Whither Security?

After the DI Khan disaster, the loss of police officers in Quetta, the targeted killings in Balochistan and the attack on the ISI’s Sukkur centre, is the government waiting for some even greater national catastrophe before it finally springs into action?

How will the state put up a unified and determined response? Either the country’s top leadership has failed to grasp the gravity of the threats or is simply unable to counter the militant onslaught.

What is alarming is that, despite early warnings by the intelligence agencies and even prior announcements by militants, militant attacks are not prevented by the security forces.

 An unstable man brandished automatic weapons, challenged the state’s writ for over five hours close to the capital’s top-security red zone. We saw how quick and swift the security forces’ response was!

 This may only be a trailer and the militants could play the full movie soon. After the Bannu and DI Khan incidents, can deploying additional security forces prevent further jailbreaks?

 The coming APC should decide clearly whether to take the path of political dialogue or launch a decisive counteroffensive, or a combination of both vis-à-vis the TTP. However, sectarian terrorists should be shown no mercy and must be crushed.

 National security and counterterrorism policies must be holistic with inputs from the key stakeholders including institutions like the National Defence University and other think tanks in Islamabad.

 The country already has too many security forums. The elite Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC) is headed by the prime minister and the Defence Council (DC) is headed by the defence minister; both include the CJCSC and chiefs of the armed forces. There is also the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS).

 The usefulness of these forums needs review. The DC rarely meets, a fact highlighted by the Abbottabad Commission. The National Security Council (NSC) must be set up under the prime minister who should shelve political ego in this case.

 The Abbottabad Commission, too, recommended the NSC which should include key cabinet ministers, the national security advisor, army and intelligence chiefs and the chief ministers.

 The setting up of the Joint Intelligence Secretariat (JIS) is a positive step towards intelligence sharing and coordination between civil and military agencies. It will result in synergy of the overall intelligence effort and reduce rivalries.

 Although the JIS’s organisational contours remain unknown, the importance of its envisaged role warrants its placement under the prime minister. The JIS should be headed by a senior security/intelligence expert – preferably a former ISI chief.

 If terrorists resort to barbaric acts against military and intelligence personnel, police and civilians, should they and their accomplices be accorded normal treatment?

 With little chances of conviction or prolonged delays in trials by anti-terrorist courts, should security agencies release these criminals or transfer them to jails that are being run by compromised security staff? Who will guarantee that Bannu- and DI Khan-style jail breaks will not recur?

 The state is the ultimate guarantor of security to its citizens. These are exceptional circumstances as militants have crossed the red line. This demands immediate and forceful exhibition by the government – the guarantor of state security.