At last count the Peshawar carnage was 148 and still counting. The incongruous thing is that “Taliban” translated means “students”, can those who kill our schoolchildren be themselves called Taliban? They should be called the devils (Shaitans) that they are. The perverted ideology of such animals has nothing to do with Islam, those who massacred our innocents cannot claim to be muslims by any stretch of imagination.
Were the Shaitans successful because of a security lapse? Off course they were. And on whose shoulders should responsibility rest? On all of us is the right answer, this includes the federal and provincial governments, their civil and police administration, the Armed Forces, intelligence agencies, politicians, common citizens etc. But can you stop someone determined to die from accomplishing his (or her) evil mission? No amount of passive protection can prevent this, active protection means taking the fight to them, taking them out at their roots. Such terrorism as being practiced in Pakistan is impossible to perpetrate without foreign funding and logistics support, their foreign sponsors must be exposed.
Logistics for terrorist hideouts, money, ammunition, supplies, uniforms, vehicles, safe mobility through the streets etc may be the responsibility of the provincial law enforcement agencies to interdict, this does not absolve the federal government and their myriad number of intelligence agencies. Unfortunately their tactical commitment 24/7 in routine functions in any case degenerates the ability of the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to pick early warning signals of impending hostile action and slows down their response time. The police are unable to take the initiative in actively locating and ferreting out terrorists from various localities. The “democratically” elected political elite can afford private security, flush with ill-gotten money, the egos of our so-called VIPs require blocking entire roads and moving around with whole convoys of police (and Rangers) mobiles with flashing lights and blaring sirens. Unless local police comply with their “fashion statement”, they are harassed, transferred and/or terminated, Karachi and Sindh are the sorriest examples. Diverting significant police personnel from their given task of “policing” relegates the police to a passive role and affects the security and sanctity of the common citizen and his property.
From the Karachi Airport incident we learnt the following lessons, viz (1) non-existent unity of command (2) lack of coordinated intelligence gathering and sharing (3) lack of adequate weapons, equipment, vehicles, light helicopters, etc (4) lack of trained manpower dedicated to tackling terrorism and protecting sensitive sites (5) duplication of effort and (6) bureaucratic interference and insensitivity to LEAs’ financial requirements. Without “actionable intelligence” being shared immediately, terrorism cannot be countered.
The Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan announced a well-crafted National Security Policy, and then stopped right there. And why? Nobody knows why the de-activated National Counter-Terrorism Authority called NACTA remains de-activated despite the political rhetoric about its imminent activation we keep hearing about as an endless refrain.
What about security at schools and colleges? Both public and private educational institutions (like the Army Public School) (APS) are soft targets for the Shaitans. While the State must be responsible for the overall security of all its citizens, it is the responsibility of individuals and organization to further augment their own security. APS should have anticipated such an attack and reinforced their security in the wake of the success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Both public and private schools are all targets considered soft enough for the Shaitans to act, they must themselves also take immediate steps to secure themselves and not simply pass on the responsibility to the State.
Critical assets such as ports, airports, etc must come under a unified command dedicated to organizing, planning, training, equipping and implementing both protection and counter-terrorism response. The mission statement for protecting public assets (airports) and non-public assets (airbases) remains the same, the criteria for actual deployment of protection may differ. At present our protection, response and rescue efforts remain fragmented, even the Army’s Defense Security Guards (DSG) are supplemented in their task by denuding the fighting formations of infantry units on makeshift arrangements.
The Border and Internal Security Forces i.e. Rangers in Sindh and Punjab, Frontier Corps (FC) in KPK and Balochistan, and FIA’s Immigration, report to the Ministry of Interior, ASF to Aviation Division and Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) to the Ministry of Narcotics Control. Officered by the Army, all have multiple parents except for Immigration, the crisscrossing channels of command causing confusion and duplication. A “Homeland Security Command” comprising all the aforementioned (including the DSG) must a be dedicated and effective single command and control mechanism for protection of strategic assets and countering terrorism. Headed by a senior three star general, preferably someone having actual combat and internal security experience, it should immediately take over security of ports, airports, air, army and naval bases etc. Rangers and FC must separate their internal security and border security contingents. Even without NACTA becoming an integral part, a “Counterterrorism Force” (CTF) can be developed from within this Command. In the absence of any movement from the Federal government the Army was politely encouraged to do the needful by re-organization within GHQ, a sustained silence was the answer.
The PM has taken a very courageous decision in removing the despicable moratorium imposed by former President Asif Zardari on death sentences on terrorists, going one step further he has ordered that it would start being implemented in 48 hours. Last time around Mian Nawaz Sharif had only extended the moratorium because the Sharifs received a fax threatening his family. It takes courage to exercise such political will in the face of such threats and I commend that. Someone convicted for taking a human life (or lives) must pay the price according to law.
General Raheel Sharif’s immediate visit to Kabul December 17 was very important, one has no doubt about the sincerity of the Afghan President. With the evidence of those unsolved, if his people are in control of the perpetuator he will hand him over. If nothing else he will not stop the likes of Mullah Fazlullah from using Afghan soil against us. The time for rhetoric is over, it is time to take action against the Shaitans. The media also has a responsibility, it must not give space to the representatives of the Shaitans in our midst. In fact they can start by remaining the Tehrik-e-Talibaan Pakistan (TTP) as Tekrik-e-Shaitan Pakistan (TSP), a simple matter of changing the alphabet “T” with the alphabet “S”.
Combining unity of command with amalgamated intelligence potential and commonality of personnel, weapons and equipment, etc under one single entity saves money by avoiding duplication. Instead of lip-service rhetoric and vacillation, there must be a credible and effective counter to the existential terrorism threat faced by this country.
Peshawar has shown in graphic bloody detail what tragedy our built-in complacency can bring! Let us all unite to counter the Shaitans.
The writer is a Pakistan-based defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org