a “sense of ministerial responsibility” and proposed that the Anti-Terrorism Act should be implemented immediately and action should be taken against all proscribed organizations. The report said both federal and provincial governments were shortsighted and confused about the fight against terrorism and lamented that the Balochistan government was directionless and plagued by nepotism. “The [Interior] Ministry’s National Security Internal Policy is not being implemented. The Officers of the Ministry appear more interested in serving the Minister than the people of Pakistan. Forensic tools are not being used to aid in tracing the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and rudimentary methodologies to examine crime scenes, etcetera, have just not been developed or standardized,” it noted.

The commission said that the National Action Plan was not being implemented and its goals not being prioritized. “Another monumental failure has been the lack in silencing extremist speech, literature, and propaganda. There has been a complete failure in producing and then disseminating a counter-narrative. The country was created by those who wanted to ameliorate the condition of the Muslims of the subcontinent, and to uphold the freedoms of those of every faith. The message of Unity, Faith, and Discipline was unfortunately sabotaged by hypocrites and extremists and needs to be rejected,” it added. It is rare in Pakistan that an inquiry commission report is made public. In Pakistan, commissions are usually formed to conceal the truth. However, the report is remarkable for its clarity and fixing responsibilities. It did not shy away from naming the accused and institutions. It blamed the Interior Ministry, intelligence agencies, Frontier Corps, the provincial government, provincial health department, media, VIPs, and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) for contribution to an environment in which militancy and extremism thrive. In the aftermath of violent incidents, when innocent lives are lost, no lessons are learned, it observed.

Pakistan has achieved significant success in the Zarb-e-Azb operation, but the Quetta tragedy reminds us that we still have to work hard for years to save “soft targets” from terrorists. Huge achievements in the military operation apart, Pakistan will have to start work to eliminate the mindset, which creates suicide bombers and hardliners, who want to impose their will on others. Militant attacks in the country have dropped considerably after two years of the Zarb-e-Azb operation. The military has eliminated terrorist hideouts in the Tribal Areas but new fronts have emerged in urban areas. To support Zarb-e-Azb and control a blowback in major cities, the security forces launched intelligence-based operations across the country. The operations helped in limiting the blowback although the militants managed to carry out some outrageous attacks in Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Shikarpur. Karachi has also seen a remarkable reduction in anti-state violence emanating from groups like the TTP, Al-Qaeda and their local affiliates. Karachi saw at least 25 attacks every month before the operation and it dropped to 9, with a 64 percent decline. The security forces have eliminated key commanders of Al-Qaeda, TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in the city.

The Punjab also witnessed a decline in the overall number of militant attacks. Experts say militant networks have been considerably weakened and degraded but urban-based groups still pose a threat. The Karachi operation continues with the largest number of arrests of terrorists affiliated with the Taliban. For action against madrassas promoting terrorism, civil agencies will have to play their role. The government will have to act upon all points which are its responsibility under the National Action Plan to fight the militants. The war on terrorism cannot be won if action is not taken against sectarian organizations and terrorists based in urban areas. Instead of appreciating the commission report, government quarters and its sympathizers have started criticizing the judiciary for its alleged partiality for choosing to investigate an incident which primarily affected the legal fraternity, rather than probing thousands of other attacks in the country, which deserved similar scrutiny. However, the report reminds the promises all civilian and intelligence agencies made after the Peshawar Army Public School attack in 2014. It also indicates the battle against homegrown militancy is still not won and the nation will have to fight it with a renewed resolve.

After the report it was thought that Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar Ali may be asked to relinquish his post. The minister stated in a press conference, that he had offered to resign, but the prime minister had refused his offer. But then, this is Pakistan – a nihilistic society, where accountability is a meaningless term. The rulers of this country, as well as all the so-called political leaders attain to public office or position in politics only for self-aggrandisement. Politics is for power or pelf or both – and to the heck with the country or its people.