Monday 21 December 2009

Pakistan's invisible counter-terrorism agency

What has happened to Pakistan's National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta)? Set up in January this year, it has done little more than appoint a national coordinator, Tariq Pervez - the retired head of the country's Federal Investigation Agency. Reports in the Pakistan press say that Nacta is "presently confined to a single room where Pervez has his office", while some reports suggest he is on the verge of resigning.
Nacta was supposed to be the focus for Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts, tasked with reseaching and analysing the mindset of militants and integrating civilian, military, provincial and federal efforts - namely the activities of the FIA, the ISI and the Intelligence Bureau of the police.
When its formation was announced in January 2009 by Pakistan's prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani he tasked it with drawing up a national strategy in consultation with all the stakeholders to boost counterterrorism efforts. In February, Interpol chief Khoo Boon Hui praised Pakistan for setting up the agency, sending a letter to Tariq Pervez saying that the establishment of Nacta was "a strong testament to the commitment of Pakistan towards addressing the menace of terrorism".
Since then, despite the massive increase in terror-related incidents and the increasingly regular suicide bombings and gun attacks by Islamist militants which have killed hundreds of Pakistani citizens, Nacta has been conspicuous by its absence from either investigations or from strategic discussions.
Nacta is presently located in the Interior Ministry where the minister, Rehman Malik, has been responsible for its existence. The lack of activity prompted prime minister Gilani to make a visit to the ministry recently to question Malik on what was happening.
“Serious efforts are required for countering terrorism and extremism through psychological warfare that needs proper research and analysis of the mindset of militants,” Gilani was quoted as saying. He added that the organisation should "act as a think-tank to give policy options to the government on countering extremism and terrorism,”.
In a thinly-velied criticism he said the interior ministry’s actions in protecting the life and property of the people should be visible to the public eye. “It is the duty of the government to ensure foolproof security of the citizens.”
Gilani also announced that funding for the new agency would double from $3.5 million to $7 million within a year, although there is little to show how money has been spent so far. The European Union had previously agreed to support the agency with a grant of 15 million Euros. This month, the German state-funded development agency, GTZ, advertised for a senior police advisor to Nacta, with a provisional starting date of January 2010. Will anything have changed by then?

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