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National Internal Security Policy 2018-2023 a critical assessment

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ational Internal Security Policy 2018-2023 — a critical assessment

In June, the Pakistan government unveiled the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2018-2023. It is the second such policy report to be released during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tenure. Starting in 2014, the NISP discussed achievements made in the given era, future security challenges and proposed various recommendations on how to deal with them. According to this report the top threats to Pakistani national security are the Tehreek-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), Islamic State’s (IS) presence in Afghanistan and possible spillover in Pakistan, return of militants from Syria and Iraq, violent extremism in educational institutions and cyber-attacks.

Apart from these new challenges, traditional and non-traditional security challenges like extremism, militancy, sectarianism and terrorism, which were also highlighted as the main security challenges in NISP 2014, continue to persist. The 2018 report also identifies; youth alienation and frustration, exclusionary identity narratives, lack of social justice and the rule of law, regional disparities, lack of accountability as the significant drivers of insecurity in Pakistan.

The report also highlights the achievements that have contributed in the decline of terrorism from its peak in 2014. The efforts include military operations like Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, intelligence based operations, military courts, revitalisation of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) as the strategic coordinating body, creation of dedicated counter-terrorism forces in all federating units, curbing of hate speech at public places etc. In terms of choking terror financing, the National Task Force on Combating Financing of Terrorism (NTFCFT), a coordinating body of over 20 federal and provincial organisations, was established. As of March this year, sixty-six outfits were proscribed with almost 8,000 individuals placed under watch. The geo-mapping of more than 90 percent of total religious seminaries in the country has been completed.

As compared to NISP 2014, the new policy is broader in nature. The policy outlines many strategic goals and objectives such as establishing rule of law, creation of a shared vision, ensuring social justice and political stability.

The new policy focuses on three main domains — Administrative, Ideational and Socio-Economic. For the administrative domain, the policy demands further enhancing the capacity, coordination and strategic planning between law enforcement agencies and government departments to deal with non-traditional threats. The policy challenges the ideological underpinnings of the extremist narrative through the ideational domain. Addressing deprivations that create breeding grounds for security challenges will be part of the socio-economic domain.

In order to focus on these domains, A6Rs framework has been recommended. The 6Rs comprise of; the Reorientation of the security apparatus by improving strategic cooperation and coordination.  Reimagining the society; as a tolerant, inclusive and democratic polity by formulating a national narrative, educational and media reforms, and increasing tourism and cultural activities. Whereas, the reconciliation process will began in areas affected by militancy through re-integrating and uplifting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi. Redistributive measures focusing on the provision of social protection safety nets should be the focus. Moreover it states that safety nets should be expanded for the most vulnerable sections of the society and underdeveloped areas should be prioritised for development.

The regional approach will delineate meaningful collaboration with our neighbouring countries for the promotion of regional peace and to shift focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. And lastly to recognise the importance of critical research, in order to address the causes of various security challenges for formulating policy interventions.

A number of steps like reconciliation, reintegration and improving capabilities of law enforcement agencies that are proposed to be taken as part of 6Rs framework are borrowed from the 2014 report. Unlike the previous NISP, the new report does not divide itself into hard and soft components and sums up the steps needed to be taken within a single framework.

Many of the recommendations listed down in the NISP fall within the purview of provincial governments. Therefore, the incoming provincial governments will need to formulate their own strategies in light of the NISP. In total, a hundred and twenty measures have been provided through an elaborate implementation plan. For the first time in any government policy, indicators have been identified to gauge the progress of these measures.

For the first time, securing cyberspace has received attention in any NISP.  The policy envisages the formulation of a national cyber security strategy, establishment of civil-military cyber command force, strengthening of the cyber-crimes wing at FIA and the cyber security wing at NACTA alongside creating public awareness about cyber security threats.

On the other hand, a number of strategies have been introduced without explaining how they will be applicable. The modern concept of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been introduced under the ‘reorientation’ strategy without explaining how it can be applied in Pakistan. ADR is a very broad concept which encompasses several processes including arbitration, conciliation, mediation and negotiation. Therefore, it is important to clarify as to which processes and forums will be utilised as a part of the ADR. Furthermore it must answer how it can be ensured that these processes and forums don’t become a travesty of justice.

Similarly, the new National Community Policing Plan (NCPP) has been envisioned without definitions and a plan on how it will reconcile counter-terrorism policing with community policing measures. Meanwhile, the policy remains silent on how the capacity of traffic police can be enhanced despite on-going construction of major transportation projects and persisting threat against public transportation.

To sum up, the policy has been drafted at the right time and will provide a framework to incoming federal and provincial governments on how to deal with future security challenges. The success of the policy will depend on its implementation. However, the policy needs to be further developed in the next few years with more elaboration on each strategic objective.

This article was originally published by Daily Times.

Fahad Nabeel

Fahad Nabeel is an independent researcher, and he tweets @fahadnabeelfn

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