Friday, December 26, 2014

Changing Titanic's Course

A very good and incisive article by one of the outstanding analysts of the country. Police officers will have to confront and fight the terrorism for a very long time to come and it is important that they understand the historical perspective of our present day woes. Reading the analysis by Mr. Abbas Nasir will help them to understand the context and the deep links of the terrorism in the society. A better understanding of this complex situation  will be of help to them in dealing with the menace professionally and more effectively.
Afzal A Shigri 

Changing Titanic's Course
December 27,2014
By Abbas Nasir
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

EVEN if the current resolve to finally tackle terrorism is military-led, is that reason enough to doubt it or, in a more extreme case, reject it? The answer has to be a resounding no.
No, because for long, many have believed that since this particular form of ‘jihad’ originated in a mostly Saudi-funded laboratory jointly run by CIA-ISI, the genie could only be put back in the bottle by one, or more, of the creators.The international partners who helped midwife this ideology don’t seem to be in a position to deal with it or lacking in desire because of their own narrow, regional interests. Therefore, the burden would remain squarely on ISI and its parent institution more so because it was fine-tuned by them to serve their own ‘strategic’ goals.When now, after seemingly an eternity, an army leadership has emerged which doesn’t appear plagued by what one former general calls ‘paralysis by analysis’ or a lacking in guts or worse still ideologically aligned to this form of toxic and eventually self-destructive ideology, scepticism was bound to follow.
After all, who hadn’t heard the ‘good Taliban, bad Taliban’ mantra for years. This scepticism was also in evidence at the meeting this week at the Prime Minister’s House where, according to a well-informed commentator: “The army chief on hearing the narrative from the civilian leadership about the past duality of approach reportedly said ‘bury the past, now it’s different’.”From most accounts of the meeting, it is clear that the participants were extended every assurance that each and every militant group will be dealt with even-handedly and the ban on outlawed groups be enforced and a mere name change won’t enable such entities to operate as before.
In recent years, the environment may have been hardly conducive to humour but many Pakistanis retain their cutting wit. The acronym of the National Action Plan (NAP), therefore, immediately generated jokes such as the suggestion that nothing had changed if the wise men/women of the nation had decided to counter terrorism with a ‘nap’.But on a serious note NAP seems like a sensible document. The only reservation I may have with it is that it calls for the setting up of military courts. For this, it was said, a constitutional amendment will need to be approved. Given the extraordinary security threat being faced by the country, if the Supreme Court finds this exercise acceptable, people like me might hold their peace too.
Under NAP, military courts will function for two years. If this time is used up to initiate and complete a root and branch reform in the judiciary; passing of laws that allow judges to hear evidence from behind screens in terrorism cases and video-link testimonies etc. then perhaps the respite won by speedy dispensation of justice via military courts would have been worth it.If the governing party and other signatories to NAP go back to doing nothing then they’ll have themselves to blame for the erosion of the civilian writ over the affairs of the state. Also, these two years need to see exceptional governance, including freeing the police from any political pressure.
The scale of the challenge is evident from just a couple of examples. Look at the published statement in court of the main accused (executed earlier this month) in the GHQ attack case: The arms for the GHQ attack were brought from Jhang. The huge truck-bomb that all but destroyed the Islamabad Marriot Hotel in 2008 was also driven in from Jhang. The threat comes as much from Fata-based militants as it does from groups harboured for long by the security establishment such as Jaish-e-Mohammad whose membership has always intertwined with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan in southern Punjab.Southern Punjab is readily identified for elements who have bought into the takfiri ideology. Recent developments in Gujranwala suggest TTP is active in central Punjab too. If the number of Shia killings in Karachi is an indicator, sectarian killers are active and well-organised in the city like nowhere else.
Frankly, the scale of the challenge we are taking on can be gauged each Friday as semi-literate preachers spew hate from the pulpit across the country or from the fact that the spectrum is represented by outright adherents of the takfiri ideology to those seen as following a relatively softer approach but who still celebrated Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murderer or who call daily for the elimination of Ahmadis. That the civilian leadership and the military hierarchy finally say that the Peshawar school carnage was the red line for them, even if the mass murder of Hazara Shias or the lethal attack on praying Ahmadis in Lahore or the bombing of the church in the same city as the school mayhem may not have been, is good enough for me. If they mean it, that is.
In any case, it would be foolish to expect miracles and hope that Lashkar-e-Taiba, responsible for the murderous assault on Mumbai civilians in 2009, would be dealt with in any significant way in the first phase. But for Pakistan’s anti-terror resolve to be credible, the trial of the Mumbai accused must proceed apace.All we see now is a major effort to ‘mainstream’ the group, even as it retains its capacity to wreak havoc on regional peace prospects. Who wouldn’t recall how it mourned for its Salafi brother-in-arms Osama bin Laden. It needs to be told any criminal misadventure like Mumbai won’t be tolerated. I suspect this is how far anyone will go for now.
Admittedly, my perspective is that of a beggar’s. As it is, the task before those at the helm, in the words of a Scottish journalist friend, is like changing the direction of the Titanic in the moments before it hit the iceberg. One lives in hope that the Sharif-Sharif combine will be able to do it.

Rearranging the Subcontinent

An interesting article that gives us the historical perspective of this region and also pinpoints the governance issues that need to be addressed and urgently with a bleak future for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The writer has however shown the grace and given some time to Pakistan to gradually become weak and ultimately become terminally sick. 
History of sub continent also tells us that if a major part is affected it also has a cascading effect and will certainly take down with it the entire region with far reaching impact internationally. With all its failings Pakistan is a stabilizing factor for the sub continent. 
Afzal A Shigri
Rearranging the Subcontinent
The division of the Indian subcontinent between two major states, India and Pakistan (as well as a minor one, Bangladesh), may not be history’s last word in political geography there. For, as I have previously observed, history is a record of many different spatial arrangements between the Central Asian plateau and the Burmese jungles.
For example, Pakistan can only be considered artificial if one is ignorant of the past in the region. Pakistan is merely the latest of various states and civilizations anchored either in the Indus River valley or in that of the Ganges. The chieftaincies of the late fourth to mid-second millennium B.C., comprising the Harappan civilization, stretched from Balochistan northeast up to Kashmir and southeast almost to Delhi and Mumbai — that is, greatly overlapping both present-day Pakistan and India. From the fourth to the second century B.C., large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India all fell under Mauryan rule. There was, too, the Kushan Empire, whose Indo-European rulers governed at times from what used to be Soviet Central Asia all the way to Bihar in northeastern India. And so it goes: For so much of history, there was simply no border between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the northern third of India — the heart of the Gangetic state.
And whereas the geography between Afghanistan and northern India was often politically united, the geography between today’s northern India and southern India was often divided. The point is, nothing we see on the current map should be taken for granted or, for that matter, is particularly anchored in history.
It was the British who actually created what in logistical terms is the subcontinent, uniting what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the late 19th century through a massive railway grid that stretched from the Afghan border in the northwest to the Palk Strait near Sri Lanka in the deep south, and from Karachi in Pakistan to Chittagong in Bangladesh. (The Mughals and the Delhi sultanate also unified many of these areas, but through a looser system of control.) Because Afghanistan was ultimately unconquerable by British forces in the 19th century and also had a difficult terrain, it was left out of this modern railway civilization. But don’t assume that this particular British paradigm will last forever.
In fact, it has been crumbling for decades already. Pakistan’s de facto separation from Afghanistan began to end somewhat with the Soviet invasion of the latter country in December 1979, which ignited a refugee exodus down the Khyber and other passes that disrupted Pakistani politics and worked to further erode the frontier between the Pashtuns in southern and eastern Afghanistan and the Pashtuns in western Pakistan. By serving as a rear base for the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviets during that decadelong war, which I covered first hand, the Soviet-Afghan war helped radicalize politics inside Pakistan itself. Johns Hopkins University Professor Jakub Grygiel observes that when states involve themselves for years on end in irregular, decentralized warfare, central control weakens. For a concentrated and conventional threat creates the need to match it with a central authority of its own. But the opposite kind of threat can lead to the opposite kind of result. And because of the anarchy in Afghanistan in the 1990s following the Soviet departure and the continuation of fighting and chaos in the decade following 9/11, Pakistan has had to deal with irregular, decentralizing warfare across a very porous border for more than a third of a century now. Moreover, with American troops reducing their footprint in Afghanistan, the viability of Afghanistan could possibly weaken further, with a deleterious effect on Pakistan.
This raises the question of the viability of Pakistan itself and, by association, the continued existence of the current hard-and-fast borders of India, especially given that Bangladesh as well is, in relative terms, a weak and artificially conceived state in almost never-ending turmoil.
Pakistan is not necessarily artificial, of course. As Stratfor has written, Pakistan is the demographic and national embodiment of all the Muslim invasions that have passed down into India through much of history. It is artificial only to the extent that this vast Muslim demography, rather than configuring with a state, extends all the way from Anatolia to central India, and thus the specific borders of Pakistan only work to the extent that Pakistan is reasonably well governed, with responsive bureaucratic institutions, and possesses a civil society that reaches into the tribal hinterlands. But that is demonstrably not the case.
So Afghanistan truly matters, if not necessarily to American grand strategy than to the political destiny of Pakistan and thus to the Greater Indian subcontinent.
A post-American Afghanistan means a number of things. It means some further consolidation of Iranian influence in the western and central parts of the country and an extension of some Iranian influence in eastern Afghanistan as well. This is because Pakistan will be frustrated in projecting even more influence into eastern and southern Afghanistan because of its own Taliban problem on its side of the border. In the 1990s, Pakistan could simply provide logistical and other means of support to the Afghan Taliban; now it is not so easy. At the same time, though, the Saudis will work through the Pakistanis to project whatever influence they can in Afghanistan. And Russia, through the Central Asian republics — whose ethnic groups have compatriots inside northern Afghanistan — might exert more influence, too. India will work with both the Iranians and the Russians to exert its own influence as a limiting factor to that of the Pakistanis and the Saudis, even as the Pakistanis lately try to balance between the Iranians and the Saudis. Such competing outside influences and interferences may tend to work against central control from Kabul rather than in support of it. And an Afghanistan in partial chaos — let alone a complete state breakdown — may work over time to further destabilize Pakistan.
Of course, Pakistan would not suddenly collapse in this scenario. But it could decay in an exceedingly gradual way that its supporters and attendant area experts might at first be able to deny, even as the evolving mundane facts on the ground would be undeniable. The signs of decay are electricity outages, water shortages, a further deterioration of the urban environment, the inability to travel here and there in outlying areas because of security issues, the inability to get much done at a government office without a bribe or a fixer. Pakistan has experienced such phenomena for decades already; the key will be the increase or decrease in their intensity. A state that cannot monopolize the use of force and cannot supply adequate public services is weak. Pakistan we know is weak, despite the strengthening of its democracy and civil society in recent years. It already has ongoing insurgencies in the tribal areas, in Balochistan and in Karachi. But will it become steadily weaker? Because prime ministers and presidents come and go, I am thinking beyond the high politics in Islamabad, New Delhi and Kabul and am more concerned with the granular, ground level reality in places such as Karachi or Quetta, or in the other parts of Sind and Balochistan.
What would a terminally diseased Pakistani state come to look like? It might see more feisty regionalism in the southern provinces of Balochistan and Sind, whose leaders told me on a trip through the area some years ago that they would prefer over time a closer relationship with New Delhi than with Islamabad. These are people who never accepted a strong Pakistani state to begin with and always advocated more federalism. With Balochistan and Sind moving closer to India, and the Afghanistan-Pakistan Pashtun border area in permanent disarray because of turmoil inside Afghanistan according to such a scenario, then a rump state of Greater Punjab might begin to emerge — again, denied for years by officials up until the point that it is undeniable.
India, of course, would not like any of this. Top officials of responsible states — which India certainly is — prefer the status quo and quiescent borders, not their opposite. But India might at some point in the 21st century have no choice but to confront Pakistan’s partial dissolution, and that would irrevocably change India.
Because geopolitics values not the ceremonial statements of leaders but the reality of control on the ground, the Indian subcontinent will continue to fascinate. It is important to note here Henry Kissinger’s view on India in his latest book, World Order: “India will be a fulcrum of twenty-first-century order: an indispensable element, based on its geography, resources, and tradition of sophisticated leadership, in the strategic and ideological evolution of the regions and the concepts of order at whose intersection it stands.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Securing Karachi

Securing Karachi
By Afzal Ali Shigri
 The writer is a former inspector general of police, sindh

THE population of Karachi, the country’s commercial hub, continues to burgeon despite serious security concerns. Attracting and absorbing people from across Pakistan, the city now has residents in excess of 20 million. This is a mini-Pakistan, where settlers of diverse ethnic backgrounds lived in complete harmony for decades.
That is, until 1985, when a road accident triggered widespread protests against the government. The fury of the violence stunned everyone, and this soon degenerated into ethnic conflict. Since then, Karachi has seen repeated violent clashes over ethnic and sectarian issues. The city has never been the same again, but has amazingly not lost its charm.
Notwithstanding the rise in population and economic growth, the administration of the city has seen little improvement. Complex problems in all areas of governance and management have multiplied. The city stands divided along the fault lines of ethnicity, religion, culture and income. The collapse of the criminal justice system that guarantees the security of the common man is at the top of this list of classic repeated failures.

The ongoing operation should be an eye-opener because the outcome so far has been dismal.

Today, Karachi has the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Each cycle of violence is progressively worse: ‘no-go’ areas, rampant street crime and ‘secured’ safe spaces for the elite are the manifestations of this collapse. Sheer resilience and the desire to survive have led people to readjust their expectations of the state, and the sustainability of a functioning chaos has been ensured.
Informal structures have taken root in this situation, with non-state actors having started to expand their sphere of influence and, as in a medieval fiefdom, resorted to plundering and extortion, euphemistically called ‘bhatta’ and ‘donation’. As it is muscle power that ensures control, organised crime and terrorist outfits have emerged as dominant players. There is a pressing need to set up a criminal justice system that ensures peaceful existence for citizens as enshrined in the Constitution. Continuing lawlessness also paves the way for extra-constitutional options to pre-empt the collapse of the state.
Yet, whenever we discuss security issues, we only speak of the police. Everyone conveniently ignores the ground reality that, in order to maintain peace, we need to first assess the efficacy of the existing criminal justice system and come up with solutions that address the full spectrum of restructuring and improvement. The police are one part of this structure; the other parts include prosecution, the prisons department, the courts system and the probation department. Even our focus on the police has not led to improvements here. If anything, we have continuously taken steps to weaken and dismantle the existing police structure.
The police department does not have sufficient resources. Its training is neglected and the internal administration is compromised as a result of interference and corruption. The department is demoralised since it becomes a scapegoat for the political blunders of the government. Indeed, it is remarkable that this force still confronts dangerous criminals and terrorists.
The strength of the Karachi police was around 30,000 in 1990; today, with double the population in the city, there has only been an increase of 5,000 in the police personnel strength. In the early 1990s, for the support of the police, 15,000 Rangers, a paramilitary force, were inducted for a limited period that was to be withdrawn within a given time limit. This has not happened, and has resultantly created a dichotomy: overlapping responsibility gives rise to even more confusion in an already very messy structure. The Rangers’ induction has brought about serious distortions and has blurred the lines of control and responsibility. The state has failed to bring about any improvements in policing.
Meanwhile, prosecution agencies have a poor track record with low-quality prosecutors, serious resource constraints and interference. The prisons are overcrowded and prison buildings collapsing. This department is faced with a perpetual shortage of strength and resources. The probation department, though it has very important responsibilities, apparently exists only on paper.
Similarly, the courts do not have adequate infrastructure and resources; the number of judges is far less than the requirement. According to the Justice and Law Commission Annual Report, 2011, there were 127 judges including district judges in Karachi. They had to deal with all civil and criminal cases, numbering 85,260 in the city. These civil and criminal matters exist in addition to innumerable issues including remand, bail and other miscellaneous matters.
The courts are overburdened, but also expected to try and punish desperate criminals and terrorists. The protection of judges and members of their families is not satisfactory. In some cases, there is practically no security for them. So it’s no surprise that the rate of conviction for terrorists is very low. Such a fractured and ineffective criminal justice system cannot address the colossal problems of a megacity like Karachi.
The ongoing operation should be an eye-opener because the outcome so far has been dismal. If the gover­nment is serious about securing Karachi, the federation and provincial governments should go for restructuring the system to deal effectively with the problems. Massive inputs will be needed with a clean and professional police force that is answer­able to the law, and the law alone. Simulta­neously, after a realistic assessment, the requirements of other elements should be met on a priority basis.
It is time to recognise that Karachi needs a stand-alone administrative structure insulated from all extraneous influence. It can no longer be treated as just another administrative division of a province. The government at the centre and that in the province must realise that in order to achieve the dream of a prosperous country, such an investment as has been outlined in the foregoing discussion is fully justified. This is not a quick fix but a very long and difficult path that must be traversed if the country is to survive as a democratic, prosperous and modern state of the 21st century.
The writer is a former inspector general of the police, Sindh.
Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pakistan Protection Ordinance- a futile exercise

Pakistan Protection Ordinance- a futile exercise

Afzal A Shigri
Former Inspector General of Police

            While the state of Pakistan is locked in an existentialist battle with the terrorists, the attention of the country is focused on a proposed law namely the Pakistan Protection Ordinance, 2013, which has become a hotly debated topic in the electronic media. Promulgation of this law, which has been bulldozed through and passed by the National Assembly, is now before the Senate. The proposed law is being criticized not only by the opposition parties but also by the civil society as well as the organizations working on human rights.  The impression is that unbridled powers are being given to the law enforcement agencies to detain, and shoot at sight anyone they suspect to be a terrorist.  Briefly the issues that are being highlighted include use of force against any suspected person by the law enforcement agencies, preventive detention of suspects and remand for 90 days, establishment of Special Courts and the transfer of the burden of proof upon the accused to establish his innocence during the trial.

            A close examination of the existing substantive laws namely Criminal Procedure Code and Pakistan Penal Code and special laws shows that most of the provisions of PPO already exist in these laws and nobody seem to have even taken the pain to examine them. The following will highlight the legal provisions that are on books and that have been implemented for many years.

            Much orchestrated criticism of use of force including firing is provided in Pakistan Penal Code in the Chapter “of right of private defense” in Sections 96 to 106that cover this aspect in detail. This allows the private citizen as well as any member of the law enforcement agencies to “voluntary causing a death or of any other harm to the assailant”, if there is a reasonable cause of the apprehension of death, grievous hurt, rape, kidnapping or wrongful confinement.”  These powers are more comprehensive than the provisions of Pakistan Protection Ordinance that, on the contrary, restrict the existing powers of law enforcement agencies by making the use of force subject to prior warning as far as possible to the culprit thus exposing the former to danger. The issue of preventive detention is also irrelevant because Section 11(eee) of Anti Terrorism Act, 1997 provides for a preventive detention/remand for 90 days, which is the period that has been also laid down in Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. The constitution clearly lays down three categories that allow the Government to resort to preventive detention in varying circumstances from 8 to 12 months, and in case of ‘an enemy alien’ the provision of this article are not applicable. Such a person can be detained for indefinite period. Proposed PPO or other enactments are only enabling laws to define the parameters for action under the constitutional provisions. Section 5(5) of PPO has specifically defined an alien waging war against the state so that appropriate action could be taken for the detention of the suspect.
            Special courts already exist to try the cases under anti terrorism laws, and no one has objected to establishment of these special courts. PPO has placed burden of the proof on the accused and amends evidence law, but similar provisions are also available in the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997. In section 27A, if the person is found in possession of an explosive material or an explosive device it will be presumed that it was for the purpose of terrorism. It in effect transfers the burden of proof upon the accused.
            A further critical examination of the score of laws dealing with these matters will show that PPO is yet another parallel legislation that is only adding confusion to a very complex legal structure in the country. It only opens up opportunities for corruption at the operational level and makes, the task of the well meaning and honest officers at supervisory level, difficult.  A few amendments in the existing law would have covered any additional aspects that are addressed in the PPO.  The proposed law has only given rise to avoidable controversy without serving any purpose.
            If ministries concerned have enacted this law to meet the challenges of terrorism in the country, it is a demonstration of their incompetence, which continues to create difficulties for the sitting government.  If the purpose is to divert the attention from other issues, it is a master stroke of political manoeuvring that has caught the imagination of the confused media and the civil society allowing other vital issues to recede into the background.
            However, there is a case to revisit the Anti Terrorism Law in this country and to re-examine its basics so that the misuse of this law and the prosecution of irrelevant persons who have nothing to do with hardcore acts of terrorism without impact on terrorism in the country can be prevented. On the contrary, it diverts the attention of the law enforcement agencies and the courts from the key factor that is threatening the very existence of the country. The most important section of the anti terrorism law is the definition of the ‘terrorism’ on which the entire edifice of the anti terrorism law is built. A reading of the text shows that it is open ended. Therefore, all and sundry except the terrorists, are being prosecuted under the anti terrorism law. We have the dubious distinction of applying the anti terrorism law to the police personnel, members of the law enforcement agencies, common citizens, politicians, civil servants, ministers, even the Prime Minister and the President.
            There is a pressing need to deal with the issue confronting this country in order to restore peace and establish the rule of law. Unusual situations call for extraordinary steps by the sitting government that has the sole responsibility to maintain peace. It is bound to enact new laws to address situations that may not be very popular politically. All over the world, special laws have been promulgated to deal with terrorism and insurgencies, and the inherent powers for legislation cannot be challenged on the matters that bring peace. In many cases, these laws do not conform to the high bench mark of fundamental rights of the citizens, but in the greater interest of the society compromises are made even in most advanced democratic countries.  The need, however, is to ensure the law is not misused and only holds people to account who challenge and violate the writ of the state and endanger the lives of the innocent citizens.
        If the fears of the common man regarding PPO are to be addressed, it is imperative that the loose definition of terrorist acts in the existing laws are made more specific and internationally accepted parameters are applied in this case. Internationally accepted definition of terrorism refers to a “strategy of using violence, social threats or coordinated attacks, in order to generate fear, cause disruption, and that ultimately bring compliance with specific political, religious or ideological demands”. The European Union includes in definition of terrorism the aim of “de-stabilizing or destroying the fundamental, constitutional, economic or social structure of a country”.  In United States, the code of Federal Bureau of Investigation has defined terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property intimidate or coerce a government, civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”  Contrary to these internationally recognized and accepted bench mark, the definition of the terrorism in Ordinance of the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997 makes an exemption in sub clause 3 of this section and states that any act of terrorism will also apply to any of the offences defined in this law if firearms or explosives or any other weapons are used. The condition of the “use or threat made for the purpose of advancing a religious, sectarian or ethnic cause” is not binding.
       This inherently flawed definition of terrorism is posing serious challenges to the whole criminal justice system in the country.  The misuse of the Anti Terrorism Law that is dreaded by the opposition parties and the civil society is obvious from the recent cases registered and prosecuted under Anti Terrorist Act effectively empowering the Government and the law enforcement agencies to indiscriminately apply the Anti Terrorism Law. It is also fashionable to apply this law in any case that attracts the attention of the media.  We have the example of application of terrorism laws to hundreds of cases that are essentially felony and must be dealt by the normal courts.  It has created a requirement of additional Anti Terrorism Courts thus creating a parallel judicial system with a devastating impact on the entire law enforcement structure. These courts for various reasons have been unable to convict the real terrorists where collection of evidence is extremely difficult. The outcome of this distortion is that the cases of normal nature are tried and the culprits convicted in order to ensure the disposal of “terrorism cases.”
        If the opposition is really serious in addressing these problems, it should revisit the entire Anti Terrorism Law and where it finds any gaps, new sections can be added and where certain portions of the laws are being misused, it should be amended to meet the internationally accepted benchmark of justice and fair treatment of the people involved in various cases of common nature.  This will not only help in improving the system but will also create a very positive environment for dealing with terrorism effectively.  The Government should also reconsider withdrawal of this law, and in consultation with the opposition collectively address the problems of distortion of the present law and come up with additional amendments that would effectively stem the tide of terrorism in the country and ensure lasting peace without fear of its abuse. This would be first serious effort to deal with the terrorism effectively and will strengthen the hands of the law enforcing agencies that are not only using this law indiscriminately but are also themselves victim of this defective law.