The "expanding influence" of the Pakistani Taliban was "due to support from long-established Sunni extremist networks, based primarily in Punjab, which have served as the (Pakistan) Army’s jihadi proxies in Afghanistan and India since the 1980s," the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in its latest report.
"The international community, particularly the U.S., must ... help strengthen civilian control over all areas of governance, including counter-terrorism, and the capacity of the federal government to override the military's appeasement policies," ICG president Gareth Evans said in a report obtained on Saturday.
'Radical Deobandi groups source of Pak terror'
March 15: A prominent global thinktank has termed the radical Sunni-Deobandi groups as the "primary source" of terror in Pakistan and said their continued patronage by the Army has influenced Islamabad's relations with India and Afghanistan.
"Their continued patronage by the military, and their ability to hijack major policy areas, including Pakistan’s relations with India, Afghanistan and the international community, impedes the civilian government’s ongoing efforts to consolidate control over governance and pursue peace with its neighbours," the Brussels-based body said in the report titled 'Pakistan - The Militant Jihadi Challenge'.
It warned that "the expanding influence of radical Sunni groups remained the primary source of terrorism in Pakistan" and maintained that their links with terror outfits like al Qaeda made them "even more dangerous".
The ICG said the fresh attacks in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta "demonstrate the threat posed (by them) to the Pakistani citizen and state".
Asserting that dismantling of the Sunni extremist groups "must become the core of the government’s counter-terrorism policy", it said these extremist outfits were "simultaneously fighting internal sectarian jihads, regional jihads in Afghanistan and India, and a global jihad against the West. Their links to international networks like al Qaeda make them even more dangerous than before."
The ICG said the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack presented Pakistan with an opportunity to reshape its response to terrorism, "which should rely not on the application of indiscriminate force, including military action and arbitrary detentions, but on police investigations, arrests, fair trials and convictions. This must be civilian-led to be effective."
The current political crisis in Punjab "will provide a decisive test for the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League to resolve their differences through the political process", said ICG's Asia Program Director Robert Templer.
"If the democratic transition falters, the military and the militants will be the sole winners. Genuine democratic governance, in FATA as well as the rest of the country is the best defence against the spread of extremism in Pakistan," he added.
ICG urges Pakistan to avoid deals with militants
|Saturday, March 14, 2009|
By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: The International Crises Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think-tank, has recommended to Pakistan to take robust action against militant groups and their Madrassa networks and acknowledge that political reform is integral to stabilising the NWFP and Fata, refusing to sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation Order 2009, and refrain from entering into similar peace deals with militants elsewhere.
These recommendations have come in the latest report on Pakistan by the ICG titled Pakistan: The Militant Jihadi Challenge. In its recommendations to the Government of Pakistan the ICG says that the government should acknowledge that a credible crackdown on Jihadi militants will ultimately require convictions in fair trials and take steps to vest significantly greater authority in civilian law enforcement agencies, including access to mobile phone records and other data, without having to obtain approval from the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).
It asked to establish through an act of parliament a clear hierarchy of civilian intelligence agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the provincial criminal investigation departments and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), with the IB as the primary authority in anti-terrorism investigations.
It calls for strengthening links between the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to build strong cases in court against religious extremists. It also seeks to enhance the capacity of federal and provincial civilian law enforcement agencies, with a particular focus on forensics capabilities and crime scene investigations; establish national and provincial crime labs with modern equipment and internationally trained scientists, under control of the federal interior ministry and provincial home departments.
To the Government of Pakistan:
1. Acknowledge that a credible crackdown on jihadi militants will ultimately require convictions in fair trials and take steps to:
a) vest significantly greater authority in civilian law enforcement agencies, including access to mobile phone records and other data, without having to obtain approval from the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI);
b) establish through an act of parliament a clear hierarchy of civilian intelligence agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the provincial Criminal Investigation Departments and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), with the IB as the primary authority in anti-terrorism investigations;
c) strengthen links between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to build strong cases in court against religious extremists;
d) enhance the capacity of federal and provincial civilian law enforcement agencies, with a particular focus on forensics capabilities and crime scene investigations; establish national and provincial crime labs with modern equipment and internationally trained scientists, under control of the federal interior ministry and provincial home departments;
e) amend the Criminal Procedure Act to establish a witness protection program, and ensure the highest level of security for anyone agreeing to provide valuable testimony against extremists; and
f) enhance the role and guarantee the autonomy of Community Police Liaison Committees to enlist the public in the fight against militancy.
2. Take robust action against jihadi militant groups and their madrasa networks, including:
a) disbanding private militias, pursuant to Article 256 of the constitution;
b) disrupting communications and supply lines, and closing base camps of jihadi groups in the tribal belt and the political heartland of Punjab; and
c) enhancing oversight over the madrasa sector, including finances and enrolment, and conducting regular inquiries into the sector by provincial authorities, as recently conducted by the Punjab government, with a view to:
i. identifying seminaries with clear links to jihadi groups, closing them and taking action against their clerics and, where appropriate, students;
ii. keeping any seminaries suspected of links with jihadi groups under close surveillance;
iii. taking legal action where seminaries encroach on state or private land; and
iv. ensuring that accommodation and facilities meet proper safety and building standards.
3. Prosecute anyone encouraging or glorifying violence and jihad, including through hate speech against religious and sectarian minorities, and the spread of jihadi literature.
4. Acknowledge that political reform is integral to stabilising FATA and NWFP by:
a) invoking Article 8 of the constitution that voids any customs inconsistent with constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights, refusing to sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation Order 2009 for the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) in the Malakand region, and refrain from entering into similar peace deals with religious militants elsewhere;
b) carrying through on its commitment to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulations (1901), extending the writ of the state, the rule of law, including the courts and police, and ensuring FATA’s representation in the state legislature;
c) integrating FATA into the federal framework by incorporating it into the Northwest Frontier Province, with the seven agencies falling under the executive control of the province and jurisdiction of the regular provincial and national court system and with representation in the provincial assembly;
d) extending the Political Parties Act to FATA, thus removing restrictions on political parties, and introducing party-based elections for the provincial and national legislatures;
e) refraining from arming and supporting any insurgent group or tribal militia, and preventing the army from doing the same; and
f) relying on civilian law enforcement and intelligence as the primary tool to deal with extremism in FATA, limiting the army’s role to its proper task of defending the country’s borders.
5. Repeal all religious laws that discriminate on the basis of religion, sect and gender.
6. Resolve the political crisis between the PPP and the PML-N by ending governor’s rule and respecting the PML-N’s elected mandate in Punjab, and agreeing on a political and legal solution to allow for Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif to participate in electoral politics, either through an act of parliament, or an executive order.
7. Carry through on its commitment to repeal the 17th Amendment to the constitution, and any constitutional provisions, executive orders and laws that contravene the principles of parliamentary democracy.
To the International Community, in particular the U.S. and the European Union:
8. Provide financial and logistic support to civilian law enforcement agencies to expand their capacity, including in forensics and crime scene investigations, through provision of modern equipment and training of Pakistani scientists.
9. Condition military assistance on demonstrable steps by the Pakistani armed forces to support civilian efforts in preventing the borderlands from being used by al-Qaeda, Afghan insurgents and Pakistani extremists to launch attacks within Pakistan and from Pakistani territory to its region and beyond; if the Pakistani military does not respond positively, as a last resort, consider targeted and incremental sanctions, including travel and visa bans and the freezing of financial assets of key military leaders and military-controlled intelligence agencies.
10. Expand assistance to the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the conflict in FATA and Swat.