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Akbar Nasir Khan-Will a Counter Terrorism Force Work?

Akbar Nasir Khan-Will a Counter Terrorism Force Work?

At a time when Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies need to have very clear aims and objectives and concentrate on security and curb terrorism in Pakistan, Punjab Police is compelled to divorce its main counter terrorism unit. Designers have decided to transfer the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) from Central Police office and place it under the Home Department of the province. Reportedly, it is part of a “National Plan”, even after 18th Amendment’ to raise Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) at national and provincial levels as per choice of each province. The whole scheme lacks prudence and ignores the ground realities. It lacks popular support of informed leadership of the Police from police station to senior officers. It is feared that de-linking it from Police and placing under bureaucracy may please the ‘concerned quarters’ but will be a wastage of time, energy and public money of the ultimate beneficiaries-the people of Pakistan.

 

Punjab Police’s website reads ‘In 1995, the Criminal Investigation Department was formally created in Punjab Police and it operated under the CID Manual, 1937. Starting as a small operational unit, it has now developed into a department having its regional offices all over the Punjab. On July 21, 2010, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was named as Counter Terrorism Department (CTD)’. It is a public information that ‘CTD had seven wings including intelligence, operation, investigation, prosecution, research & analysis and technical.CTD had four police stations – one each in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi. The department was provided with Elite Force teams to bring down high-value terrorists.The Punjab police and CTD had established Joint Investigations Teams (JITs) in the 36 districts of Punjab to deal with terrorism cases. Each of these JITs comprised a CTD inspector and an inspector or DSP of the local police of the respective district. Despite huge budget, human resources and lucrative perks and privileges the CTD has failed to achieve its objective which led to the abolishing of this department, sources said’.

 

Political leadership has also been cognizant of importance of CTD and has always appointed best officers to command this unit. Had the ‘sources’ been correct, the former heads of CTD should have been penalized. On the contrary, two former heads of CTD Punjab are IGs of Police forces of KP and Baluchistan and pioneer of CT efforts, Tariq Pervaiz was appointed as Home Minister in caretaker government Punjab for ensuring peaceful and violence free General Elections 2013.  Contrary to media reports, they all have performed upto the mark and they all are respected in all segments of society. However, the successes of CTD have not been highlighted and appropriate resources were not allocated by the government machinery to make it worthwhile. Now all that will be done but not through Police.

 

If we examine the ‘National Plan’ with the information available in the public domain, it is interesting to note that there is no CTF for FATA. If such efforts are afoot, these are not shared with people of Pakistan for one reason of the other. Administration in ‘Epicenter of terrorism in Pakistan’ is working without a professional law and order arm. Levies and Khasadars are nowhere near to professional standards of Police, no matter how inadequate these standards are.

 

KP is going to recruit 25000 officers and reportedly. All is set! Numbers seem to justify the demand but capacity to raise this huge force within a short time is a serious question. Professional Training of this large CTF by the state institutions will at least require few years. Only four training centers in KP will not be able to get the desired results as trainings has never been the priority of the department. Outsourcing the training is also not considered as an option. So there are serious concerns about implementation of this policy decision.

 

Balochistan is already facing an insurgency. There is no noise about CTF in 95% of the A area which is already under Home Department. If the failure is admitted there, then it should also be handed over to another organization under a different leadership. One obvious option is Police. Balochistan Police should be deployed all over Balochistan with a strong CTF like KP without any distinction of A and B areas.

 

In Sindh, the CTF will be 10,000 strong and there will be new recruitments. Trends in recruitment process in Sindh in last five years are worth examining but this space is not sufficient to cover the scope of this sensitive topic! There is already a functioning unit Criminal Investigation Department but there is little clarity about future functioning i.e. investigations, prosecution and intelligence of proposed CTF.

 

Islamabad Capitol Territory Police (ICTP) has already developed a ‘Crisis Response Teams’ and this 30 men unit is considered to be capable enough to respond to any threat faced by ICTP. It is not clear whether it is a Quick Response Force or a SWOT team and how it can cover other vital components like Intelligence, operations and Investigations in one or more incidents at the same time. ICTP has the mandate to guard maximum number of diplomats and national VVIPs. Therefore,  capacity constraints should be overcome to meet the commitments of the government in a lean and effective Police structure.

 

In Punjab, situation is different than other provinces. Only 500 personnel is strength of proposed CTF with minimum salary of Rupees 75000 and huge resources. For media consumption it is announced by ‘sources’ that helicopters will be at their disposal. This number will be achieved by brining in people from various units of the government. Let me quote another extract from an article about terrorism and challenges for LEAs in Punjab.

 

‘The main banned organizations with leadership and headquarters in Punjab include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Jummatud-Dawa (JuD), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), HarkatulJihadulIslami (HJI), all working in collaboration with the TTP and al-Qaeda. These sectarian groups are active in the Punjabi cities of Jhang, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan, Muzaffergarh, Layyah, and Gujranwala, leaving the government with the difficult task of eliminating these groups with actions other than those already taken in the tribal areas. The LeT’s governing offices are located in Muridke and Lahore while the SSP is controlled from Jhang district. Similarly, LeJ takes directions from Rahimyar Khan and the JeM is linked with its center in Bahawalpur.  Media reports suggest that a large number of militants from Punjab have joined hands with the TTP as well as the Afghan Taliban in recent years. With significant numbers of recruits from Punjab-based sectarian organizations, the TTP has proved to be lethal to government efforts to establish order on the frontier. According to the figures of the ten largest jihadi organizations, the number of “martyrs” from Punjab is more than 12,000, of which roughly 4,000 have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

 

An intelligence report recently prepared by the provincial government’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) revealed that 2,487 militants trained in Afghanistan and 556 militants released from Afghan prisons have surfaced in the province and are now active in the Punjabi Taliban Network.’ Details can be found at https://afpakwatch.wordpress.com/tag/counter-terrorism-department/

 

You should be feeling a chill in spine if you live in Punjab today!

 

If we think operationally, even the one task of surveillance of 2,487 militants trained in Afghanistan and 556 militants released from Afghan prisons by the 500 strong CTF will be an interesting challenge for CTF or any small force no matter how technically advanced it is. Moreover, designers think that a 500 officers and men will be fetched from various public departments but it is also claimed that the culture of this highly paid CTF will be different than Police. Apparently, it is considered that high salary and amalgam of individuals from the proverbially inefficient public departments is key to change in working culture of a civilian law enforcement arm of the state. Interesting!

 

On the website of Chief Minister of Punjab it was highlighted that CTD was a success and important steps for improving law and order situation in the Punjab and here is text from the http://www.cm.punjab.gov.pk/?q=lawandorder

 

  The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) was established in 2009 to combat terrorism. (Punjab Police website says 2010!)

  Quick Response Force has been created with the assistance of the Pakistan Army to counter terrorism.

  4,329 criminal gangs and 145,748 proclaimed offenders have been prosecuted in Punjab and 76,310 fugitives have been  arrested. Moreover, 46 police officers embraced martyrdom in the war against terror.

 

If all above appears reasonable to independent minds then why this separation of CTD and developing another silo of CTF? One of the answers lies in visibility and popularity attached to CTF. Because of its mandate, it is focus of international donor agencies and many diplomatic villas in Islamabad. UK, Germany, US, Australia, Canada, Japan, EU and many UN agencies are eager to support CT efforts and any actionable plans in Pakistan. Many projects are underway in almost all provinces of the country and their assistance is helping Pakistani civilian LEAs in capacity building at astronomical costs. This is also the prime reason that others are dying to wear the hat of CTD specialists. Factional rivalry in the bureaucracy may be another stream underlying the deeds of designers. Not rising above by either of them will be detrimental for peaceful future of Punjab and Pakistan.

 

CTD was considered to continue the efforts to curb terrorism keeping an eye on existing trends in terrorism cases and working in coordination with district Police and other agencies. Ever expanding network of police is the main strength of many departments of government including revenue, education, health, and census and Election Commission of Pakistan. A force of 170,000 police officers and their information picking methods are helping CTD and other intelligence collection agencies including Special Branch, IB, MI and ISI. Surveillance of Afghan trained personnel and released prisoner was possible with the help of District Police and under unified command in the office of Inspector General of Police. With least interaction and disintegrated command and control of these specialized units within the Police, the effectiveness of CTF will be jeopardized.

 

This debate on CTF does not inform us about scope and coverage of this novel endeavor. In a recent incident of terrorism foreign tourists were killed in cold blood in Diamer, Gilgit-Baltistan. Don’t we need any such CTF there? Are GB and AJK not part of Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Don’t people of GB, people like you and me, deserve to be protected from menace of terrorism? Will there be any CTF in AJK? There is no clarity about this National CTF and haze is getting thicker on the strategic objective and possible benefits of CTF what to mention about operational clarity, command and control and legality of proposed actions.

 

Timing of this effort is not appropriate. On the eve of Muharram ul Haram 2013, such jerk reactions to CT efforts in Pakistan may prove detrimental as it is affecting the moral of already demoralized Police forces.  In various parts of the country they are repeatedly told by their political bosses that Police is corrupt and inefficient despite sacrificingthousands of brilliant officers and unnamed constables.Ironically, on one hand talks with terrorists are preferred and on the other a CTF campaign is launched. Confusion is further compounded.

 

To add my part in this confusion, I have FIVE suggestions to let the thinking minds cultivate more ideas.

 

1.      Ministry of Interior should provide a strategic leadership and act as hub of CT planning in NACTA headed by professional civilian command.

 

2.      Strategic aims and objectives of CTDs in each province and federal areas should be defined with the input from all stakeholders including armed forces and political leadership.

 

3.      Capacity building of CTDs should be in line with these objectives and CTF must have significant presence in various parts of the country covering FATA, Balochistan, AJK and GB.

 

4.      Specialized units like intelligence development, investigations, crime scene management should be developed in CTD as per international standards. Excellent initiative of Punjab Government in the form of Forensics Science Agency will be a fantastic support for this critical function of CTD.

 

5.      CTD in Punjab and similar set ups in other provinces should be beefed up with a CTF component like Specialized Weapons Operations Teams and this can be done by enhancing the capability of Elite Force officers and merging them with CTD under one command.

 

 

I will certainly not find mastermind of this half-baked ideas, as there are many Aristotle and Socrates who will be advocating this move.  Many public policy experts will be cribbing in private rooms that survival is more important than sharing their candid opinion with a reasonable political leadership who wants to make law and order better. Neither am I a fortuneteller nor an expert in astronomy. Previous efforts in Pakistan to raise parallel structure without ownership of the premier agencies and sound design could not pass the test of the time. It is feared that CTF will be another story for the prospective students of Public Policy to learn inadequate use of public funds and misguiding the political leaders and donors when they were ready to help Pakistan.  

 

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  • Guest (Muhammad Fazal Ur Rehman)

    well done Akbar Nasir Khan

    from Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan
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