BY MUHAMMAD AMIR RANA
A transnational approach, flexible operational frameworks and interagency collaboration between traditional law enforcement agencies and other government institutions are considered the essential components of an effective counterterrorism policy.
A successful counterterrorism model is still a work in progress. Countries continue to improve their national security policies by learning from the best practices and approaches used in the development of national security strategies around the world.
There are basic principles for the formulation of an effective counterterrorism policy but different nations adopt divergent approaches that best fit their national imperatives. For instance, when the violent Islamist movement in Algeria transformed into a civil war, the government adopted the national reconciliation charter in 2005. It took this initiative after 97 per cent of the people endorsed it in a 2005 referendum. The charter was implemented as law on Feb 28, 2006. As per the charter, the government announced general amnesty for militants who were not involved in major crimes.
This Algerian model was borrowed from Morocco where the Equity and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2004 to investigate enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions from 1956, the country’s year of independence, to 1999. Though the context of the two approaches was different, the approach was the same.
Yemen is following a similar model under the National Dialogue Conference to address its social, ideological and political cohesion issues. These include combating terrorism and the problems of displaced people. The country has also had experience with engaging extremists in dialogue. This took the form of the Justice Hittar Committee for Religious Dialogue to de-radicalise extremists but it failed to produce the desired results.
It is not yet clear what the primary objective of the Pakistan government is. Does it want to reconcile with terrorists and recover its lost territories? If it thinks that the situation has reached a point where terrorists have seized significant political and ideological space in the national discourse, it can adopt the Yemen model which means that eventually it would have to amend the Constitution or start working on a new one.
If the government thinks that the terrorists do not have grievances against the state and are still loyal to it, as the interior minister stated in parliament last week, then the Algeria model may serve the purpose. For that, the government would have to announce amnesty for the terrorists. It is not certain whether the government would offer mercy to those who have killed civilians, but the Algerian government did not give amnesty to those involved in heinous crimes, including those guilty of mass murder, attacks on public installations, and rape. In fact, it isn’t even clear whether or not Pakistan’s terrorists have requested mercy. Perhaps the peace talks committee can shed light on this as it is denouncing responsibility for attacks on behalf of the terrorists.
If the government and security establishment think that militancy in the country is a problem created by a bunch of misled people, then there is a Saudi model to follow. This aims at bringing radicalised individuals, who have not taken part in any violent activity, back into the mainstream. Its ‘soft’ approach has three components: prevention (deterring individuals from getting involved in violent extremism), rehabilitation (encouraging supporters to renounce violence) and after-care (preventing recidivism and reintegrating people into society).
If the government views the terrorism problem through the perspective of urban violence, the Indonesian model may serve the purpose. This aims to neutralise the ideological fundamentals of the militants. The approach is based on the belief among de-radicalisers that the police can change the fighters’ assumption that government officials are anti-Islamic. The police not only treat prisoners kindly but also support them financially.
Many defence analysts in Pakistan look towards Malaysia. The Malaysian programme relies on re-education and rehabilitation. The former focuses on correcting the militants’ political and religious misconceptions, while the strategy of rehabilitation is adopted for thorough monitoring of militants after their release. Family members of the detainees are also engaged in the process, and are supported financially while the militants are under detention.
It is quite clear that while the approaches and models adopted in various countries converge at some points and diverge at others, one common element is human security, which is connected with other related problems ranging from human rights to governance and socio-economic cohesion. In his book Human Security in Pakistan, Pakistani author Ehsan Mehmood Khan has examined this aspect with a great deal of insight.
Aside from various perspectives on the issue, it seems as though the government is still confused about the exact nature of the threat, for multiple frameworks and models are available to help address the problem. Most importantly, all the above-mentioned models are based on the assumption that radicalisation is a matter of ideology originating from a misinterpretation of religion and leading to deviant social and psychological behaviour. But our government is reluctant to consider this in its security approach. Methods for adapting national strategies to apply to new situations and environments have been ignored in its recently announced strategy.
A transnational approach which is required to connect national, internal and regional policy dichotomies is still missing. This is a critical juncture. The situation is becoming fluid on both internal and external fronts and the state cannot afford to slip up in strategising its security approach with clarity and accurate threat perception.
-the writer is a security analyst
-by arrangement with dawn.com