· At least on one point the non-state actors (NSAs) and state actors, particularly elected governments, are united: opposition to drone attacks by the United States of America. However, the ways to register the agitation by the two sides are starkly different. State authorities are calling the responsible people of the US in the foreign office and expressing displeasure. TTP and its allied factions like Jand I Hafsa, are targeting the innocent tourists in as far-flung areas as Diamer. The audience for their displeasure is the wider international community. It rings the bell that Drone strikes must be hitting TTP hard and weakening their capacity. If one of the aims of forthcoming National Security Policy (NSP) is to establish the writ of the government in all territories in Pakistan, then should Drones remain available as a useful tool for State actors?
·Before we answer this question, let’s examine the recent terrorist attacks by observing three factors. First, the selection of the location remains the monopoly of the NSAs. Whether it is Ziarat, Quetta, Mardan, Peshawar, Karachi or Diamer, they have choosen it and there was no organized resistance offered to them by the state apparatus which could have created hurdles in execution of their plans. This also shows that choice of not launching terrorist attacks in interior Sindh and Punjab is also part of their policy. The reasons can be many but certainly it is not the fear of facing retaliation by the law enforcement agencies because capacity and commitment of all LEAs does not vary drastically that it would have deterred the NSAs.
·Secondly, the selection of targets by the NSAs is as diverse as the target area. Quaid’s Residency in Ziarat was targeted because of its symbolic importance as national heritage. Diamer massacre was to send a message that no matter how difficult the terrain, the NSAs network can hit the interests of the state. In Karachi, unaccounted for sacrifice of nine Police officers in the cavalcade of Honorable Justice Maqbool Baqir is just another evidence that they have the capacity to select and hit the high value target in most sophisticated manner in the presence of sufficient close protection units from LEAs.
·Thirdly, all these incidents have exposed that response kit of the state actors lacks variety of tools and gadgets. In Ziarat and GB the usual response was to sacrifice the most vulnerable public servants with the easiest option; a stroke of pen. Officers from SHO to Deputy Commissioner have been suspended in Ziarat and CS and IG of GB was also sent the similar messages like; terrorists succeeded because you are incapable and your replacements are some kind of mavericks who will do wonders.
·This urge to do something--action imperative--might be giving some solace to the decision makers but it is certainly not serving the purpose to fight back and go after the network of the NSAs visible in the nook and corner of the country.
·In response to these attacks, formulation of a National Security Policy (NSP) is considered by ‘experts’ as the panacea of all the ills of insecurity. Voices are getting louder to revamp the existing internal security framework to cope up with the existing challenges. Formulators of the NSP may be thinking, if not then they should, that at least thirteen types of civilian law enforcement entities are operating in the country with overlapping jurisdictions and mandates. From only accountability purposes, these thirteen civilian LEAs have multiple complex processes and the parliamentary committees or Ministry of Interior will be at odds to find the simple means to oversee the performance of all such LEASs. Many experienced advisors will give a solution to make another body to control and coordinate these LEAs. It will further compound the confusion and in simple arithmetic, the number of LEAs will be increased to fourteen! In the name of coordination the real motive is control and creating more seats for bureaucrats and political cronies rather than improving performance.
·For drafters of NSP, here are five suggestions, for free! First there should be a premier civilian LEA at national and provincial level responsible for providing safe hand secure environment for the economic development. Consensus is evolving in the media and offline debates that there should be one office in the province to take the responsibilities of analyzing the situation neutrally, devising a practicable policy, implementing the sound strategy and capable of taking the responsibility of the good and the poor results of the civilian LEAs. That Built in impartial accountability mechanisms and parliamentary oversight can ensure respect of human rights to prevent abuse of power.
·Secondly, Police Department should be given this role and all civilian intelligence agencies like Intelligence bureau, FIA, Rangers, ANF and even very smaller forces like Border Police in some parts of some provinces, should be reporting to one Civilian Commanding officer- Director General of Internal Security or Provincial Police officer-whatever falls sweeter on ears! This will make coordination between civil and military intelligence simple and efficient. The capacity of civilian LEAs is a serious issue to implement this mandate but journey of thousands miles starts but with a single step.
·Thirdly; Overlapping jurisdictions and multiple legal paradigms should be revised and the premier agency should have exclusive responsibility to maintain the order in respective area of responsibility under a uniform police law of the land.
·Fourth in the line of argument is that merely changing the form will not resolve the issue. Substantial changes in the way the internal security is handled from the police station level to GHQ, will be required. Addressing the gigantic task will require transparent and effective governance and enhanced investment by the state on internal security. Any bureaucratic window dressing, as is happening in KP or Punjab, will defeat the enthusiasm of the people and kill all the hopes pinned to new democratic set ups.
·Fifth is that we have to honestly face this reality that state is unable to exercise territorial control in some problematic areas like FATA, Karachi and Balochistan. It does not sound pleasant to some readers and possibly we will like to avoid this reality. But we cannot avoid the consequence of this reality that continuous terrorist attacks by the TTP in various parts of the country on targets of their choices are emanating from these troubled areas of FATA.
·In addition, Taliban are in dialogue with the US and terrorists attacks are also conducted in Afghanistan at the same time. Is it part of their negotiations strategy to extract more favors on the table? Even from that perspective, in Pakistan the only effective response to the perpetrators is drones so far. Therefor, the anti-terrorism tool kit should keep this option like giving war against extremism another chance and let the drones chase the most wanted NSAs especially when state actors have no control over these territories. In the meanwhile an olive branch offered by them, if ever, should not be denied. ‘Bigger’ issues of sovereignty and coordinated use of drones can be sorted out keeping in view the present congenial relationship between the US and the incumbent government.
·Nonetheless, taking into confidence the key stakeholders including the military and the opposition parties will be a pre condition to embark upon this herculean task of revamping the internal security mechanism. This can be harbinger of a much awaited meaningful response by the state actors against the non-state actors.
Writer is a governance and security sector expert based in Islamabad.