ISLAMABAD - The recent appointment of a senior police officer as head of National Counter Terrorism Authority raised questions whether a police officer having more experience of field operations and less orientation to research could run this policy-making and research-based organisation.

The newly-elected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government, last month, appointed Mehr Khaliq Dad Lak, a grade-22 officer of Police Service of Pakistan as Nacta’s national coordinator. His predecessor Dr Suleman Khan, also a grade-22 officer of the PSP, was appointed as director general of Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Background interviews with some senior officials of Nacta revealed that the newly-appointed Nacta national coordinator Mehr Khaliq Dad was at odds with some of his subordinates in the authority when it comes to the powers and functions of the country’s premier counter-terrorism body.

The Nacta was primarily established as a think tank in 2008 to do research and formulate policies on counter-terrorism as well as counter-extremism and play the role of a coordinator of intelligence information but it was given no powers for physical action. However, this appears to be difficult for the incumbent Nacta chief to understand that the authority had neither any role in physical action nor it could pass any orders to the provincial police departments, intelligence agencies or other law enforcement agencies. Nacta has only recommendatory role.

In the field posting, any police officer enjoys ultimate powers with more specific power to arrest any citizen. However, the posting at Nacta has different dimensions.

For a senior police officer like Nacta NC, who has most of the experience of field operations and investigations, it is difficult for him to understand his new role. Since he took charge of his new position, he usually gives no importance to conducting research to counter-terrorism and extremism.

The incumbent Nacta chief understands that he should implement his orders and can summon provincial police chiefs and direct them to implement his directions whatever these are about counter-terrorism operations in the country. After the landmark 18th Amendment, police is a provincial subject and Nacta has no command role and it depends only on chief ministers and inspectors general of police of the provinces as to how much they implement its policy recommendations and intelligence leads.

Mehr Khaliq Dad was promoted to grade 22 in December 2017 by then premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He served in Punjab at various positions. As ASP, SP and SSP, he served in different districts of Punjab including Toba Tek Singh, Khushab, Bhakkar, Sahiwal and Gujranwala. As deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, he served as regional police officer (RPO) Sahiwal, DIG Special Branch Punjab and DIG Investigation Branch Punjab. He also remained capital city police officer (CCPO) Lahore and also served in Central Police Office, Lahore besides serving in the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

The Nacta also has Joint Intelligence Directorate (JID) having representation of all intelligence agencies, civilian and military, to coordinate for intelligence leads among all provincial police departments, and other law enforcement as well as intelligence agencies.

The Nacta issues threat alerts in the light of the intelligence reports of different agencies for their onward implementation by provinces or the federal government. But it always depends upon the provinces as to how much they take seriously these alerts.

During the recent general election, the Nacta issued various threat alerts stating that lives of some of the mainstream politicians were under threat.

Former police officer Tariq Pervez was the first chief of Nacta who is a known counter-terrorism expert and is also considered as the founders of the authority. The idea behind the formulation of Nacta was to come up with measures for a national counterterrorism action plan.

The official website of the Nacta says that the authority was “reorganised as federal authority vide Nacta ACT 2013 to act as a focal national institution and unify state response to counter-extremism and terrorism by combining the efforts of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and by formulating and implementing policies and action plans through continuous research, adaptive innovation and ancillary mechanisms.