Pakistan’s State of Insecurity

It is mind-boggling that Pakistan, despite being at the “ground zero” of terrorism, is without a dedicated “Counter-Terrorism Force” (CTF). A well-equipped, well-trained and well-led CTF can isolate and destroy the terrorists’ potential to spread destruction and grief, utilizing any resources for operations, wherever and whenever necessary

Posted on 01/2/14
By Ikram Sehgal | ViewsWeek
A man rescues a child after a bomb explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2013. (Photo from video)
A man rescues a child after a bomb explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2013. (Photo from video)

To trace the origins of insecurity in Pakistan we must study both the natural and contrived deficiencies in our social, political and economic sectors. Ethnic and religious strife have not only morphed but become further complicated by ruthless terrorist activity. Unfortunately partisan and parochial viewpoints from both sides of the spectrum tend to be counter-productive in seeking practical long-lasting solutions for a very human problem.

The malady of sectarianism is very deeply rooted, kept aflame by a proxy war between the Saudis and Iranians on our soil using Sunni and Shia extremists respectively. This not only damages the fabric of Muslim unity at its origin, but hits at the very root of the existence of the nation. Militants with very little worldly knowledge are caught in a 13th century time-warp, their demons of frustration deriving them to commit atrocities like seldom seen before. Presently contained to extremists, as the conflict escalates the polarization can ultimately even permeate the law enforcement agencies (LEAs).  What we need is an even-handed, all-encompassing and multi-faceted solution.


Manifesting itself in political terrorism and criminal activities in that order, a state of insurrection exists in the urban areas. The order of malfeasance is reversed in the rural areas, criminal activity being far ahead of political terrorism. Unfortunately, both activities merge with each other, the militants among the political activists deciding that profit is to be generated from outright crime, conversely the dacoits finding that their misdemeanours are seen in a romantic light if they associate political activism with their shenanigans. The fine line between crime and democratic aspirations has disappeared, leading to anarchy.


Promises media-fed to the masses notwithstanding, the representatives of the people have made themselves unaccountable to the people. Corruption has become an inescapable part of our daily lives. The fundamental premise of democracy being that all transactions are open for public scrutiny, no regime ever allows elected public representatives to function at the grassroots level. The real rulers are the feudals, aided by bureaucrats they exercise their authority to the detriment of the populace. The concept of allowing elected local representatives to exercise power at the grassroots level is anathema to those who use democracy to foster their own corruption. This lack of transparency and accountability allows this corruption to proliferate and flourish, the façade of our so-called democracy disguises the absolute farce of elected representation. The rule of law in the country is more and more in the hands of smugglers and rapists, eventually the deterrence that the LEAs exercise may well disappear. Who is than left to defend the Constitution from statutory rape by predators lacking moral turpitude?  With all due respect, the honorable judges of the Supreme Court delude themselves when they hold the Constitution to be sacred amid this sustained onslaught against democracy by those who proclaim themselves as democrats.  When democratic principles are violated in the name of democracy to perpetuate criminals functioning in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime.


The rape of morality allows perpetration of heinous crimes in a society claiming to be Islamic. Effective steps must be taken to contain the anarchy from spreading. The least we can do is to carry out social ostracization of the criminal elements, eschewing their money and power. This is easier said than done in a society which only recognizes wealth as the final arbiter of a place in that society. When morality is thus compromised at the altar of greed and symbolism, the implementation of justice becomes selective.


The LEAs require blanket protection against “human rights” activists sympathetic to the premise “innocent until proven guilty beyond doubt”. This has led to administrative inaction and deliberate neglect of responsibilities, bordering on or actually criminal. At the same time archaic laws and inadequately manned courts of justice mean terrorists are free to operate with virtual impunity. It is not that justice has been denied, it has been ambiguous and thus delayed, that is bad for the system. The touchstone to success will lie being strictly impartial in imposing the rule of law, to be fair to all without fear or favor. The mass population must got a perception of impartiality without regard for their ethnicity and/or religious affiliations. If any community is discriminated against because of their lineage or political leanings, the battle will be lost.  Urban guerilla warfare cannot be sustained without the support of the people, conversely no counter campaign can succeed without the support of the people.  The will of the government to enforce the rule of law will be especially tested in the major urban areas where establishment-created forces (and their personnel) with influential links will have to be made examples of if the government’s intentions are to be seen as above board.


Terrorist groups need arms and money. Terrorists are motivated by ideology and criminals by greed, the linkages between them is “organized crime”, these emaciate from corruption and include money-laundering, fabrication of passport and identification documents, provision of safe houses, supply of explosives. Terrorist organizations include common criminals with special skills or access to networks or criminal opportunities. Terrorist funding comes through foreign exchange dealers and “havalas”, only processing through scheduled banks will stop the flow. Those directly connected to the perpetrators and those giving indirect assistance to them must be targeted, with close monitoring of funds ostensibly meant for charity.


Three concentric spheres support necessary logistics for terrorism: e.g., explosives, hideouts, travel and the search and observation of soft vulnerable targets. The consequences of this funding of huge amounts of money are death and murder. The terrorists in the inner-most circle are surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners, commanders, religious personalities, etc., serving as their infrastructure. The third circle is of religious, educational and welfare organizations.


In this tunnel vision, democracy is unthinkable and with minimum exposure to the outside world, their strength is derived from isolation of terrorists (and ignorance). In Pakistan, the nexus between illegal underworld and the economics of parallel illegal markets creates a parallel society has successfully infiltrated into the higher reaches of the government. From circumventing rule of law, they have become “rule of law” itself. To understand how criminals function in the name of law, just look at the list of political luminaries and bureaucratic functionaries involved in the “ephedrine case” based out of the office of the chief executive of the country.


History is replete with morons who have governed, posterity’s pages are full of their misdoings.  Anyone can rule but can anyone dare to change the system to one suited to the true genius of our people by allowing the people to really govern themselves?” It is not possible to enforce the rule of law by following the rule of law in a totally lawless environment.


The symbiotic relationship between organized crime and terrorism notwithstanding, all terrorist acts are not “organized crime”, neither are all criminal acts terrorism. In most developing countries, terrorism exists along with varying levels of organized criminal activity: A counter-terrorism policy must not try appeasement.  It must be understood that (1) The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) aims to overthrow the existing government by altering the status quo of the prevailing system while organized crime aims to form a parallel government while coexisting with the existing one; (2) terrorism primarily uses violent means, organized crime prefers non-violence notwithstanding the odd resort to belligerence, mostly as “show of force”; and (3) while terrorism is driven purely by political objectives despite exploitation of regional, national and religious sentiments to achieve their ends, economic objectives are operational determinants of organized crime. Modern terrorists relying on well-funded mentors have no regard for human life.


The judicial process is subject to intimidation and coercion, the prosecuting agencies are infested with rampant corruption. Those apprehended normally walk off scot-free, thumbing their noses at the law enforcement agencies (LEAs). The ruling political circles give lip-service to action under the Constitution there is still no will to invoking the necessary Articles of the Constitution. Whenever justice is deemed to be partial, its inherent credibility becomes suspect.  While over the past five years some progress has been made, much of the good done by the former Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC) was undone by his penchant to play to the gallery.  Being addicted to media attention, he revelled in acting the populist in the Courtroom, insulting and humiliating civil and military officers and thus undermining the basis of their authority to ensure good governance.  At the same time debasing the respect and decorum of the august office he occupied.  The new CJ is a refreshing change, he has brought down the “sensation count” many decibels.  The former CJ’s mixed legacy as been commented upon by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), it will continue to be debated in times to come by friend and detractors alike.


The Pakistan Armed Forces, particularly the Army, has been engaged in a long drawn out but fairly successful counter-insurgency (CI).   It must not get involved in counter terrorism directly.   This is the task of a dedicated civilian law enforcement agency (LEA).  Identifying the most dangerous threats and likely targets thereof, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) must be activated to: (1) detect people organized in terrorist activities, and monitor their movements; (2) detect the sources of supply of explosive materials; (3) mobilize defense capability to recognize and counter specific threats; (4) mobilize adequate and coordinated intelligence capability, utilizing both human and electronic intelligence; (5) focus on air, sea, rail and road travel as potential terror targets; and (6) use both electronic and physical means to guard the country’s frontiers, involving monitoring and observation of thousands of miles of our borders.


It is mind-boggling that a country at the “ground zero” of terrorism is without a dedicated “Counter-Terrorism Force” (CTF). A well-equipped, well-trained and well-led CTF can isolate and destroy the terrorists’ potential to spread destruction and grief, utilizing any resources for operations, wherever and whenever necessary. Inducting only the very best in its ranks without any political interference or maneuvering. Beware of the evil nexus between corruption, organized crime and terrorism, politicians and powerful people on criminal payroll will always be averse to the CTF becoming effective.  In a symbiotic relationship terrorists thrive on drug money and drug barons provide protection to the drug trade. Because it has its own intelligence setup to identify the flow of drug money, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) can easily be converted to a counterterrorism role. However to be effective the following conditions must be met: (1) anti-terrorist laws are passed by parliament; (2) the requisite judicial reforms are introduced to make electronic evidence admissible in courts (to convict terrorists); (3) a psyops organisation is created to feed the media, to change the dogmatic thinking of the people; (4) as highlighted by the Abbottabad Commission, an effective mechanism is created to coalesce and coordinate ‘activate intelligence’; and (5) adequate funding is allocated. The ANF caught the son of a sitting Prime Minister red-handed in a drug-related scam, does anyone really expect politicians will allow a CTF to run amok?


The LEAs carry an unsavory reputation for integrity or exercising restraint, misuse of such powers will seriously endanger safety of broad mass of innocent citizens. Without oversight ensuring public safety during the operations by an effective check and balance mechanism, the long suffering public who already remain at the mercy of the militants, could also become “legally” hostage to the LEAs.  A “Public Safety Commission” (PSC) can essentially function as an independent forum for citizens seeking administrative relief against the misuse of draconian powers under the garb of operations against terrorists and/or criminals.  The PSC can ensure transparency and accountability in arrests and/or investigation of cases and to monitor viz (i) time bound measurable performances, viz (a) extortion, bhatta and/or land grabbing (b) target killing and kidnapping for ransom (c) sectarian atrocities, recovery of bombs, explosives and weapons (ii) providing benchmarks for detection, investigation and/or disposal of cases through policy recommendations and (iii) eliminating fraud and chancery at the polling booths during elections.


Serving on the US Supreme Court from 1902 to 1934, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is considered as one of the greatest jurists of all times. Giving the example of a man in a movie theatre who stands up suddenly and without any reason shouts “fire, fire”, thereby setting off a stampede for the exits in which many die or are injured, he annunciated the concept of “clear and present danger”.  Under the existing laws, could the man be charged with murder?   Presently it is almost impossible to prosecute and convict anyone for terrorism, the “clear and present danger” to the State in this environment of insecurity requires adequate laws (albeit for a limited duration) in the special circumstances obtaining.  While the government has certainly taken initiatives for internal security, there are still half-hearted measures which cannot isolate and/or eliminate the existential threat that terrorism posses to internal security.  We have to get a move on, and soon!


Once the laws framed have been so tailored that they can be implemented and Local Bodies laws are in conformity to democratic norms devolving real power at the grassroots level to the people, deweaponisation is the answer. When the citizen stakeholder has a say in his (or her) own community, he will ensure that the inhabitants of the community will neither take part and/or allow/become involved any criminal or terrorist activity. In the state of insecurity we are mired in,  both society and nation are in “clear and present danger” of turning into a state of anarchy.


The writer is a Pakistan-based defense analyst. He can be reached at

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