16 December 2016

Pakistan Terrorism and Counter Terrorism Review

Pakistan is the South Asian country which on numerous occasions has failed to hide its dysfunctional relationship with terrorism. Pakistan remains a critical partner in counter-terrorism as per the US Country Report on Terrorism 2015. Throughout the year 2015 Pakistan remained a target for various terrorist attacks on its civilians, officials, or members of other religious sects. The terrorist attacks continued to challenge the government’s massive security preparations. In 2015, terrorists used both stationary and vehicle-borne remote-controlled IEDs (VBIEDs); suicide bombings; targeted assassinations; rocket-propelled grenades; and other combat tactics to attack individuals, schools, markets, government institutions, mosques, and other places of worship. Attacks by sectarian groups against minorities continued.

In 2015 Pakistan witnessed the third highest number of terrorist incidents globally as indicated in the Statistical Appendix of US Country Report on Terrorism 2015 with 1009 incidents and 1081 fatalities. Major Terrorist Incidents occurred in every month of 2015.A few representative examples include:

• On January 30, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in the northern Sindh district of Shikarpur. According to Dunya News, at least 61 people were killed and provincial government officials claimed that suspects arrested in the case were affiliated with the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorist groups.

• On March 15, suicide bombers struck two churches in Lahore’s majority-Christian Youhanabad neighborhood, killing 17 people according to government figures reported in the media. Following the attack, a mob killed two bystanders whom they believed to have been involved in the bombing.

On May 13, eight gunmen attacked a bus traveling in Safoora Goth, Karachi. The shooting left at least 46 Ismaili Shia dead. Media reported that the attackers were allegedly ISIL adherents.

• Attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, Balochistan remained common. For example, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, five Hazaras were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on them on a Quetta street on June 7.

• On August 16, a suicide bomber killed 17 people, including Punjab provincial Home Secretary Shuja Khanzada in Attock (near Lahore), and injured at least 23 others. According to media, multiple violent sectarian groups claimed responsibility.

• On September 18, a group of armed terrorists entered Pakistan’s Badaber Air Base (outside of Peshawar) and killed at least 29 civilians and military personnel, including an Army captain. Media reported that TTP claimed responsibility.

• On October 24, a suicide bomber killed approximately 22 people, and injured at least 40 more Shia Muslim worshippers commemorating the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain during the Ashura period of the Islamic Month of Muharram in Jacobabad (Sindh). A second suicide bomber killed approximately 10 people, and injured 12 more, in an attack on a Shia mosque on October 22 in Bolan (Balochistan). Media reported that violent anti-Shia terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for both attacks.

• On December 29, a vehicle-borne IED attack orchestrated by TTP splinter group Jamaat-ur-Ahrar killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50 at a federal government office in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The US and UN designated terrorist organisations such as Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniyat (FiF), aliases of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) continue to operate its fundraising activities despite being banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Agency (PEMRA). Pakistan has also taken steps to reconcile Afghan government with the Afghan Taliban, but it has failed to take any concrete actions to constrain the ability of Taliban and the Haqqani Network (HQN) who threaten the US and Afghan interests in Afghanistan.

Pakistan officially designated ISIL a terrorist organisation and its army officials publicly warned of scattered Pakistani terrorist allegiance to ISIL and its threat to Pakistan military targets. However, Pakistan did not join the multilateral Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, but its officials did participate in a senior-level meeting of the coalition in September.

The government came up with the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism when Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) on Dec 16, 2015, attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar killing more than 150 children and staff. To prevent any future attacks on the Pakistani soil, the government came up with NAP which is a mixture of judicial, law enforcement, military, and administrative goals that seek to punish established terrorists, eliminate support for terrorism and promote non-violent co-existence of the various religious sects. However, the NAP itself is not legally binding. There were also complaints regarding its implementation in Pakistani media. As per reports, the Pakistani army continued to execute its ground and air operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency to eliminate terrorist safe havens. Pakistani paramilitary and civilian security forces were also included in the counter-terrorism efforts of conducting pre-emptive raids and arrest of the suspected terrorists to even interrupting the various terrorist plot.

For every month in 2015, Pakistan was a target for numerous terrorist attacks. With enhanced law enforcement and prosecutorial powers, Pakistan continued to implement the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997 which empowered the government to counter terrorism. Following ATA, many more legislations were introduced related to terrorism but their implementation was muddled at various stages. Furthermore, the pace of judiciary in processing is also sluggish and the majority of courts face long backlogs. The report does not fail to mention the significance of the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) passed in 2014, which created a specialized system of adjudicating terrorism cases by empowering federal institutions of the country. However, the legal advisors and human rights advocates criticise the PPA provisions of granting broad immunity to security forces in investigating terrorism cases. Moreover, Pakistan Assembly also passed the 21st Amendment to Pakistani Constitution and Pakistani Army Act to allow Military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related cases.

There is a need for improvement in Pakistan’s Law enforcement and national security structures at the federal level. The specialized law enforcement units require technical equipment and training to enhance their investigative powers. Pakistan has continued to work towards its structural reforms on counter-terrorism efforts to centralize coordination and information sharing. The role of National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) is wide and the broad intelligence powers of Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate have also fulfilled a de facto border security role along with tribal militias, provincial police, and the Frontier Corps. Pakistan also continues to cooperate with the US on information sharing and law enforcement.

In countering the financing of terrorism, Pakistan is an active member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. However, FATF removed Pakistan from its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism review process due to its strategic deficiencies. Pakistan was instructed to freeze the assets of the UN-designated terrorist entities, but despite that many of them continued to operate throughout the year within Pakistan, employing economic resources under their control and fundraising openly. The informal money transfer system persisted throughout much of Pakistan, especially along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan through its Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations employed strategic communications strategies to build support for the military’s counter-terrorism initiatives. Through setting up of de-radicalisation camps, the government introduced corrective religious education, vocational training, counselling and therapy, and modules that addressed the social issues. Pakistan was also an active participant in the US conducted White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February 2015.

Pakistan is a member country of SAARC and also a part of many multilateral groups on counter-terrorism efforts such as Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. As a Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) member, Pakistan also attended its meetings and supported their initiatives. It has also attended UNSC meetings on sanctions and counterterrorism and UN Counterterrorism Committee workshop on South Asian judges, prosecutors, and investigators in Thailand. It was also a part of Special Meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Committee on “Stemming the Flow of Foreign Terrorist Fighters” held in Madrid.

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