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Do we need NACTA?

Do we need NACTA?

Expectations from National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) had all along been unrealistic; it was over-projected as panacea for all societal shortfalls leading to mushrooming of terrorism. During the heat of counter terrorism operations, this entity often came under severe criticism for its inaction.  NACTA never spoke for itself, at least publically, and found safety in silence.  As on September 30, 2017, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was a parking place for 47 (BPS17-22) officers and 90 personnel (BPS1-16). And recruitment of 53 core personnel and 198 (BPS 1-19) was under process. NACTA, for years, has been marred by a dearth of human resource. Now, once counter terrorism activities are nearing their fag end, another revival of NACTA is being attempted.

And this time Messiah is no less than charismatic Prime Minister Imran Khan. Some of earlier prime ministers also attempted the task but half-heartedly. Ironically while terrorist activities are almost coming to an end, this entity is yet to stand on its feet, despite being in existence for nearly a decade, in one form or the other for. This is a horrible example of how difficult it is to raise and sustain an autonomous institution, notwithstanding the necessity and urgency.

A committee has been formed to suggest revision of role and task of NACTA. NACTA did not come under due focus until its strengthening was included as a formal agenda item of National Action Plan, 2014. Even then, NACTA continues to remain dormant due to scarcity of resource allocation. It has become a parking place for “unwanted” police officers and other “non-cooperative” bureaucrats. Apparently all interior ministers were afraid of rightful growth of NACT, lest it over shadows the ministry; and they were able to convince respective prime ministers on this account. It will be interesting to see how the things proceed this time.

NACTA is mandated to frame a National Narrative to counter extremism and terrorism. Constructing a robust national narrative is the corner stone of ideological response to such threats. A convincing narrative is essential for coming up with ideological denominators in a diverse society. Yet, we have none.

Authority was created “to strive for a safer tomorrow by comprehensively countering terrorism in all its manifestations”. It is supposed to acts as a focal national institution to unify state response by combining the efforts of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and formulate national counter terrorism counter extremism policies. However, NACTA’s capacity and will remain below par.

It is required to receive and collate data or information, or intelligence and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments and prepare comprehensive national counter terrorism and counter extremism strategies and develop action plans against terrorism and extremism; it commands no tools for any of these functions.

It also liaises with international entities for facilitating cooperation in areas relating to terrorism and extremism. Moreover, it is tasked to review relevant laws and suggest amendments to the Federal government. Indeed a tall order for this humble entity.

NACTA started off as an Administrative Wing within the Ministry of Interior, under a National Coordinator. It was controlled administratively by the Secretary Interior Division. Ironically parent ministry created all obstacles in its way to growth. All the postings/ transfers within NACTA were made by the Interior Division. This is the only Authority headed by a Coordinator in lieu of Chairman.

NACTA got its administrative and financial autonomy in 2013 and was legally created as a body corporate, answerable to a Board of Governors (BOG) headed by Prime Minister. BOG is supposed to provide strategic vision and policy oversight to Authority, but its meeting was never convened. Despite tall claims from here and there, practically nothing changed.  BOG never met and NACTA continues to be in its infancy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan wants the committee to revisit the role and functions of NACTA to make it ‘a truly proactive organisation’ in line with the fast-changing ground realities. Decision came following an initial briefing over the working and performance of the authority given by the National Coordinator who criticised his predecessors and the past governments for their failures. Committee would submit its recommendations to the premier in a week’s time. Minister of State for Interior Shaharyar Afridi is most likely to head the committee; if so not much is expected.

While chairing the BOG meeting, Prime Minister stated that Pakistan has come a long way in its fight against the menace of terrorism and countering violent extremism: “In this struggle, we have offered the highest sacrifices of the lives of thousands of our civilians and the security personnel.” Lauding services and contributions of the armed forces, intelligence agencies, police and other law enforcement and security agencies, the prime minister observed that improved security situation was a result of the combined efforts of all stakeholders. First BOG meeting also reviewed in detail the progress on implementation status of 20-point National Action Plan. Progress on NAP has been uneven and unsatisfactory. At least ten foundational points are in terrible lag.

Conceptually, NACTA is a good idea that has been poorly developed and executed. It has been mired in bureaucratic infighting, lack of cooperation across security institutions, dearth of resources and, for no clear direction or purpose. As Committee has prime ministerial backing, it may infuse the organisation with fresh energy and vigour. A revived and effective NACAT would in turn give a new push to waning National Action Plan.

Since its inception, there has been a tussle between the Prime Minister’s Office and the interior ministry over operational control of NACTA. Prime Minister has reportedly decided to retain control over Authority. It is a good decision because countering terrorism is a multi-disciplinary activity and interior ministry alone cannot handle it. Other problem is that law and order is a provincial subject and NACAT neither has its provincial extensions nor has control over provincial counter terrorism departments. And unless rules of business are amended, in the role of authority, NACTA would invariably come in conflict with federal and provincial interior ministries.

Viable options are: have provincial extensions of NACTA and amend the rules of business governing working relationships between federal and provincial law ministries, create a provision to have countering extremism and terrorism as common responsibility of federation and provinces; Or, disband NACTA at federal level and devolve its functions to provincial NACTAs; Or, reconfigure NACTA from Authority to Commission format with a mandate to define horizons for counter terrorism effort and perform an advisory role to federal and provincial interior ministries.

Whatever model is adopted, there is a need to change its composition from an extension of police department and give it a look of a body with national representation. It should have a Chairperson, and slot should be filled by a person of national repute. Beside other tasks it should act as a think tank mandated to keep an eye on all factors leading to mind-set of violence and extremism within segments of Pakistani society; and give viable recommendations for preventing it well before reaching terrorism threshold.

 

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New Zealand Massacre: ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis Stalks the World!

The horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15th March, Friday 2019 has shaken the World. The killer, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, is an Australian citizen. Nearly 50 People died in the attack as two mosques were attacked. Those killed include nine from India. Tarrant had fixed the camera on his head so as to live stream the massacre. What prompted him to undertake this violence was his ideology which holds that today Europe is facing the threat of Muslim immigration and violence. The Christchurch terrorist was consumed by intense racism and hatred of Muslims. He posted a long statement, “manifesto” on ‘white nationalism’ before undertaking the dastardly act. All over the World there were diverse reactions to this horrific act. New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern, who at 38 years of age is also among the youngest heads of government in the world, declared that the victims, many of whom may be migrants or refugees, “are us” and the shooter “is not”. The overriding theme of the Prime Minister’s statements was that her country represents “diversity, compassion and refuge”. “I want to assure people… that all our agencies are responding in the most appropriate way that includes at our borders.” The Pope in a very touching speech said, “In these days, in addition to the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity, there have been the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand… I am close to our Muslim brothers and all that community… ”Today we are facing the times where American politics of control over oil wells led to the formations like Al Qaeda and after 9/11 twin tower attacks; US media popularized the phrase Islamic terrorism. What we are witnessing today is the fall out of the policy which has been pursued to control oil wealth. The aftermath of this has been the White Nationalism which has resulted in Islam-Muslim phobia, which needs to be countered ideologically by promoting the inherent global tendency of alliance between diverse cultures. What is noteworthy is that there is strong parallels between Breivik’s manifesto and ideology of Hindu nationalism – or Hindutva – on the question of nature of Islam—Muslims and coexistence with Muslims. Much like European mainstream rightwing parties BJP in India does condemn the violence for name sake but does not condemn the underlying ideology which is based on Islam phobia.

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