Countering violent extremism through NCVE policy 2021 | By Huma Baqai


Countering violent extremism through NCVE policy 2021

SOON after launching the National Security Policy, the government has approved National Counter Violent Extremism Policy 2021.

After first ever National Security Policy, the government through the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has formulated the first-ever National Counter Violent Extremism Policy of Pakistan (NCVEP 2021).

The policy came as a response to largely Pakistan’s internal security environment challenges which are dominated by non-traditional security threats of extremism, sectarianism, terrorism and militancy.

The internal security dynamics have become far more complicated to be handled at ad-hoc basis, a policy response which covers the emerging trends is the need of the hour.

The policy document is currently under review.The NCVEP 2021 once approved would continue to evolve and improve with the passage of time.

For now, the draft comprises two parts: The first part is the NCVEP 2021 itself while the second part is the national implementation and institutionalization plan of the policy.

The roles and responsibilities of various implementers, supporting stakeholders, as well as key performance indicators, and policy targets are said to be well-defined in the policy draft.

It is also quite comprehensive because perhaps for the first time it stretches to cover issues and topics that were largely omitted from previous documents because they were deemed controversial for example, the policy stresses the need to regulate mosques and the pulpit, by monitoring what is being said by the imams, priests, zakirs, and gurus etc.

The idea is to prevent the abuse of the pulpit, which is extremely influential in a religiously emotive state like Pakistan.

The policy also states that the local governments will keep a check on sermons given by religious leaders.

The process of monitoring religious speeches is a normal practice in Saudi Arabia and in many other Muslim countries.

What is being presented in the pulpit is usually observed in operation centres that might be in the ministry or in a place that is ready to receive what is being broadcast or published from Friday speech pulpits.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia had also detained a prominent imam and preacher at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, after he reportedly delivered a sermon criticising mixed public gatherings.

Al-Awdah and al-Qarni, who had millions of followers on social media, were arrested in September 2017 and were accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Saudi Arabia blacklisted as a “terror organization”.

Pakistan after burning its fingers is now attempting to regulate mosques, Madaris and schools through the proposed policy.

The highlights include countering toxic tendencies through monitoring seminaries, public and private schools and regulating places of worship.

The thrust is to seek passage of uniform CVE laws on the pattern of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

The policy interestingly is said to be geared towards “winning hearts and minds. ” The attempt to make it inclusive is indicated by the fact that the finalization happened post consultation with federal and provincial authorities, law enforcement agencies, members of civil society and minority representation.

The new policy among other issues is to keep check on law enforcement officials and weed out any problematic elements from within their ranks.

The issue of violent extremism is not new, however, it took centre-stage yet once again following the recent lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot and in the wake of the violent sit-ins by Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP), that resulted in the brutal murder of at least nine police officials.

Extremist politics of the street where law enforcers have lost their lives is almost cyclic in nature and it has happened without any consequences for the perpetrators for the sixth time since 2017.

The flipside is that the law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, is very reluctant to intervene when religiously triggered mob violence happens resulting in both death and destruction.

Violence related casualties in Pakistan had declined at a steady rate since 2015 but accelerated dramatically in 2021 with roughly a 42% increase.

Except Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan the country suffered an exponential shrug in violence with Balochistan accounting for a net 80% increase as reported by the Annual Security Report 2021 by Centre for Research and Security Studies.

With an increase of roughly 42% in 2021, Pakistan suffered 853 fatalities, and 1,690 injuries, directly linked to violence-related incidents.

Nearly 75% of all violence-related fatalities were recorded from two provinces – KP (including FATA) and Balochistan.

Of the total fatalities from violence in the country, Punjab province accounted for 8%, followed by Sindh.

Both security operations and terror attacks increased in 2021.It’s high time addressing the larger malice through a policy response is undertaken, so far, the state/government acts like a fire brigade.

Religious blackmailing is the final trump card in Pakistani politics, which was being used with a frequency that is self-defeating, largely because of years of catastrophically myopic approach of using violent extremism to further both foreign and domestic policy agendas.

The last few years have seen Pakistan’s obvious tilt towards religio-extremist ideologies. There are at least 247 religio-political groups and parties operating in the country that border on extremist trends and contribute to the radicalization of the society.

The much needed red lines for this kind of behaviour can only happen through a policy response which is just not a piece of paper but has ownership and an operational strategy in place.

The criticism on the National Security Policy is also that it is long on words and short on action, if same is the situation with the National Counter Violent Extremism Policy 2021 nothing will change on the ground.

The country’s leadership is now acknowledging the need for course correction and giving a push back against rising violent extremism.

There was no comprehensive strategy to translate that realisation into action.

As a footnote the policy refreshingly lays due emphasis on the role of sports, film, art and cultural activities and inter-faith dialogues in countering extremist activities and encourages creative art and education to be taught at school level, hopefully also madaris.

—The author is an Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.


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