Aimed at effectively curbing the menace of terrorism in Pakistan, an extensive National Action Plan for counter terror was decided to be enforced by the government following the unfortunate APS Peshawar carnage last year. The intended action plan involves certain administrative measures ranging from strengthening the NACTA to the establishment of the military courts and a special counter-terrorism force. It also includes some strict actions against militant outfits and armed gangs like freezing their funding sources and dismantling their communication network. Similarly, the sectarianism and extremism were also vowed to be tackled through effective regulation of the religious seminaries across the country. The twentieth and last point of this plan relates to the provincial law-enforcement apparatus which says that the existing criminal justice system will be reformed, and the provincial CID departments will be mobilized. Indeed, the last point is, by no means, the least.

The police are the civil force of a state primarily entrusted with the task of preventing and solving the crimes in any country. In the entire criminal justice system, it is the first agency that comes between the perpetrator and the victim of a crime. This agency has the inherent capacity to proactively challenge the potential foul play in any society. The countries like the US, UK, India and Sri Lanka have successfully used their police force to tackle various terrorist elements present on their very soil. The ‘clear and hold’ is an effective COIN strategy in which the military personnel, while winning the support of the populace, clear an area of guerrillas and insurgents by a military operation then the local police effectively re-establish the state authority there. As Pakistan Army has successfully cleared almost all the FATA of the militants and extremists, therefore it’s the time that civilian law-enforcing agencies should now ensure complete peace and order through their effective presence there.

Acting as an active supporting partner of the NACTA, the police in Pakistan can also play an important role to accomplish the very objectives set forth in the NAP. Comprising some more than 1400 police stations across the country, there exists an extensive law-enforcement network in Pakistan. Therefore, before thinking about making any alternative arrangement for the counter-terrorism, we should first seriously evaluate the option of mobilizing our existing police force as an effective tool to curb terrorism in the country. But, indeed, the police should be up to the mark to assist NACTA to ensure efficient enforcement of National Action Plan in the country.

It is quite unfortunate that presently the civilian institutional capacity of Pakistan to fight terrorism is observably impaired. The establishment of the military courts necessarily substantiates this very fact. Instead of making any endevour to enforce the much-debated Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, the political leadership has conveniently chosen to shift the burden of the court trial of militants to the army. Despite being ‘in a state of war’ for the last fourteen years, Pakistan has not yet made any significant effort to enhance the professional capacity of its civilian institutions to fight this war. Presently, including the police force, no other civil armed force is equipped and trained enough to proactively confront the violent insurgent groups in the country.

As a matter of fact, the NAP, by and large, contains certain counter-terror measures that necessarily relate to the ordinary function of the police. Had we efficiently mobilized our police force in the past, we wouldn’t have to discuss some basic points of this plan these days. Pakistan had to face a unique form of terrorism following the US invasion in Afghanistan in 2001, but, at the same time, we also have a long chronology of sectarian violence in the country. Pakistan has been in the grip of sectarian violence since the last 1980’s. There have been many political regimes in the country but no one has ever cared about addressing this issue seriously. Consequently, this menace has somehow become a vociferous hydra in Pakistan now. In fact, the state should have taken concrete steps to register and regulate the religious seminaries in the country. Instead, at times, certain half-hearted operations were carried out against various sectarian outfits making them able to operate in the country under different nomenclature.

Replacing the one and half century old Police Act, 1861, the Police Order 2002 was introduced in Pakistan primarily to improve the general state of policing in the country. However, in the absence of required political will to enforce it in letter and spirit, this law also failed to bring any positive change Vis-a-Vis policing in Pakistan. Similarly, the very concept of community policing has never been attempted to introduce in Pakistan. The ‘Neighborhood Watch’ is an important component of this system whereby the ordinary members of the community are encouraged to keep an eye on each other’s activities in their locality as way of preventing crimes. This system can also significantly help Pakistan to fight a sort of fourth generation war as the militants cannot be easily distinguished from an ordinary citizen in the community. This kind of general public participation would also certainly help law enforcing agencies to successfully accomplish various objectives in the current National Action Plan.

Under the NAP, the government has started recruiting and training the individuals for the special counter terrorism force in the county. It should not be ignored that the response time made by any law-enforcing agency is most crucial for any counter-terror operation. It is only the local police which can ensure a quick response in case of any eventuality in its locality. Therefore, deputing some personnel of special counter-terror force in the big cities and at the district headquarters level would hardly help achieve required purpose. It is most important that members of this force must also be integrated with ordinary police force in each police station across the country to get better results.

As the ongoing military operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan have somehow achieved their desired objective by significantly eliminating the terrorist elements in these areas, therefore now the civil armed forces and law enforcement agencies are supposed to effectively perform their role in consolidating the writ of the state in these areas as well as other parts of the country. Besides providing to it the required paraphernalia, we have to focus on the capacity-building of our police force across the country to curb the terrorism for good. Without improving the general state of policing in Pakistan, the NACTA will hardly be successful in achieving its desired goal of completely eliminating all forms of extremism and militancy in the country.