Pakistan and Nigeria share many things in common. For years, the two countries have battled terrorists and insurgents at the huge expense of financial and human resources. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, who was recently in Pakistan for five days, reports on the Pakistani army’s battle against terrorists and the lessons for Nigeria
For those not very conversant with the reality in Pakistan, the mere mention of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan instills fear. And that perhaps explained the recent huge task by the Military Attaché to Pakistan Embassy (Nigeria), Col. Julian Muazzan James, in trying to persuade Nigerian media delegations including this reporter that his country was safe for them for a five-day working visit.
The fear of the Nigerian media delegates – senior editors from both print and electronic media, was plausible and logical. Few years ago, Pakistan was ranked by the Global Travel and Tourism Report of the World Economic Forum, as the “fourth most dangerous country in the world.’’
The report ranking countries on ‘Safety and Security,’ gave Pakistan a score of 3.04, while Finland, the safest country in the world, had a score of 6.7. What really instigated that frightening ranking, according to experts, were the acts of terrorism that have swamped the country for over a decade.
Indeed, it was certainly fear-provoking. The documentation by the South Asia Terrorism Portal – being funded by the Institute for Conflict Management, shows that 21,527 civilians; 6,669 security personnel and 33,559 terrorists/insurgents totaling 61,555, had been killed as at January 2017 due to terrorism war in the country.
The economic cost was also massive. The war against terror has cost Pakistan over $118.32 billion or Rs9,869 billion in the past 15 years, according to Economic Survey 2015/2016. The economic survey indicates that the conflict and instability in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks and their regional implications had immense negative consequences for Pakistan.
The report said the snowballing effect of these developments harmfully squeezed the overall growth rate in all major sectors of the country’s economy. Standard economic and trading activities were hugely interrupted, resulting in higher costs of doing business and significant delays in meeting the export orders around the globe. As a result, experts said Pakistani products gradually lost their market share to their competitors. Economic growth could not pick up as planned. An extensive share of treasurable national resources, both men and material, have been diverted to address the enormous security challenges and to repair damaged infrastructure during the last 15 years.
But investigation by THISDAY, during a recent five-day visit to the country, shows that the frightening situation has tremendously changed in the last one year. By 2016, Pakistan has moved out of the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world.
The Pakistan Army spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor and the Chairman, Senate Defence Committee of Pakistan Parliament, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, attributed the success to the military operations of the Pakistan Army in interviews with THISDAY in Islamabad, recently.
Appraised as the sixth largest in the world in terms of active military personnel and the largest among Muslim countries, the Pakistan Armed Forces comprise three main service branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force – together with a number of paramilitary forces and the Strategic Plans Division Force. International experts in the military operation had regularly described the Pakistan Armed Forces as “the best-organised institution in Pakistan, and are highly respected in civil society.’’
The widely respected view among the Pakistan citizens is that since the founding of Pakistan, the military had played a strategic role in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood and providing a stronghold of self-sacrificing service.
Genesis of the Terrorism War
There is all-purpose consensus among many experts that terrorism was not a new phenomenon for Pakistan, that it has been an actuality for many years, but later acquired an aggressive length since the tragic events of 9/11 in the United States. Many political and military leaders notably the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, security personnel, ordinary citizens, women and children have been victims of the terrorism.
Brigadier-General (retired) Mohmood Shah, former Secretary of Security for FATA, who was a key figure in the negotiation process with the tribal elders and drafting the agreement at the start of the war against terrorism, told THISDAY that the phenomenon of the war is complex with a host of internal and external influences giving rise to manifold centres of terrorism in the country. He argued that the actual activate for the blow-out of terrorism in Pakistan was, however, the iconic event of 9/11 and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2011, which later pushed Taliban forces into Pakistan tribal region where they created new bases and sanctuaries.
The historical suggestion of the vicious crisis is that the roots of Pakistani society also had an element of sectarianism, which has been apparent since 2006. The argument was that Al Qaeda and the TTP joined with sectarian-based militant outfits to operate on a broad spectrum. 2006, according to many experts, was the year which worsened Pakistan’s internal security absurdity.
Pakistan Army Operation against Terrorists
The Pakistan Army spokesman, Major General Ghafoor, told THISDAY that there had been quite a few large scales military operations in Pakistan – all designed and targeted towards the local and foreign militants, since Pakistan started the global war against terrorism. The list of military operations include Operation Al-Mizan, Operation Rah-e-Haq, Operation Zalzala, Operation Black Thunderstorm, Operation Raah-e-Raast, Operation Sher Dil, Operation Rah-e-Nijat, Operation Koh-e-Safaid and Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
According to ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) of the Pakistan Army, the army launched a comprehensive operation “Zarb-e-Azb” against foreign and local terrorists and their sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency on June 15, 2014.The targeted group include: Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Haqqani network with nearly 30,000 troops participating in the operation with the help of the air force, artillery and tanks. Besides normal infantry troops, the Special Service Group (SSG) commandos also took part in this operation. The operations in his estimation were huge success.
A Research Fellow in the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI), Asad Ullah Khan, told THISDAY in Islamabad that in the aftermath of the Karachi Airport attack on June 8, 2014, which resulted in the loss of the lives of 28 people including 10 terrorists, the decision to launch a broad well-targeted military operation against terrorists especially in the North Waziristan was taken.
“Pakistan appeared to have made prominent success in 2016 in curbing the sources of violence that had been threatening peace and security not just in Pakistan but in the region,” the Ullah Khan stated.
“There was a nearly 45 per cent reduction in the number of violence-related fatalities in 2016, which continued the trend of reduction from 2012; in fact, since 2014, there has been an overall reduction of nearly 66 per cent.’’
Ullah Khan who works in ISSI, which promotes policy-oriented research on the critical national, regional and international issues affecting Pakistan’s security environment, said the gain reflects the success of the Kinetic operations across the country by security forces, both military and civilian.
Not many experts in terrorism including Brigadier-General (retired) Shah believe that over 98 per cent operation against terrorists in Pakistan has been achieved. And all the provinces in Pakistan: Balochistan; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Punjab; Sindh; Capital Territory; Tribal areas; Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit–Baltistan have been cleared of terrorists with many of them either killed or smoked out to Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Defence said that the most highlighting aspect of the operation until now is the targeting of the militants without any discrimination, saying no terrorist on the Pakistani soil will be spared in the on-going military operation.
Besides being trained as a force for conventional warfare, military authorities said that Pakistan military forces have become well equipped and trained to fight unconventional warfare very effectively. “The ground forces are well acquainted with the terrain, area and local tribal population. The last decade, though witnessed a huge loss of civilians and military personnel, but was the hardest and most effective training Pakistan Army would ever undergo. There is a visible use of aerial support in recent operations as compared to the earlier ones,’’ a Pakistan military source told THISDAY.
Besides, more classy and precise weapons have been used by Pakistan military in the recent combat missions.
Pakistan National Action Plan against Terrorism
The Pakistan Minister of State, Ministry of Information Broadcasting and National Heritage, Marriyum Aurangzeb, said that the National Action Plan against terrorism formulated by the present Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has given huge push against war against terror in the country.
She told THISDAY that a 20-point declaration, agreed to in the All Parties Conference called by the Prime Minister immediately after the terrorists attack on Peshawar school, which killed 148 people, most of them children, was later announced by Sharif. These points, according to the Pakistan spokesperson were unanimously agreed to in a marathon meeting of leaders of all the political parties after a session of 11 hours.
The points included the implementation of death sentence of those convicted in cases of terrorism. Special trial courts under the supervision of Army were created. The duration of these courts would be two years; militant outfits and armed gangs were banned from operating in the country; and NACTA, the anti-terrorism institution was strengthened.
In the action plan, there is strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, decapitation, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance; there is registration and regulation of religious seminaries; ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media.
“After the devastating terror attack on a Peshawar school, which killed 148 people, most of them children, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif partially lifted the six-year moratorium on executions as part of a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) to combat terrorism,’’ the Minister of State added.
On his part, the Senate Defence Committee Chairman said that the Pakistan’s legislators passed the 21st amendment to the constitution and the Pakistan Army Amendment Bill to temporarily allow military tribunals to try militants accused of waging war against the state.
Consequently, about 300 death row prisoners were hanged since the government lifted a six-year moratorium on death penalty on December 17, 2014. The terrorists were convicted for involvement in killing of civilians as well as of personnel of law enforcement agencies. There were death sentences for seven more militants for their involvement in the Peshawar school massacre and an attack on a bus carrying members of the minority Ismaili community.
It was gathered that security forces have carried out 54,376 combing operations so far under NAP, and as results of these 60,420 arrests were made. Similarly, 3,019 intelligence based operations were carried out and 1,388 intelligence reports were shared with intelligence agencies.
The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) were said to have also sealed 102 Islamic seminaries for fanning extremism and frozen Rs1 billion in funds of proscribed militant groups. The government has closed down 87 madrassas in Sindh and 13 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; two seminaries have been sealed in Punjab the largest province, where a number of students were found in contact with banned groups. The LEAs have also identified 190 seminaries that receive funds from abroad.
As part of the strategy to choke terror financing, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was said to have frozen Rs1 billion in 126 accounts linked to proscribed organisations. The LEAs was also said to have recovered Rs251.2 million in cash, which was being traded through Hawala and Hundi. The government also recovered Rs19.77 million from suspects involved in the 2004 ‘Chowk Yadgar Operation’ in Peshawar.
Over 1,500 books and other hate material had been confiscated and 71 such shops sealed since the start of operation against terror. One of the areas the government is said to have focused on under the National Action Plan (NAP) has been to curb dissemination of hate speech and material. In this regard, 1,961 suspects have been arrested and 1,893 cases filed against clerics. Of these, 271 have been convicted while 826 cases are still pending before special courts.
The government had also cracked down against the misuse of loudspeakers. As many as 7,000 cases have been filed and 6,855 alleged hate-preachers arrested. Of them, 1,482 have been convicted of hate mongering on loud speakers.
Under the NAP, 97.9 million SIMs have been biometrically verified and 5.1 million SIMs have been blocked, according to the Minister of Information. And the process was completed in just three months.
THISDAY further gathered that formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees was kick started, beginning with registration of all refugees. Consequently, 3,416 Afghan Refugees were said to have been deported, including 2,844 from KP, 195 from Balochistan, one in Islamabad and 376 from FATA.
In the Karachi operation, investigation revealed that the Rangers Pakistan Army has arrested over 58,000 criminals. Of them, 9,570 were absconders while 630 were proclaimed offenders. Others apprehended during the operation included 1,731 murderers, 713 terrorists, 517 extortionists and 118 kidnappers. Security forces also recovered 15,612 illegal weapons during the operation.
The Governor of Punjab, Pakistan, Malik Muhammad Rafigue Rajwana, told THISDAY in his office in Punjab that the National Action Plan (NAP) implemented by Punjab Police had produced positive results, as noticeable decrease in terrorism cases has been observed.
Records show that under the supervision of the Inspector General (IG) of Police, the last few months has witnessed 33,772 combing operations in which 994,118 people were questioned, 5,549 cases registered out of which 980 cases were registered under Foreign Act violation.
During the period also, 6,162 general hold ups were held, in which 24,436 suspected criminals were arrested. Similarly, 122,800 vehicles without number plates, unauthorised and tinted glasses were impounded during the hold ups. Taking action against the display of arms, 2,851 cases were registered while 189 weapons were confiscated during the operation.
The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) was also said to have arrested 40 hardcore activists and detained 69 during the period. On violation of Tenancy Act, 7,328 cases were registered, in which 11,036 were arrested and 1,754 were convicted. On publication of hate material, 547 cases were registered, in which 580 violators got arrested and 35 were convicted.
The governor added that with the implementation of NAP, the heinous crime graph has decreased in Punjab. According to details, 27 per cent decrease was recorded in murder cases. In 2014, the reported cases of murder were 5,282, as compared to less than 1,000 in 2016. Similarly, crime against person was also reduced by 11 per cent to 43,437, which were 48,759 in 2014.
The Chief of Staff, 11 Corps, a military base in Peshawar, Major General Imdad Hussien, said the Army has witnessed 95 per cent success of its war against terrorism; with over 90 per cent of the Internal Displaced Persons returned to their homes; and 85 per cent of the houses destroyed rebuilt. Speedily, the war against terrorism in Pakistan is coming to an end.
The Pakistan Foreign Minister of State, Mr. Syed Tariq Fatemi, said that war against terror has been a long battle, in which everybody has since realised very well that if they get rid of terrorism, many of their problems will be solved, saying the economic and stability challenges are tired to security challenges. “With that everybody came on board to help the government fight terrorism. For now every branch of the society is on the same page to get rid of terrorism,’’ the Foreign Affairs Minister told THISDAY.
He added that at this critical moment, the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism demands true national unity, which must be shown practically. He said the political leaders had pledged not to manipulate their regional and provincial differences at the cost of the national interests so as to grab political power.
In order to castigate the conspiracy of the external enemies against the integrity of the country, he argued that the political leaders, media, religious scholars and human rights groups have agreed to work together.
The Role of the Media
The Director-general, External Publicity Wing, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Shafqat Jalil, said the media are not playing “any negative role by not bringing the activities of the terrorists or the suicide attacks prominently to newspapers or the electronic media.’’ His reason: celebrating the terrorist attacks can affect the media people negatively; so, giving glorification to activities of terrorists does more harm to the society. And the electronic media regulatory authority works closely with all channels to ensure compliance.
Pakistan: Emerging Market in the World Economy
After the war, the Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister and his Information counterpart said that the country was fast emerging market in the world economy, in spite of huge financial and human resources devoted in the war against terrorism in the past 16 years.
To be sure, the Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, stated late last year when she visited Pakistan that ‘’hard work and reforms were starting to pay off’’ in the country.
She said Pakistan was recently upgraded from a frontier economy to an emerging market in the MSCI index, saying this is an important signal given a changing global landscape, especially for emerging and developing economies.
She said Pakistan needs to rely on the strength of its own policies to generate more growth and jobs, join the group of dynamic emerging markets.
According to the IMF Chief, “Just three years ago, the country was on the brink of an economic crisis. Today, and thanks to the authorities’ homegrown programme of reforms that the IMF supported, the economy is on a much stronger footing. Public finances have improved considerably, external reserve buffers have been rebuilt, and growth has been gradually strengthening. These are very encouraging developments.
“Pakistan has also made important strides in growth-supporting policies. A clear example is the power sector. Not everything has been resolved, but disruptive power outages have come down from about nine hours to one hour per day for industries, and from eight to five hours for urban consumers.
“Costly and inefficient subsidies were reduced. These subsidies disproportionately benefited the more affluent. And the accumulation of power sector arrears, also known as circular debt, has also significantly decreased. These are major achievements.’’
She added that Pakistan had equally made huge important achievements on the budget revenue side, saying by closing tax loopholes and setting up a more targeted approach to widen the tax base, revenue collection improved by 2 ½ per cent of GDP over the past three years.
“Having achieved such difficult reforms, the economy has come a long way. Now, with a more resilient economy and growth picking up, Pakistan has reached a moment of opportunity. It can now embark on the next generation of reforms to generate higher and more inclusive growth, and tap into the dynamism of emerging economies,’’ the IMF boss further stated.
She said Pakistan could do better: higher public investment in infrastructure can help. For instance, continuing support for projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will not only promote growth and job creation, but will also facilitate regional integration.
Another way Pakistan can boost growth, according to the IMF, is by improving the business climate by strengthening governance and enabling the private sector to thrive. Pakistan ranks 117 out of 168 countries in perceived corruption.
She added: “Increasing access to education is crucial, especially in Pakistan where youth comprise about 60 per cent of the population. IMF research suggests that improvements in education have contributed importantly to reducing income inequality within countries.
“Currently, education outcomes in Pakistan remain weak. One out of every 12 children in the world that does not attend school lives in Pakistan. I am aware that access to education is a key concern for the Pakistani citizen.
“Bolstering public investment in education from 2½ per cent of GDP to emerging market average around four per cent of GDP will be essential to prepare the workforce with the necessary skills and make Pakistan more competitive on the global market.’’
Beyond education, she added that there is also a need for Pakistan to improve women’s participation in the economy, saying closing gender gaps in economic participation could boost GDP by up to a third.
The Vice-Chancellor of University of the Punjab, the largest university in Pakistan, Professor Zafar Mueen Nasir, told THISDAY that the country is hugely engaged in education reform in order to play a very important role to reforming the country.
Lesson for Nigeria?
An expert in counter-terrorism, Brigadier-General (retired) Shah, advised Nigeria’s government to learn from Pakistan in its fight against terrorism, saying Nigeria – the most populous country in Africa, has both human and financial resources to root out terrorists. Describing Nigerian Army as highly professional, he said monitoring the activities of religious groups, investing hugely in intelligence gathering and ensuring effective government presence in all parts of the country, will assist in its war against terrorism.