Need for a Grand National Dialogue and a Comprehensive Anti-Terrorism Act
By Zia Siddiqui
While international agencies were calculating the Global Terrorism Index, based on number of incidents, fatalities, injuries and damage to property, they were not concerned with the root causes of these factors and nor were they taking into account the sacrifices an state and its people have rendered for the global peace. Hence Pakistan was placed second on the list only behind Iraq but ahead of Afghanistan, India, Yemen and Somalia etc. There is no denying that successive Pakistani governments have not been able to put a lid on this menace of terrorism and with every passing day it is becoming unmanageable at certain places. Careful analysis of the overall situation reveals that serious deficiencies exist in our judicial systems to deal with the apprehended alleged terrorists and therefore, there is need to formulate a comprehensive Anti-terrorism policy leading to enactments of relevant Acts to sharpen the teeth of our Law Enforcing Agencies (LEAs).
Pakistan was never so and one is forced to think that Pakistan may never be same again. Our society was always religious but very tolerant and accommodative for all the castes, sects and ethnicities. However, ever since the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Pakistani society has undergone a sea change in its construct and revised face is extremely dangerous for the peaceful, progressive and tolerant majority population, which is confused and uncertain about Pakistan’s future as an acceptable nation amongst the international community.
Only in over last ten years, more than 40,000 Pakistani’s have lost their lives to terror attacks and over 3,500 military personnel have been killed through targeted attacks and sporadic attacks. Police and FC have suffered the most in KP, FATA and Balochistan. Sectarian violence have caused over 300 lives in Balochistan alone during 2012 with 116 killed in one day on 10 January this year, which led to the fall of Balochistan government in just four days.
Coming back to judicial impediments, and governments’ inaction in legislating the relevant laws to sharpen the teeth of our LEAs, no coherent, comprehensive counterterrorism policy exists in the country. The draft Bill of NACTA though passed by the Cabinet is yet to be passed by the Parliament. Fair Trial Bill passed by the National Assembly is yet to get the nod of the senate. Non-availability of a coherent and comprehensive counterterrorism policy and lack of relevant laws lead to release of apprehended alleged terrorists. Only Rawalpindi ATC courts have acquitted over 50 accused in less than 100 cases in the recent past. Prosecution lacks support and protection to gather credible evidence witnesses remain subject to threats of being targeted even before they record their statements.
Our LEAs need to be supported with a unified and comprehensive counterterrorism policy which is owned by the state and its people. However, to support this policy, incumbent government would need to make relevant policies and legislate laws to give teeth to our LEAs for the effective implementation of these policies. While policies and laws are formulated, governments would have to build the capacities of our LEAs to fight against the much more organised and well trained terrorist organisations.
Without a coherent and comprehensive counterterrorism policy and relevant laws, the menace of terrorism and sectarianism cannot be tackled successfully. In fact, the use of force alone would be counterproductive and therefore the respective governments would have to continue their efforts to isolate the terrorists from the local populace, and block their support base; both financially and logistically. Otherwise, our Armed forces and LEAs would continue to lay their lives with no substantial gains toward rooting out the cause of this menace. Therefore, there is a need to pass relevant Acts by the Parliament and then proceed with actions alongside dialogue and reconciliation with all the stakeholders, to effectively deal with the grave situation that the state and its people are faced with.
Last but not the least; Federal Government must form a Task Force to bring all stakeholders on the same page. We must understand that our society is diverse and has been polarized in the last few decades in all spheres of political, social, religious, ethnic, and sectarian domain. Therefore, it is extremely important that a ‘Grand National Dialogue’ (GND) takes place where respected scholars from all walks of lives are represented and an open debate is conducted to eliminate the ills that are creating polarisation in the society. Until then, no policy or laws could effectively deal with the situation that we have now reached.