Senate of Pakistan

Senator Mushahid Hussain's interview with The News on 'Counter Terrorism Strategy'

Senator Mushahid Hussain's interview with The News on 'Counter Terrorism Strategy'
July 31, 2013

There are discrepancies in counter-terrorism laws in force in the country; the Indian Army acts above the law; democracies have dealt with terrorism through the rule of law; identity of judges trying terrorists be kept secret; we should have a joint intelligence training academy; the ‘same page’ rhetoric is a lame excuse for inaction and indecision; after one-time COAS’ briefing to top political leaders, there have been no inter-party or intra-party consultations on Counter-Terrorism Strategy except an APC.

Chairman Senate Committee on Defence Mushahid Hussain Syed expressed these views in an exclusive Internet exchange with ‘The News’. The senator was in Nepal at the time of exchange of SMS and Internet communication.

When asked about his or the Senate committee’s views about the claims of intelligence agencies officials, in private, that a vast majority of missing persons (only those in the agencies’ custody) were hardened, incorrigible terrorists, Mushahid said rule of law must be paramount. Let those arrested be produced before a court of law, which is the right forum to decide on a person’s guilt or innocence. Any extra-judicial measures have proven to be counter-productive.

When told that agencies say there are discrepancies/flaws in anti-terrorism laws due to which terrorists usually go scot-free and suggest laws on the pattern of Armed Forces Special Powers Act like the ones in force in IHK but suited to Pakistan’s specific circumstances, he said, “Yes, there are discrepancies in laws, which need to be rectified, but draconian measures are not the answer. The ‘Indian Model’ is not the answer - they have double standard, their democracy does not apply to Occupied Kashmir and the seven small states of the Northeast (Nagaland, Mizoram, etc) where the Indian Army acts above the law, like an occupation force. We wouldn’t want that in our Federation. Why not learn from Indonesia, a Muslim democracy, where evidence by intelligence agencies through wire-tapping is admissible in a court of law? Or Britain, where the period of detention without trial was extended, to enable investigations to be completed?

Democracies have dealt with terrorism through the rule of law - in Japan, the Red Army, in Italy, the Red Brigades, in Germany, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, in Spain, the ETA, in the UK - the IRA.

Asked if the Pakistani politicians feel the need for having special laws and special courts with more powers (onus of proving innocence on the accused etc) to punish and combat terrorists, Mushahid said we already have laws on a wide range of areas and it’s their application that matters, which is quite poor. If judges are scared of trying terrorists, we should have trials (like Italy did with the Mafia) under hooded judges, with their identities hidden, in maximum security prisons.

When asked what were inadequacies in our intelligence system that need to be addressed immediately, he said the inadequacies include absence of coordination among the nine known intelligence outfits (ISI, IB, three service intelligence arms of Army, Navy and Air Force, plus 4 Special Branch setups of provincial police), duplication of work (they do the same work, often overlapping, ending up wasting money, especially ISI and IB) and when khaki-mufti ties are bad, we end up having ‘spy wars’ as happened in Benazir Bhutto’s both tenures, and Mian Sahib’s first term. Inadequate professional training/education as well as out-moded style of work (CID guy with pen and paper tracking somebody on a motor-bike/car!) in 1991. I went to a dinner given by Ambassador of Poland and my car number was noted by a guy waiting outside his house on a motor-bike. I questioned him who he was representing. He was from IB, and then I called his boss the next day questioning why were they doing that and he responded with a shocking answer ‘because Poland is a Communist country’. I responded: ‘You probably are not aware that Poland ceased to be a Communist country in 1989 and the Solidarity is in power now’ but in their files it was still listed as Communist!

He said there was no clear mandate from the government (Gen Pasha told Abbottabad Commission that since they had no specific mandate from government to counter terrorism, the ISI assumed this role on their own!).

When asked what measures were being adopted to ensure a greater coordination between the civilian and military intelligence agencies and between intelligence setups and LEAs, Mushahid said he strongly felt that the government should revisit the ACM Zulfikar Commission report of 1989, which BB established, and where there were proposals for Joint Intelligence Committee of all agencies under the National Security Adviser, plus a Joint Intelligence Training Academy, training the spooks under one roof.

Mushahid said he had an additional proposal which was that the IB and the Special Branch of provincial police be dedicated to counter-terrorism because the cops know the ground realities better, as they are involved in field work and there is no substitute for human intelligence.

Asked if he thought that the ‘same-page’ rhetoric was the root cause of indecisiveness and ineptness, Mushahid said the ‘same page’ rhetoric was a lame excuse for inaction and indecision. On April 3, 2008, he said, a week after election of PPP coalition, COAS General Kayani and the brass gave a full briefing to the top political leaders of the then coalition - PM Gilani, Mian Sahib, Maulana Fazlur Rahman. Asfandyar Wali, MQM, FATA, etc - and told them ‘this is the ground reality on terrorism; this is where we stand; you tell us what to do and we will do what you tell us’. After that, was there any inter-party or intra-party consultation on security or CT (Counter-Terrorism) strategy, except for the APC before launching Swat Operation, and that too because the army needed political consensus before going after militants.

When asked what were the outlines of the new or the proposed National Security Policy and if any cue was being taken from Sri Lankan operations and the US Homeland Security system, he said CT strategy was no rocket science, as it could be done provided there was political will and clear vision at the highest level on what to do and how to do it. “Both the political will and clear vision are abysmally missing in Pakistan since 9/11, and we have an ad hoc, moment to moment, reactive approach revolving around what I call the 3 C’s: Condemnation, Compensation & Cribbing (about conspiracy theories, how this is against Islam or how inhumane these acts are) but NO follow-up or learning lessons. That is why the attackers are smarter than the state - whenever they want, wherever they want and whomever they want, the timing and target of their choosing, they strike with success - GHQ, Mehran & Kamra bases, Sri Lanka cricketers.

That is why I told Ch Nisar in the Senate: just take a flight from Karachi to Colombo and learn how Sri Lanka did it, instead of blaming each other or wringing our hands in disbelief that ‘how can this happen to us’, because we end up with the Rage of the Impotent, loud indignation without any implementation!”

Asked about the present status of Nacta and who will be its top administrator, he said three things need to be done: appoint Tariq Khosa as the boss of Nacta, since he has courage of convictions, make Nacta independent and autonomous of any ministry, directly under the PM Office, give it a clear mandate to formulate and implement CT strategy, essentially, and devise a system which we don’t have at the moment.

Otherwise like the PPP government, which wasted five years on this, we will end up with a lot of power point presentations which look good on the screen, and there will still be paralysis on what government should be actually doing on the ground.


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