Punjab Counter-Terrorism Force

Counterterrorism is not a linear process that can tackle terrorism in its entirety, but is rather a complex and multilayered phenomenon. Military operations- as obvious from previous episodes- do not guarantee absolute cleansing but are instrumental in partial eradication of the menace that may then be buttressed by a political solution. Just like an insufficient dose of antibiotics may lead to a recurrence of an infection that requires an even higher dose than the one initially prescribed, a partial counterinsurgency operation not only reverse the progress but increases insurgent resilience and aggravates the situation.

Keeping in mind the perpetual failures of the previous regimes, the Punjab government has taken a bold initiative to refurbish and form a counter terrorism force in the province anew. Beginning by a recruitment of 1500 soldiers that was done purely on merit through the National Testing Service after which they started with their training. For training purposes, Turkish instructors were called to come to Pakistan. The main aim was to build and enhance the capacity of the force in order to perform efficiently.

The complete training had been divided in three phases – four-months exercise as Elite Force, three-month experience as intelligence personnel and three months as special anti-terror squad. This provincial anti-terror force is part of the National Internal Security Policy released by the Centre on 26 February. Further, for ensuring best possible professional training of the troops army had also been asked to assist in skill enhancement, capacity building and operations. 

The counter terrorism force would not only work to overcome terrorism in the province but also it would be tasked to dismantle terrorists’ activities across the country. Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that setting up of a counter-terrorism force in Punjab is a historic step and this force will play a vanguard role in the war on terror. Counter-Terrorism Force which has been imparted professional training on modern lines will prove to be a milestone in the elimination of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.

 The chief minister said the Punjab government was fully implementing National Action Plan and the all-out measures were being taken for the eradication of terrorism. Laws against publication and distribution of provocative material and misuse of loudspeakers had been made more effective while the ban on wall-chalking was being strictly implemented. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision has been given a practical shape through establishing Counter-Terrorism Force in Punjab and it is the result of strenuous efforts of political and administrative team of the province.

 The performance of Cabinet Committee on Law and Order, Provincial Minister for Home Col (R) Shuja Khanzada, assembly members, chief secretary, inspector general police, secretary home, secretary information and the authorities concerned over the establishment of Counter-Terrorism Force were also appreciated by the chief minister Punjab as they had worked to their optimal capacities to make this possible. This, however could not have been possible without the backing and support of the chief minister who portrayed the will of the government to change the on ground situation.

 The growing realization and assertions made by the government to root terror out of the system representatives is certainly a positive indicator as it shows a slight shift in policy. This has spelled out the need for enhancing the functioning of civilian law enforcement apparatus that has become defunct under the inaptitude and negligence of the civil authorities.

Therefore, a change was desperately called for at both the Material and Human resource levels to bring about a change in the working methodologies adopted by them so far. In this backdrop, devising and implementing effective new policies and strategies in order to enhance the competence and performance of each and every individual through a comprehensive training and education program was direly required. The Capacity building regime carried out to develop the potentials and skills of an individual soldier in order to undertake higher levels of work is being greatly appreciated.

Furthermore, the obsolete gadgetry and devises had need to be enhanced for optimal functioning such as the use of computer for data storage, retrieval and information sharing for a much speedier action. Furthermore, high tech surveillance and transport systems also increase working tempo. It must be noticed that the dazzling prospects of career advancement and the possibility of rewards amplifies the performance of any individual. With a heightened capacity to cope with current war situation one can certainly expect a tangible change in the number of criminal incidents.

One nation alone can neither fight terrorism nor can it reverse the momentum of the terrorist. It has to be agreed that Pakistan, despite its shortcomings, has given it the best it can. The terror networks have received severe setbacks that have been instrumental in altering their operational mechanism and increased their vulnerability. This is evident from the fact that the use of soft targets by the terrorists such as women and children has become popular. A careful monitoring reveals a change in the strategic intensions of the terrorists that is targeting places with religious significance.

 Despite curbs and curtailment, the terror threat is far from over. This, however calls for a renewed and revised strategy to take counter insurgency to the next level.  The need for the civilian government to support the achievements of the security forces and bolster their accomplishments to undermine and undercut the insurgency is primary and is being seen clearly. It is time that the authorities along with all stakeholders start performing to relieve people of the burden of terrorism that Pakistan can ill afford.

It must be realized that such things are a team effort and require a will to do. Without a serious will of the government, this dream would just remain that. The main purpose of the Counter-Terrorism Force would be to play a key role in the war on terror because this war needs to be won at any cost and the enemies of the country would face a crushing defeat. Maximum resources will continue to be provided for the eradication of terrorism. Future of the nation depended on success in this war and no effort would be spared to make Pakistan a haven of peace.

Amna Malik

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