css Academy
Register Now
Dawn Columns: 14.07.2019

The counterterrorism challenge

Muhammad Amir Rana

Updated July 14, 2019

 PAKISTAN has stepped up its anti-militant campaign, apparently to steer clear of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force. Pakistan had already narrowly escaped that listing, with the support of China, Malaysia and Turkey, during the last FATF review meeting held in Orlando, Florida.

Read: FATF compliance will require all-out effort

Yet the country remains under immense pressure to take action against all militant groups that are proscribed [کالعدم قرار دئے گئے] by the UN Security Council. Pakistan has also been viewed as employing a selective approach towards different militant groups. The FATF meeting held in Paris last February had rejected Pakistan’s assessment based on a classification of militant groups into different categories, and had demanded uniform action against all shades of militants. Pakistan has considerably reviewed its action plan to check terror financing after these critical observations, among others, were made by the FATF.

More than once, Pakistan has urged for the depoliticisation of critical transnational forums such as FATF, as it believes that India, the US, UK and a few other European countries are using the forum to put undue pressure on it. Pakistan’s friends have supported its concerns, though in a softer tone, but have avoided bailing out the country over the issue of terror financing. Over the last two decades, Pakistan has dealt with the international pressure for it to do more against a few Kashmir- and Afghanistan-focused militant groups, but the FATF has apparently proved instrumental in radically changing the country’s perception of the militant threat.

Pakistan’s renewed anti-militant campaign is hindered by several factors.

The Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has recently registered cases against the leadership of the banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), including its founding members Hafiz Saeed, Abdul Rehman Makki and Zafar Iqbal. It is believed that Pakistan has taken this initiative in compliance with commitments it has made to the FATF. On the other hand, it also reflects Pakistan’s seriousness in dealing with militant groups. In practice, however, this renewed anti-militant campaign is hindered by several factors including capacity gaps among counterterrorism departments, which are also struggling to find some solid legal ground against the leadership of the militant groups.

Read: Hafiz Saeed, 12 other JuD leaders booked for terror financing

It would be an enormous challenge for the CTD to prove the cases of terror financing against the JuD leadership in local courts; though these cases could be used to restrict their movement. Interestingly, this is the second time that such cases have been registered against JuD head Hafiz Saeed. In 2009, a similar case was registered against him when he appealed for donations to his organisations while addressing a public gathering in Faisalabad. The case was dismissed by the Lahore High Court and, later, the interior ministry’s appeal against the decision in Supreme Court was also rejected.

However, the situation could be different this time, as the JuD, its affiliated charities and militant groups have been notified as proscribed by the ministry.

Read: JuD, FIF facilities taken over in Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan after listing by federal govt

The recently registered cases of terror financing against militant leaders may contribute towards easing the pressure being applied by the FATF. But these measures alone will not suffice to deal with the issues of militancy and extremism in Pakistan. The state will have to take more concrete measures over a longer period of time. These groups have thousands of workers in their ranks who remain uncertain about their future. They include both trained and untrained militants, administrative staff and affiliated charities.

While the chains of schools and other educational institutions run by these militant groups have been put under the supervision of the provincial education departments, the Auqaf departments will apparently manage their affiliated madressahs. The JuD alone was running more than 700 schools and over 200 madressahs. The banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) also owned dozens of madressahs and schools across the country. The staffs of these schools and madressahs have been accommodated by the corresponding controlling government departments, without a proper scrutiny process and without a deradicalisation programme.

However, workers of the charity wings and administrative staff have not been accommodated yet, with the exception of around 50 persons who have been recruited by the Punjab rescue operations. The rescue department had taken more than 250 ambulances of the JuD into its custody.

Frustration among these workers is increasing, including towards their own leaders. This is a dangerous development. A somewhat similar frustration was observed among the cadres of militant groups after the first crackdown against them in 2001. This had caused serious rifts among them and made many turn against the state and join international terrorist groups. Some among these frustrated members of the JuD and JeM can now also join the militant Islamic State group and Al Qaeda or form their own small terrorist cells. The JeM cadre is more critical because hundreds of its militants have a background of having worked along with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Al Qaeda and sectarian terrorist organisations.

Pakistan will have to evolve a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for former members of these banned organisations. Such a programme could help boost the international community’s confidence in Pakistan’s efforts to counter extremism and terrorism. The world is receptive to such initiatives, which are also endorsed by UNSC Resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2396 (2017). For one, the ‘Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism’ presented by the UNSC to the UN General Assembly entailed more than 70 recommendations including a call to introduce disengagement and rehabilitation programmes. An absence of such a programme in Pakistan would not only continue to raise doubts about the future of these organisations’ combatant and non-combatant members, but also about Pakistan’s intentions.

The National Counter Terrorism Authority has the mandate for suggesting and developing such rehabilitation programmes but, so far, it has proved an impotent body. Apparently, Nacta has no will — or perhaps power — to take initiative on its own, for it always looks towards the powerful security institutions and endorses what comes from them. The challenge of countering terrorism is huge, requiring not only broad-based consultation but also a visible and serious action plan being implemented on the ground. 

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019



Stifling dissent 

July 14, 2019

 IN PLD 2016 SC 692, the Supreme Court held that “the concept of freedom of media is based on the premise [کسی بحث کی بنیاد] that the widest possible dissemination [ترویج، اشاعت] of information from diverse and antagonistic [مخالفانہ] sources is sine qua non [ضروری]to the welfare of the people”. It seems that the federal cabinet has ignored such wisdom when it recently directed Pemra to ban all broadcast interviews of undertrial or convicted politicians. But can such a directive even be issued under the law?

While Section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance gives the federal government the right to issue binding directives to Pemra on issues of policy, a nexus between these directives and the authority’s power to prohibit broadcasts under Section 27(a) is tenuous at best.

In fact, the last caretaker government tried to rectify this problem through the Pemra (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, amending Section 5 to allow the government to issue directives to Pemra to block content under the restrictions provided by Article 19 of the Constitution. However, this ordinance was never confirmed by the present parliament and has therefore lapsed. Thus, it can be argued that the government’s power to issue directives under Section 5 cannot be used to direct Pemra to block content under Section 27(a) because parliament never intended for the government to have any such power.

Secondly, can Pemra, a federal executive body, form an opinion and restrict content under Section 27(a) if it believes the content “is against the ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquillity or endangers national security or is pornographic, obscene or vulgar or is offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency”? I would argue ‘no’. This is because reasonable restrictions to free speech enumerated [ شمار کرنا،  گنوانا] under Article 19 are not self-executing provisions. In PLD 1992 SC 595, the Supreme Court defined the test for identifying such provisions:

“Constitutional provisions are not self-executing if they merely indicate a line of policy or principles, without applying the means by which such policy or principles are to be carried into effect, or if the language of the Constitution is directed to the legislature, or it appears from the language used and the circumstances of its adoption that subsequent legislation was contemplated [غور و فکر کرنا] to carry it into effect.”

When one reads the entirety of Article 19, which provides for the right to freedom of speech and expression, it is clear that the constitutional provision is divided into two parts. The first guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression for every citizen. This part is self-executing as all fundamental rights in our Constitution usually are. The next part, however, lays down that this right is “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law” under seven enumerated subject headings. The use of the words “by law” makes it clear that this part is not self-executing, as parliament is the only institution as per our constitutional scheme empowered to make law.

Thus, for true adherence to our constitutional legal framework, it should be parliament, not the federal government or Pemra, that interprets and legislates what should be reasonable restrictions on our free speech “in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of or incitement [ترغیب دینا، اکسانا] to an offence”.

Lastly, can parliament delegate such an important legislative function to the executive? Quite simply, no. In Pakistan Tobacco Company vs Government of NWFP (PLD 2002 SC 460), the apex court held that the legislature cannot delegate essential legislative functions to the executive, especially without providing guiding principles. This is the very essence of a democratic political system; any substantive restrictions by law to limit the exercise of the fundamental rights, especially content-based restrictions on the right to free speech, must necessarily be made by our elected parliament through legislation.

Parliament makes, the executive enforces and the courts interpret law: that is how our Constitution has divided the powers of the state — and it is time we pay heed to its wisdom.

Thus, there is an urgent need for our constitutional courts to interpret Article 19 in a holistic and comprehensive manner that is in line with our constitutional ethos and the constitutional principles that have been established by our courts over the course of our history. One would hope that our courts seize the opportunity with this current illegal decision of the federal cabinet to make a historic ruling so that our speech remains free and protected. 

The writer is a human rights lawyer working at the Law and Policy Chambers in Islamabad.


Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019


July 14, 2019

 ALL over the world, child sexual abuse is an offence. If a child is raped, a report is made to the state. The latter ensures not only that the child receives physical and mental treatment, but also that the environment he/she is returning to is safe. The perpetrator, more often than not, receives appropriate punishment.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan even though it is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are least interested in safeguarding the rights of our children, and child protection services are virtually non-existent here. That said, child protection legislation does exist in Pakistan. In fact, with some amendments to the Sindh Child Protection Act, 2011, and incorporation of the missing child alert system (which has been tabled in the National Assembly as a separate bill) Sindh can expect to have a reasonable child protection system.

Sindh has the laws but not the will to protect its children.

The problem is the will, or lack thereof, to implement this law. The Sindh Child Protection Authority and the Sindh Child Protection Commission lie dormant[پوشیدہ]. According to the Sindh Social Welfare Department, each of Sindh’s 29 districts has a Child Protection Unit. The reality is that these units are nonfunctional. A child protection officer is supposed to be the point of liaison between the departments of child protection, police and the law. However, here there is no coordination between these departments; each department handles cases of child abuse independently. Ideally, a child protection officer, a police officer and a magistrate should be sitting at the Child Protection Unit so that every case is solved efficiently. The biggest deficiency is the lack of government shelters in Sindh; without these no child protection service can survive.

In 2011, the health ministry passed an order for all government hospitals to set up child protection committees. The purpose other than prevention and identification of child abuse was to have better coordination with the government. However, this was only partially implemented for a short period. This order should be reinforced not only in public but also private hospitals. Child protection committees should be established in schools, madressahs and orphanages. This would strengthen the partnership between the child protection units and institutions which deal with children.

According to recent data from the NGO Sahil, more than 10 children are abused every day in Pakistan. This is based on data collected from reported cases in newspapers and online, as well as cases received at their offices. However, as is the situation with other reported crimes, this is grossly underestimated. Most child abuse cases that come to hospitals go unreported because parents are unwilling to register an FIR. Until and unless a law is passed which makes it mandatory for doctors, teachers and other professionals who take care of children to report cases of suspected child abuse, we will not be able to obtain accurate data. A large number of children are not even brought to a medical facility out of fear of stigmatisation. In addition, there are pockets in the country where child sexual abuse occurs in plain sight, yet the bystanders prefer to keep silent.

The dismal state of affairs leads us to question the direction of our country. The only solution is to keep pushing the government to pay attention to the future of Pakistan. Presently, however, to curb this unfortunate condition we must take preventative measures. As a paediatrician, I urge parents to take this responsibility and be on guard for the sake of their children and others.

Some important advice for parents is: talk to your child about sexual abuse. If you are not sure about how to go about this, take help from your paediatrician/ doctor. Teach your child which parts of the body are private. Let them know their body belongs to them and to yell “NO” if someone threatens them sexually.

Make sure you know the adults and children your child spends time with. Most important to note is that in eight out of 10 reported cases of child abuse, the offender is someone the child knows. It could be someone as close as the father, sibling, grandparent, uncle or cousin of the child. Never leave small children alone with domestic staff. If, all of a sudden, your child does not want to see or greet an individual do not force them to do so and try to figure out the reason by communicating with the child. Never send children alone to the market and other public places.

And lastly, listen to your child when he/ she is trying to tell you about an incident. Do not silence them by telling them to keep it a secret. Instead, let them know you trust them and will support them fully.

As parents and guardians, it is our responsibility to ensure that no one is allowed the opportunity to compromise the safety of our children, and to raise our voice against the inaction of the government. 

The writer is a paediatrician.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019

They call it 'stability'

July 14, 2019

 NOW that ‘Naya Pakistan’ has been thrown into the dustbin of a very short-lived history, and the tabdeeli they promised has only been manifest in the form of greater inflation, a shattered rupee, draconian laws on the expression of freedom, and even signs of incompetence at the diplomatic level, the PTI government and its desperate supporters are suggesting that we have finally reached a state of ‘stability’. 

One is reminded of a couplet by Faiz which goes ‘Yeh dagh dagh ujala’, while rephrasing subsequent lines in terms of our current predicament [انتہائی مشکل حالات] — ‘voh intizaar tha jis ka, yeh voh tabdeeli tau naheen’. If this is the promised tabdeeli which has finally led to a supposed state of stability, we are in the midst of a much graver crisis than we could have imagined.

The extensive public use of the notion of ‘stability’ is of very recent vintage[فصل]. Clearly, tabdeeli had to take its natural course of time to settle in before any stability could emerge; and perhaps it took about a year. If one does a ‘forensic analysis’ — another invention of Naya Pakistan — of the frequent use of the term ‘stability’, one would probably find it being used in the media regularly, since the last few weeks. While the agreement between the hurriedly put together new Pakistani economics team with the IMF was first announced on May 12, followed by the federal budget which was clearly a blueprint from the IMF agreement announced exactly a month later, and with the executive board of the IMF finally giving their approval after much apprehension in official circles, stability is said to have finally arrived on July 3 this year.

This financial year will be the worst in over a decade in terms of how it affects the working people of Pakistan.

While so-called independent commentators on the economy have lapped up this term, perhaps it was the new governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, rushed in from the IMF, who was the first to give the term ‘stability’ official sanction. Due to his ample and laudatory services for the IMF, as well as much foresight learnt from his colleagues, he must have been the first to know that Pakistan was well on its way to stability and growth long before the July 3 official approval of the IMF programme. As early as June 17, he had announced that the worst was over, and that ‘the country is moving towards stability’. Let us see exactly what all has led to claims of this stability over the last few weeks.

Read: Pakistan reaches agreement with IMF, to receive $6 billion over 3 years

A good example, one which is clearly in the domain of the governor of the State Bank, is the dollar-rupee exchange rate. After his declaration of stability, in the last week of June the Pakistani rupee lost Rs5.50 in value against the dollar in a single day, to miraculously recover Rs6.60 in the week after on July 2. Most economists would call this mayhem, or excessive volatility [تیزی سے تبدیل ہوتے رہنا], but perhaps such events simply imply that the economy was fast ‘moving towards stability’. 

Read: Forex market: SBP keeping a close eye, will intervene in case of excess volatility, governor says

Perhaps the State Bank governor could be forgiven his claim, and one could suggest that the particular event was just a one-off episode, yet, the fact that the rupee has cumulatively dropped in value by 1.22 per cent, or Rs1.92, just in the last five days, suggests that we are nowhere close to any form of ‘stability’. 

One could also add other indicators, such as the price of gold, which increased by 2.11pc in just a single day this week to its highest level ever of Rs82,000, but perhaps we are just beginning to move to some stability in terms of its price. If the price of the dollar or of gold is subject to volatility and fluctuation at frequent levels, perhaps it would be advisable to examine, supposedly more stable, indicators to counter the stability claims.

On the same day, that gold rose to its so far highest all-time price this week, the governor of the State Bank stated that ‘things are getting better’. Now that the IMF agreement has been made very public, let us examine just how much better things are going to get and how much more stable Pakistan is about to become.

Probably the most striking aspect of the calculations from the IMF having ramifications on revenue, jobs and investment is that Pakistan’s GDP this financial year is going to be a mere 2.4pc, the lowest in a decade. If the just-concluded fiscal year ended with a dismal 3.3pc growth rate, the lowest in five years, this year of stability promises much more. 

Moreover, in the last fiscal year, inflation was a mere 9pc, the highest in five years. This financial year of stability till next July promises an inflation rate of anywhere between 13pc and 16pc, probably even higher as the year proceeds. Every single indicator, from tax collection to the elimination of poverty, to investment rates in industry to achieving an extraordinary 8pc increase in exports, is going to appear in a state of shambles this time next year. The only possible improvement will come to the current account deficit, even as Pakistan’s debt burden, both domestic and international, will increase manifold.

While one understands that the job description of government officials includes putting a spin on facts by suggesting that ‘stability’ has or is about to be achieved, or that ‘things are getting better’, numerous lackeys [ملازم، نوکر] of the government vying[پرزور مقابلہ کرنا] for their TV talk-show opportunity, often having no understanding of basic economics, repeat the same. A more truthful assessment of things would help us accept, understand and adjust to what is about to come. 

One can safely predict that this financial year will have far higher inflation, the rupee will lose substantially more value, and with fewer jobs and increasing poverty, will be the worst in over a decade in terms of how it affects the working people of Pakistan. The only ‘stability’ and consistency one can expect is that things are going to get considerably worse. 

The writer is a political economist.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019

Site Menu
User Name:
Signup or
Forget your password?
Apply Online Now !!!
Job Search
| | | | | |
Copyrights © Nova CSS Academy
Powered By XTRANZA®