By ifrah Waqar & Tahir Ahmad
Jan 8, 2015
Afterthe attack in Peshawar on Army public school that claimed the lives of 149 including 8 school teachers, the government, political leadership and armed forces have embarked upon a national action plan to counter terrorism called The National Action Plan (NAP). All the political parties have vowed to fight terrorism and build consensus on issues of public importance. The government lifted the moratorium on death penalty and called for the establishment of military courts for the speedy trail of terrorism related cases. However, different quarters have expressed different reactions. The repost has compiled the government actions, the parliamentary proceedings, the actions taken by armed forces and the reaction of different organisations and civil society.
Response of the Government:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after declaring the attacks as national tragedy announced a three days mourning and summoned All Parties’ Conference (APC) in Peshawar. Before the meeting PM lifted the moratorium on death penalty in terrorism related cases. The same day, the Army Chief, General Raheel Shareef signed the execution of six terrorists. The Prime Minister announced that there will be no difference between good and bad Taliban and expressed his resolve to continue Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The decisions made during the APC were presented in the joint session of the parliament that includes nationwide campaign against terrorism and extremism, and bills regarding national security and 20 points national security strategy. A list of the 20-point action plan follows:
- To enforce executions for terrorists sentenced to death.
- To avoid criminals evading punishment due to weaknesses in the legal system, special trial courts will be established under military officers so such elements can be dealt with without delay. These courts will exist for two years. Constitutional amendments will be made for these courts.
- No armed militant group or organization will be allowed to operate.
- The anti-terrorism organization, NACTA, will be strengthened and activated.
- Censoring Literature, newspapers and magazines that are spreading hate, violence sectarianism, extremism and intolerance
- All funding for terrorists and terrorist organizations will be eliminated.
- Banned organizations will not be allowed to re-establish themselves under another name.
- A special anti-terrorism force will be created of 10,000 soldiers will be created.
- Action is being taken to stop religious extremism and protect minorities.
- The government will register and regulate all madrassahs.
- Print and electronic media will be banned from glorifying the views of terrorists and terrorist organizations.
- Reforms in FATA will be given priority to ensure the speedy return of internally displaced persons.
- The communication networks of terrorists will be completely dismantled.
- The government will take steps to stop the spread of terrorism on the Internet and social media.
- There will be no space left for terrorism in any part of the country, including Punjab.
- The ongoing operation in Karachi will continue until it accomplishes its goals.
- For broader political consensus, stakeholders will work to empower the Balochistan government.
- Decisive action will be taken against sectarian elements.
- A comprehensive policy for the repatriation of Afghan refugees is being developed.
- The government will focus on legislation to ensure provincial intelligence organizations get access to terrorists’ communication networks and anti-terrorism organizations.
The APC also issued a joint notification for the elimination of terrorism. The notification states that Madaris (religious institutions) would be registered and the activities of extremist organisations would be stopped. The notification calls for the restructuring of NECTA and prohibition of hate and provocative speeches, and the distribution of extremist materials.
The APC agreed to destroy the communication system of terrorism, to work for the rehabilitation of the IDPs and ban those terrorist organisations trying to operate under different names. The use of social media and internet by terrorist organisations would be stopped.
The APC decided to establish for a period of two years, special courts which are presided by Army Officers. For this purpose amendment in the constitution was introduced.
On December 24, 2014, the prime minister chaired the meeting of parliamentary leaders which was attended by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, Director General of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Rizwan Akhtar and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other senior PPP, PTI and MQM leaders. During the meeting Prime Minster said that extraordinary situation demands extraordinary measures. The Chief of Army Staff and the interior minister briefed the meeting.
The interior minister discussed the following points;
- Finances of terrorist organizations
- The regular update of the most wanted terrorists.
- To deal with all terrorist organizations (including those under new names).
- Civil and military understanding on regulation of internet
- Misuse of media by the terrorists and media code of conduct
- Media broadcast and black list terrorist
- Terrorist threats and breaking news
- Online hate speech and content generated by terrorists and regulation of the Internet.
- Greater regulation of explosives material.
- An audit of all companies dealing with explosives with civilian and military coordination.
On December 24 the Prime Minister in a televised address to the nation announced the ‘National Action Plan (NAP) to deal with terrorism. According to the Interior Minister, the plan was prepared in the light of the decisions taken by All Parties Conference. For this purpose the PM established the National Action committee consisting of the members from all the political parties and decision were taken in the light of the recommendations of this committee. The PM address gave the following outlines of the National Action Plan (NAP) are those points which were decided in the APC. The summary of these points is given as given under.
i) The Execution of terrorists convicted of death penalty.
There are 3000 convicts in terrorism related cases; the execution of some 500 convicts in terrorism related cases is due in the comings weeks. The prime minster has said that the executions would continue. According to the interior minister the decision to lift moratorium on death penalty for terrorism cases was made in principle.
ii) The establishment of Military courts:
For the establishment of military courts the government needed to amend the article 175 of the constitution which defines the jurisdiction and establishment of the courts, and the Pakistan Army Act 1952. The government tabled the bill called the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill 2015 and Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015, in the Parliament for parliamentary discussion and approval. The Parliament passed both the bills.
iii) To take measure against hate speech.
iv) To make no distinction among good and bad Taliban.
v) The regulate madaris (religious schools).
vi) Political reconciliation in Balochistan, reforms in FATA and rehabilitation of IDPs.
vii) To deal with the issue of Afghan refugees.
Reaction from the Armed forces:
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Shareef visited Kabul and had meetings with his counterpart and the ISAF commander. The PM said that he had a telephonic conversation with the Afghan president, asked him to take strict action against the terrorists and ensure maximum cooperation.
On December 20 2014, the security forces killed 45 terrorists across the country in different operations. Brother of Peshawar school mastermind among five killed in Peshawar, twenty killed in jet bombardment in Tirah valley in Khyber Agency, four in drone strike in North Waziristan, two in Charsadda and five killed in Karachi. The military has intensified is operation country wide against the terrorists in which scores of terrorists have been killed.
The Army Chief briefed the meeting of parliamentary leaders chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that 2100 terrorists were killed and 190 soldiers had died during Zarb-e-Azb.
According to the interior ministry the 10, 000 army personnel are deployed in all the four provinces who act in times of crises with the provincial security forces. The interior minister addressing the meeting of parliamentary leaders chaired by Prime Minister said, “After the initiation of Zarb-i-Azb, the government realised that the police is neither equipped nor trained who would require time to tackle the current law and order crisis. In order to deal with the reaction of the operation, the army chief has told the government that the military was willing to help and support the federal and provincial administrations but for that the requisition of the army needs to be made under Article 245 of the Constitution”
He further added that letter has been written to three provinces that if the deployment of armed forces under article 245 was not requested, armed forces from the three provinces would be withdrawn.
According to the ISPR press release on January 3, 2015, “In a bid to coordinate the security and to implement the recently approved National Action Plan (NAP), Provincial Apex committees have been formed in all provinces which would be constituted of both military and political leadership.”
During the 178th Corps Commanders Conference at the General Headquarters, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif has stated that petty differences should not put at stake the political consensus. The COAS reviewed the homework done by various quarters for the execution of National Action Plan agreed in the APC. The upsurge in Intelligence Based Operations and it effects were reviewed.
The national action plan has three such elements on which disagreement prevails among different political parties, civil society, non Governmental and international organisations, and some sections of press and electronic media.
Death Penalty and reaction from various quarters:
The execution of the terrorist convict of death penalty has been criticised by human rights organisations, the European Union, the Nongovernmental organisations, and the leading human rights activists.
The EU envoy to Pakistan Lars-Gunnar Wigemark and other delegates said in a joint statement, “”We believe that the death penalty is not an effective tool in the fight against terrorism”. The envoy stated that the EU delegation regrets the decision of the Pakistani government to lift the moratorium on executions.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on the government of Pakistan to put an end to the execution of all convicts and re-impose the moratorium on death penalty. The UN High Commissioner Zeid Raad Al Hussein had also condemned Pakistan’s decision to lift moratorium on death penalty.
David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director stated, “The planned execution figures being quoted are deeply disturbing and indicate a huge regression from a government which until last week maintained a moratorium on executions”.
The United States has adopted not official position on the issue. The United States Department spokesperson for the U.S Department of State Marie Harf said that the lifting of the moratorium on death penalty is Pakistan’s internal issue.
Asma Jehangir Lawyer and Activists said that punitive actions would not absolve government from taking hard decisions on security paradigm or revamp criminal justice system. She further added, “Terrorism does not disappear with revenge tactics but through making justice and equality before law a reality”.
The establishment of Military Courts and Constitutional Amendment:
After the Peshawar attack the decisions of the APC which were incorporated in to National Actions Plan to counter terrorism, the government as part of its plan has tabled the bill aiming at amendment to the constitution to establish military courts.
For this purpose the Bill called The 21st Amendment Bill 2015 and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015 were passed from the parliament.
a) The Bill amended Article 175 of the constitution.
The article is about the jurisdiction and establishment of the Courts.
b) The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015.
It is about the trail and composition of the Military Courts.
The Pakistan Army Act (Amendment) Bill 2015 would remain in force for two years and stands repealed on the expiration of the said period unless extended by the Parliament.
21st Amendment Bill 2015
“Whereas extraordinary situation and circumstances exist, which demand special measures for speedy trial of certain offences relating to terrorism, waging of war or insurrection against Pakistan and for prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan by the terrorist groups using the name of religion or a sect and also by the members of armed groups, wings and militias,” reads the 21 amendment bill.
In the first schedule of the Constitution, the 21st amendment to the Constitution ,the Pakistan Army Act 1952, the Pakistan Army Act 1953, the Pakistan Navy Act 1961 and the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 will also be inserted.
These military courts – with prior permission of the federal government – will also be able to try any person – who is claimed or is known to belong to any terrorist group or organization using the name of religion or sect and who commits an offence. The federal government can also transfer pending cases to these military courts.
Both the bills have been voted in the parliament none of the political party opposed the bill.
Response of the political parties:
The Pakistan Tehrek e Insaaf (PTI) called off the protests and participated in the APC. However, it abstained from voting the bill and amendment. Jamiat e Ulema e Islam Fazal Rahman Group (JUI F) and Jumat e Islami (JI) also abstained from voting. JI proposed that the word religion should be omitted from the text of the bill. JUI insisted that the word sect is objectionable. The Pakistan’s People Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) voted in favour of the bill and amendment.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) publicly stated that it is dismayed over the decision of the political parties supporting the establishment of military courts. HRCP stated. “The Commission is dismayed that all political parties supported this unfortunate decision, although some had earlier expressed reservations. HRCP concerns were based on three grounds; firstly, it undermines the judiciary, secondly, trying civilians has always been controversial issue, thirdly, the movie may affect the political dissidents in Baluchistan and Sindh. The HRCP further added “HRCP believes that the need instead is to reform and strengthen the system of investigation and prosecution. Reforms should include more scientific methods of investigation, rather than torture and coercion, as well as witness protection programmes and better security for lawyers, judges and witnesses. The hasty decision is all the more questionable as the Supreme Court itself is attempting to expedite cases of terrorism.”
Undoubtedly, Pakistan is going through one of its most difficult times in its history but it seems the people and the leadership of the country has decided to take a united stand against the elements threatening the security and sovereignty of the country. It is the need of the time that decisions on matters of national security are taken through mutual consensus and consultation. The National Action Plan can be successful if transparency and accountability is maintained in implementing this plan. Mere slogans and speeches will not help achieve the required targets, for that, sanity must prevail over rage and emotions.
The writers are currently working as Research Associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS).
The views expressed in this article are of writers own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.