For Peshawar


A year on

An examination of the changes in policy and security, and a review of the progress made on the government’s 20-point National Action Plan


Military gains aside, NAP remains an ambitious wish list


Pakistan is no stranger to terrorism. Its recent past is blotted by extremism in every sense of the word.

The gut-wrenching massacre against children on Dec 16, 2014, shook the collective conscience of an entire nation. But have Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan (NAP) successfully vanquished the terror threat? Was this truly Pakistan’s 9/11 moment?

Three days after the Peshawar carnage, the country’s top civil and military leadership decided to expand the military offensive in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency. Even the most hardened detractors of a full-scale operation found it hard not to support arguably the most extensive military operation in Pakistan’s history.

But was this a ‘watershed moment’ for the country? Or was it among the countless other self-inflicted tragedies in Pakistan’s 67-year history that have vanished from the memories of both the nation and of relevant institutions? An extensive overview of NAP only points towards the latter.

Initial fervour

Of course, the elimination of terrorist networks is not an easy task. Nor can it be done merely through launching military operations in certain areas. That is why the National Action Plan was evolved to deal with the threat holistically.

Shortly after the attack, the civilian government decided to supplement the military operation by the armed forces with a wider plan to tackle terrorism. On December 24, 2014, for the first time in Pakistan’s turbulent political history, all political parties unanimously reached consensus to root out terrorism and extremism from the country under the 20-point National Action Plan.

“We have to act fast and whatever is agreed we have to implement it immediately … this agreement is a defining moment for Pakistan and we will eliminate terrorists from this country,” said Prime Minister Nawaz in a televised address after the APC.

“A line has been drawn. On one side are the coward terrorists and on the other side stands the whole nation,” he added.

On January 2, 2015, another APC was convened at the PM House with the army chief also in attendance to discuss one of the more divisive points in NAP: the establishment of military courts to ensure speedy justice.

At first, the government seemed earnest in pursuing NAP, and a constitutional amendment was passed by Parliament to give constitutional and legal cover to military courts. Some 15 committees were constituted to ensure implementation of NAP and improve the working relationship among federation and provinces besides different intelligence agencies. However, it wasn’t long before cracks started appearing in the implementation of the NAP.

An ambitious wish list

The 20-point National Action Plan’s implementation rests on practical ground measures. So far, all that has been seen in this regard is the resumption of death penalties and establishment of military courts. Authors of the draft are of the view that they were not granted enough time by the government to come up with a concrete document that could realistically help the government fight terrorism and extremism. They also say the short time given to them to draft the document only allowed them to focus on the ongoing military operation in North and South Waziristan against the militants.

Obstacles and hindrances

The interior ministry was initially mandated by the PM to ensure complete implementation of all NAP points. But a falling out between Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan quickly began eating away at any progress on the NAP front, a PM House official requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune earlier this year.

“At the moment, no institutional decisions are being taken to ensure implementation of the action plan. At least, I haven’t heard or read about a cabinet, security committee or National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) meeting on impending threats of terrorism and extremism,” former general Talat Masood told The Express Tribune.

A report presented to the prime minister in April claims 34,517 people have been arrested since December and more than 30,314 combing operations have been conducted across the country to arrest terrorists and militants. However, security analyst Imtiaz Gul questions the capacity of the state to investigate and prosecute the thousands arrested by the security agencies. “It’s virtually impossible to investigate and prosecute such a huge number of people. It is just face saving and the government has been portraying itself as being tough against nefarious elements,” he adds.

The report simply ignores the links of these individuals with terrorist outfits, and when they are to be produced before courts of law. Routine arrests made by provincial law enforcement agencies are also being put forward as key performance indicators of the government under the NAP. But in reality, these actions hold no value when they’re not in line with the second point of the NAP, which deals with special courts, headed by the officers of the armed forces for the speedy trial of terrorists.

Under NAP, the government had also resolved to bring “reforms in criminal court system to strengthen the anti-terrorism institutions including provincial CIDs (Criminal Investigation Department)” but the government has not worked on any constitutional amendments or legislation in this regard. At the macro-level, it is clear that the civilian government has simply outsourced the implementation of NAP to the military, a worrying sign for civilian supremacy.

Dormant committees and NAP’s decision-making structure

To undertake NAP’s 20 points, the government constituted several committees. A central coordinating body, the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), which was initially formed in 2009, was revived and given the task to collaborate regarding the counter-terror information. Apex committees comprising civil-military leadership were also formed in all four provinces.

To oversee implementation, the government initially constituted 15 different subcommittees, each looking after the various NAP points. These committees comprised ministers, senior government officials, and top army officials. Eleven of these committees, including the ones on preventing the emergence of militias, curbing hate speech, and stemming proscribed outfits, were to be headed by the Interior Minister Nisar.

The four remaining subcommittees were handed to federal ministers and a provincial governor. Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar was given charge of one on terror financing; Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid led two on militant glorification in media and on justice system reforms, and Governor Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Mehtab Khan led the committee on Fata reforms and the smooth return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

In addition to these, the PM was to head a special committee overseeing the overall implementation of the NAP.

Almost a year later, the 15 subcommittees are lying dormant. There is no information on any meetings held. In the months following the APS attack, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had said the subcommittees were constituted for “consultation to devise a cogent anti-terror policy”. The NAP, he said, is the “outcome of that consultative process”. This technically meant that the committees were automatically called off once NAP was announced. “The process against terrorism and extremism has been streamlined,” he said, justifying the absence of the committees.

The chronology of events, however, suggests that the committees were formed after the announcement of the NAP, and in fact the committees were formed based on the points of NAP. “The frequency of the meetings has dropped down in recent months, as the implementation of the NAP is now directly being monitored by the PM’s Office,” said Minister of State for Interior Affairs Muhammad Balighur Rehman, who parried questions about the composition of different committees and their performance.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, one of the authors of NAP, claims the committees were supposed to meet fortnightly and send a performance report to the prime minister for further evaluation. “As per SOP, fortnightly meetings of these committees were necessary to assess the performance of law enforcement agencies and further deliberations, but this is not being followed,” he said.

In addition to the aforementioned committees, apex committees comprising military and political leadership were also formed in all provinces to oversee NAP’s implementation.

The formation of the apex committees was announced by the ISPR, the military’s media wing, through a press release, which said these committees would help coordinate the security agencies working in different provinces implement NAP. The ISPR initially said these committees would “constitute both military and political leadership”. While the post-meeting statements often share details about the participants of the meeting, the exact composition of each apex committee remains a mystery.

Figures on arrests and crackdowns were to be shared in the form of press releases after these apex committee meetings, with official figures to be released later. However, the release of such information has been negligible in the recent past, including updates on the number of apex committees meetings held in each province.

To make matters worse, amid criticism over the government’s non-serious attitude towards NAP implementation, the Senate was informed in November that Nacta, the body which was to oversee NAP implementation, had been functioning without having formally appointed staff for six years.

PM-COAS meetings

To review NAP’s progress, PM Nawaz constituted a special committee on December 26, 2014, to “ensure expeditious and effective implementation of NAP to wipe out terrorism in the country.”

Nawaz also said he himself would oversee the enforcement of the action plan, but gradually the frequency of these meetings reduced, with the general public left virtually in the dark over what was being discussed or decided in these committee meetings.

At first, federal ministers, secretaries and home secretaries briefed the the premier on NAP progress. But over time, they were reduced to one-on-one meetings between the PM and the army chief.



“All decisions are now made in these one-on-one meetings without consultation and deliberations of the relevant institutions, which in turn hinder the implementation process,” said former general Talat Masood, talking to The Express Tribune.

The special committee, headed by the PM, comprises Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rasheed, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch and Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz.

An outsourced battle

Fissures in civil-military relations also began impacting the on-going operations against terrorists and militants. In February 2015, DG ISPR Maj General Asim Bajwa said some parts of NAP were being implemented while “other aspects required more time due to political challenges”.

The cracks were further highlighted when on November 11 Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif underlined the need for “matching and complimenting governance initiatives” for long-term gains of internal operations and enduring peace across Pakistan.

“While it is true that civil-military relations had been hampering the fight against terrorism, another reason was that political leadership preferred to outsource the fight against militancy and extremism to military and army-led institutions,” said Masood.

Army’s extensive gains

Riding on overwhelming public support and political consensus, the army not only launched a ground offensive in Khyber Agency but also intensified the campaign in North Waziristan.

As a result of massive operations, the security forces managed to take control of North Waziristan except a few pockets close to the Pak-Afghan border. North Waziristan’s main towns including Miramshah, Mirali and Dattakhel have been cleared of terrorists.

Similarly, Khyber Agency is now under the control of the military following the successful operation against terrorists. Another strategically important area Shawal valley, which straddles North and South Waziristan agencies along the border with Afghanistan, has been cleared of terrorists.

The deeply forested ravines of Shawal Valley and Datta Khel are popular smuggling routes between Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, and are dotted with militant bases used as launch pads for attacks on Pakistani forces.


The Banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan used to control all of the mountainous NWA, which includes the Shawal Valley and Datta Khel, and runs along the Afghan border. But the army has now recaptured these areas.

Data shared by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) shows that around 3,400 ‘terrorists’ were killed since Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in mid-June last year. Before the APS attack, over 1,100 ‘terrorists’ were killed.

However, following the Peshawar school attack and the subsequent push in the anti-terror campaign, 2,300 militants, including some hardcore foreign terrorists, were killed.

The number of soldiers who lost their lives in fighting militants stands at 425, according to the military’s media wing.

The persistent campaign inflicted Rs13.3 billion losses to the terrorists’ economy.

A decision was also taken to hunt down supporters, abettors and financiers of terrorists through intelligence-based operation across the country. Since the APS attack, as far as 13,253 intelligence-based operations have been conducted by the security agencies across the country. During those operations, at least 180 hardcore terrorists were killed, according to the ISPR.

Establishment of military courts

Currently, there are 10 military courts functional across the country, while the establishment of an 11th court is under way, according to the government.

In October this year, the federal government turned down a request regarding disclosure of the identity, education and experience of the judges of the military courts before the Senate, citing security and safety reasons.

“Keeping in view the safety and the security of the courts, the names and the related information about the judges appointed in the military courts may not be disclosed. This provision exists in the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015 which has already been passed by the Senate on August 11, 2015,” Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said through a written reply to PTI Senator Azam Khan Sawti’s inquiry.

The duration for military courts, which will hear cases against hard core terrorists, is two years. When asked how many prisoners on death row were “hard-core terrorists”, Law Secretary Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan told The Express Tribune that only interior ministry can disclose the exact status of the prisoners facing the gallows.

(With additional reporting by Kamran Yousaf)

NAP in numbers


Despite bold claims, anti-terror body remains toothless

nap points image

One of the top priorities of the 20-point anti-terrorism agenda Pakistan unanimously adopted in the wake of Peshawar massacre was to strengthen the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta). A simple review of its affairs, however, shows the body is far from meeting the expectations of a nation fighting a do-or-die battle against militancy.

Following the Army Public School tragedy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed a strong desire to make Nacta functional. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, following a meeting of the authority on December 31, 2014, reiterated the stance and claimed the anti-terror body was revived and made fully operational.

It was assigned two tasks: to setup helpline 1717 for citizens to share information on terrorist threats, and to frame recommendations for the prime minister on how to implement National Action Plan (NAP). Mainly, it was responsible to keep record of meetings of all the committees formed for the implementation of the national counter-terrorism strategy, including meetings of the provincial apex committees.

While the helpline was immediately established, the authority failed to play its role of a think tank. Speaking to The Express Tribune, a former Nacta national coordinator said the provinces don’t send or share information with the authority because of its ineffectiveness. “There is no institutional record of these meetings with Nacta because the authority is short of manpower and resources,” he said.

The former Nacta national coordinator added that the authority is understaffed and under-resourced with only 57 employees working against the sanctioned strength of 203 officials. “There are only three officers to look after Nacta’s day-to-day affairs while the rest are support staff,” he said.

Current National Coordinator Hamid Khan, however, claimed to be in contact with home secretaries of the provinces, counter-terrorism departments, inspector generals of police and security agencies regarding the implementation of NAP. He said the authority is not part of any decision-making committee and serves only as a think-tank for the prime minister and interior ministry. “We closely coordinate with the provinces and apprise the prime minister on implementation status of NAP through periodic reports,” he stated.

Despite these claims, the Nacta chief declined repeated requests to share details on how far has NAP been implemented, raising questions about its transparency and ability to deal with militancy and extremism.

Funding has been an issue for the authority. In the budget for fiscal year 2015-16, the government did not allocate a single penny for Nacta which speaks volumes about the state’s will to make it a strong institution to fight terrorism. The interior ministry has now constituted a sub-committee to seek Rs2 billion to Rs2.5 billion in funds from the finance ministry for Nacta, a move seen as eyewash.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, interior minister Nisar said Nacta would be made fully functional within six months and that the finance ministry recently released over Rs1 billion for the authority. He also said a joint intelligence directorate – aimed at better coordination between different intelligence agencies and improving performance – was being established within Nacta and a building has already been identified for the purpose.

Further, the anti-terror authority is yet to constitute its board of governors as envisioned in the Nacta Act which says the prime minister would be the chairperson of the board. According to the Act, “the Board may meet as and when required but it shall meet at least once in each quarter of a year”; however, since March 2013 when Nacta was revived, not a single board meeting has been held, leaving another question mark over the intention of successive governments to make the authority a robust body to counter terrorism.

Who’s the boss?

To date, confusion prevails over whether Nacta comes under the office of prime minister or the interior ministry. According to Nacta’s founding chief, Tariq Pervez, the turf war dates back to when it was created in 2009. The decision then was made in favor of the PM Office but sometime later, Nacta was placed under the interior minister. For quite a while, it appeared that although the administrative functions were with the ministry, the operation functions rested with the prime minister.

In 2013, the apex court asked the government to revert the notification that had put Nacta under the interior ministry and bring it under the premier again but little has been done in this regard as the interior ministry continues to speak on behalf of the anti-terror authority.

‘Controversial’ appointments

As per the Nacta Act, the federal government should appoint “a professional of known integrity and competence” as the authority’s national coordinator for tenure of three years. The official should be of grade-22 or equivalent and can be appointed in rotation from bureaucracy or Police Service of Pakistan.

A former Nacta national coordinator says the appointment criteria have been a bone of contention between the civilians and the ‘khakis’ with the latter wishing to control the authority’s affairs. “Until an amendment is made in the act to include khakis as a possible candidate for the national coordinator’s post, Nacta is bound to remain a dormant body,” he said.

The Nacta appointments made by the civilian government have remained unacceptable to the military establishment as it believes inexperienced or junior officials were selected to look after sensitive matters. The Act states the national coordinator should be a grade-22 officer but the government had appointed Khawaja Amir — a grade-20 officer. Similarly, the deputy national coordinator should be a grade-20 officer but the government had appointed Akbar Nasir Khan — a grade-18 officer from the Police Service of Pakistan.

Further, some directors serving in Nacta were brought in from different departments on grade-19 positions despite being grade-16 and grade-17 officers, including Fazal-i-Majid — a systems analyst from the Library Department, Rabia Yasmin — an employee of the Associated Press of Pakistan and Ubaidullah Farooq, who landed in Nacta “by accident” after his ministry was devolved under the 18th Amendment.

A few months ago, the recruitment process on 130 advertised positions for Nacta was cancelled by the interior minister following reports of mismanagement and cheating during the test and interview stages. Around 5,000 candidates had appeared in the exam for these positions. The interior ministry later decided to fill vacant seats through the Federal Public Service Commission but is yet to actually fill the slots.

Shortage of funds and staff has made it difficult for the authority to perform even one of its seven functions. It remains under-staffed and neglected despite repeated claims to make it a potent body to fight terrorism and extremism.

Functions of NACTA

According to the Nacta Act, the authority is responsible for the following functions:

  • To receive and collate data or information or intelligence, and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments with periodical reviews to be presented to the federal government for making adequate and timely efforts to counter terrorism and extremism
  • To coordinate and prepare comprehensive national counter-terrorism strategies and review them on periodical basis
  • To develop action plans against terrorism and extremism and report to the federal government about implementation of these plans on periodical basis
  • To carry out research on topics relevant to extremism and terrorism and to prepare and circulate documents
  • To carry out liaison with international entities for facilitating cooperation in areas relating to terrorism and extremism
  • To review relevant laws and suggest amendments to the federal government, and
  • To appoint committees of experts from government and non-government organisations for deliberations in areas related to the mandate and functions of the authority

TTP – a shadow of its former self?


Pakistan has suffered much at the hands of insurgency over the last decade, with 2014 ending in the most horrific incident in the country’s history: an attack on an army run school in Peshawar, which killed nearly 150 people, most of them students.

The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in retaliation to the military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal agency.

The Taliban fighters who stormed a military-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan on Tuesday, in an image released by the Pakistani Taliban. PHOTO: AP

While the nation stood more united than it has in decades in the face of the tragedy, civilian and military leaders were faced by a population that had simply had enough.

As part of the newly-adopted National Action Plan, Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which was launched on June 15, 2014, was intensified. In its most recent press release, the military’s media wing claimed “phenomenal successes” in Zarb-e-Azb, the “bedrock” of which was the Peshawar school attack, it added.

For the first time, law enforcement agencies carried out thousands of intelligence-based operations in urban areas, weakening the attacking capability of TTP and its allies.

Security officials believe TTP militants are now hiding in the rugged mountainous regions of Shawal in North Waziristan and Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency after many of their fellows were killed and their sanctuaries destroyed.

Already the main target of Zarb-e-Azb, the TTP has become a shadow of its former self, political analysts believe. Former ambassador Ayaz Wazir agrees with the impression that actions taken since the launch of NAP have dealt a severe blow to TTP.

“TTP’s ability has been severely undermined. They have now disappeared. Some have fled to Afghanistan. The situation has completely changed and the environment is relaxed and peaceful,” Wazir told The Express Tribune.

Wazir, who belongs to South Waziristan and once headed the Afghan desk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the TTP threat is no longer serious and that is why “no one now mentions the group.

The government, independent research groups and international media have noted a substantial decline in terrorist attacks since NAP’s intelligence-based operations started. Government statistics for this year show the number of major terrorist attacks have declined by 70%, raising people’s confidence in overall security.

With TTP struggling to survive, it joined hands with Lashkar-e-Islam of Mangal Bagh and the TTP splinter group Jamatul Ahrar this year to fight against security forces in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency.

Many believe NAP-induced peace has reduced the sense of fear that earlier prevailed in the country. “Security agencies got more powers under NAP which enabled them to take action across the country,” Brigadier (retired) Syed Nazir Mohmand said.

“NAP also targeted their (Taliban) sympathisers, financiers and supporters. The people showed unity and all political parties backed the move. There is no timeline for finishing the task,” he said.

Mohmand said because of the intelligence-based operations, many militants were killed while some were arrested and others had no option but to go into hiding. “The operations substantially improved the security situation in the country as suicide bombings, mass killings, threats and kidnappings for ransom have decreased.”

TTP’s response

Contrary to the government’s and security forces’ claims, TTP says the militant group is very much alive. “There has been no major change in TTP’s operations,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani said.

“We had to shift our base away from Waziristan but it was not a difficult task. However, we wasted some time. Our guerrilla war continues and during this fight, we can stay in a city and in a mountain. It is a fact that we are not present in the areas where the army is conducting the operations. TTP’s strength and experience have increased since the operation,” he claimed when asked if post-APS actions damaged their capability to attack.

Khorasani further claimed TTP militants are still operating in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies. “Our commanders are working across Pakistan,” he claimed.

New strategy

Despite these claims, a change of strategy can be observed in the activities of the militant group.

Since the capability of TTP and its allies to carry out big attacks has been weakened, they have adopted the policy of target killing and revenge attacks. They routinely search for soft targets such as police officers in public places, including in Karachi, members of the pro-government peace committees, government officials, politicians and even journalists.

The group is now increasingly using social media to issue threats to media personnels. Last month, a TTP group claimed responsibility for the killing of a tribal journalist, Zaman Mehsud, in Tank district near South Waziristan.

This new strategy emerges as a new challenge for the law enforcement agencies. They recently claimed responsibility for attacks in areas which had never previously been their areas of influence. In Swabi district, TTP carried out at least two targeted attacks – on police in a marketplace and on a female judge.

Safe havens across border

With TTP and its affiliated groups deprived of their bases in the tribal areas, almost all of their top leaders have fled to neighbouring Afghanistan, taking advantage of the loose control of the Afghan security forces.

TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan will remain a serious challenge for Pakistani security agencies, which is also a source of tension between the two neighbours. Security officials say Pakistan’s repeated calls for strict border monitoring seem to be ignored by Kabul.

TTP spokespersons routinely contact Pakistani media from Afghanistan, while the militants are also believed to launch attacks on Pakistani border posts from the Afghan side.

In late October, seven soldiers of the Frontier Corps were killed in Angor Adda area of South Waziristan in rocket firing.

Major attacks since APS

After the APS massacre, TTP and its allies carried out a few deadly attacks in Pakistan.

On February 13, heavily armed militants stormed a Shia mosque in Hayatabad, Peshawar, killing at least 19 people. The attack was claimed by the Taliban as revenge for the execution of one of their cadres.

On March 15, 14 people were killed and more than 70 injured when two Taliban suicide bombers attacked churches in Lahore, sparking mob violence in which two other suspected militants died. The attack was also claimed by TTP.

On September 18, a group of 14 heavily-armed militants launched an attack on PAF residential complex near Peshawar in September, killing 29 people. Security forces say the attack, claimed by the Darra Adam Khel chapter, was planned and guided from Afghanistan. The same group orchestrated the APS attack.

TTP, in collaboration with sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, also claimed the killing of Punjab’s home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada and 25 others on August 16 in a suicide attack. Khanzada, a former military officer, was at the forefront of the province’s fight against militancy.

Fata reforms: Yet another opportunity


After decades of exclusionary policies towards the tribal regions, which date back to the British Raj, the state has finally realised the urgency of introducing reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in a bid to bring the region it into the national mainstream.

The over-due Fata reforms are part of the government’s 20-point National Action Plan to assure the return of IDPs and to introduce governance within the militancy-hit region.

A high-level government committee is engaged in consultations to evolve a broad-based consensus for the future set-up of the seven tribal regions. Interestingly, none of the five members of the government committee belong to the tribal areas, prompting reservations over its makeup.


Lawmakers from Fata are also pushing for Parliament’s approval.

Tribal affairs experts suggest a referendum to determine the future of the tribal regions, handing the decision to the people.

“All decisions will fail if taken without the consent of the people of the tribal regions,” said former ambassador Ayaz Wazir, who belongs to South Waziristan.

“Let the people of Fata decide if they want the tribal regions to be part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or a separate province,” Wazir said, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

The former ambassador further said all decisions regarding Fata, which have been previously taken either by Islamabad, Rawalpindi or Peshawar, should be made in a collective manner. “There should be an impartial administrator for six months or a year and there should be a vigorous campaign to explain if people want a merger into K-P or separate province,” he said.

Members of Parliament from Fata have launched, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a campaign to change the status of Fata and clear its tarnished image in the world as a safe haven for armed groups.

Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi, an MNA from Khyber agency and the leader of the tribal lawmakers who tabled the bill, says they wish to bring the tribal areas into the mainstream.

“We want the people of the tribal areas to be treated as citizens of Pakistan. We want a status for Fata as it has been the centre of humiliation for Pakistan across the world. We do not want the terrorism tag is attached to us,” he said.

“The people of tribal areas are being bombed, their houses are destroyed. Has any house been blown up either in Karachi or Islamabad? Everything has happened in the tribal regions as there is no law there.”

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Afridi was confident the proposed constitutional (22nd) Amendment Act, 2015 would get the required two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

“The Bill seeks to provide protection to the people of tribal areas as regards to human rights, equal treatment before the law and enjoyment of all protections provided in the constitution; thus bringing the people of tribal areas to the mainstream,” reads the text of the bill.

Defence analysts believe that all stakeholders in the country are now on the same page when it comes to introducing reforms in tribal regions.

Brigadier (retd) Sayed Nazir Mohmand suggests a gradual approach to introduce reforms, either through constitutional amendments, presidential decrees or a loya jirga (council of elders). He says there are nearly 30,000 tribal maliks, whose opinion is crucial.

“The father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinah had promised the people of the tribal areas that their opinion would be respected. I would suggest an across-the-board referendum on the issue as this move will be in conformity with Quaid’s pledge to the people of tribal areas,” said Mohmand.

He also called for local bodies’ elections in tribal areas to ensure people’s involvement in the affairs at gross-root level.

Dr Sarfaraz Khan, the director of the area study center at Peshawar University, supports the reforms, saying they could bring an end to terrorism in the region.

“Extremists and foreign terrorists have taken shelter in tribal areas. To end their activities, there is a need for a constitutional amendment to bring the areas at par with other parts of the country. The amendments and reforms will ensure fundamental rights of the people under the constitution. The people will have access to the judicial system,” he said.

However, Khan expressed reservations over the composition of the government’s Fata Reforms Committee and said only its head Sartaj Aziz is Pashtoon, while there is no representation from Fata in the committee.

A burning issue then, school security plan a non-starter


A year after 122 students, 22 staff members and three army soldiers were slain at what could be considered one of the more secure schools in Peshawar, teachers and officials approximate 90% educational institutes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa still lack adequate security measures.

Reactionary orders

In the wake of the attack, several security measures were made requisite, raising the height of boundary walls, employing armed guards, using metal detectors or walkthrough gates and installing CCTV camera. The official guideline, a copy of which is with The Express Tribune, issued after the attack asked schools to beef up security measures through parent teacher councils/school funds.

The administrations were told to ensure car parks were at a distance from the main buildings, while visitors were also discouraged.
School staff was told to clearly display emergency numbers, while any anti-state wall chalking would be strictly noticed and necessary action would be taken against the culprits. Also, the identity cards of students and staff must be clearly visible on their person.

The federal and provincial government had also toyed with the idea of a special force to guard schools managed on a federal level by a retired major general. The country head was supposed to form teams for the provinces headed by a retired brigadier “Recently, retired army officers, particularly those from the Special Services Group (SSG), will be recruited for the force at the district level,” a K-P home official said in January 2015.

Any if all?

Could all of this be followed in the year after? Various factors have contributed to the failure in raising boundary walls to the minimum required height of eight feet, including the fact that many schools have no concrete perimeter.

Authorities are yet to implement their own guidelines as around 19% government schools institutes are without a boundary wall altogether, allowing easy access to any threat, big or small. According to the K-P Independent Monitoring Unit, 81% of government schools have boundary walls and students, therefore, remain vulnerable as they study in open areas.
Soon after the APS massacre, K-P Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Muhammad Atif Khan said Rs7 billion had been allocated to improve security at government schools and Rs2 billion of the total was released on an emergency basis to construct walls. He said the amounts would also be used to purchase arms for the school security person.
However, school headmasters complain they each only got Rs10,000 to improve security at their respective institutions.

Private vs public

Multiple school administration officials were reprimanded in the months that followed for not having “adequate” security. Dozens of private institutes were booked for their lack of security or issued warnings to improve measures.

Deputy district commissioners also halted classes and took action against those school administrations which failed to follow instructions. Schools were shut down and some were given tight deadlines.

Most of these were from private schools, which did in fact did have the resources to top boundary walls with barbed wires as they had existing infrastructure. As many as 25,000 private schools across K-P followed government orders by installing CCTV cameras, raising boundary walls and covering them with barbed wire.

Guns not pens

guns not pens
Teachers handle a pistol during a weapons training session for school, college and university teachers at a police training centre in Peshawar on January 27, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Teachers and watchmen were also trained in how to use firearms, in K-P, Sindh and Punjab. These training sessions received much publicity; pictures of women and students wielding weapons were splashed on foreign news media. Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Muhammad Atif Khan then said carrying weapons was not obligatory for teachers but would be given permits if they so desired to. This decision was taken in January 2015 and retracted the same month, a few days later, after the government came under fire from all quarters about encouraging a gun culture in schools. Muhammad Atif clarified only guards and watchmen will be allowed to be armed.

Also in January, four students were injured in Mansehra when their untrained school guard accidentally shot them. However, by June, a 12-year-old student had been accidentally shot dead in Swat while his teacher cleaned his loaded weapon at school.

Watchmen from schools across K-P and FATA were trained to use rifles and SMG. According to a news bulletin compiled by Alif Ailaan in January 2015, schools took several failed measures across the country, including arming gardeners and giving guards toy guns.

Measures taken

Police started several security programmes on war footing after the APS attack. These included the creation of three rapid response forces in Peshawar and the launch of an SOS alert system connected to the main server at the Central Police Office (CPO).
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official of the private schools’ association said they had been provided with a questionnaire in which every institute had to answer 23 questions.
“We were asked to increase guards, maintain a visitors’ record book, raise boundary walls, install CCTV cameras, place concrete blocks and equip guards with guns and metal detectors,” he said. However, some of the schools’ financial woes restricted them from following orders and FIRs were registered against their administrations.
“We had been told to provide guards on every bus, but we resisted as it was parents who would ultimately have to pay for it,” the official said. He added their suggestion of the police providing a guard was turned down by the government.
The police believed it was impossible to provide security to all education institutes in the city so they created a quick response force to tackle any situation.

‘Security lax’

However, All Primary Teachers Association President Malik Khalid Khan said almost no security measures were taken by schools in areas within cities, only those on main roads.

He reiterated the government initially allowed teachers to carry weapons to schools, but later withdrew the licence to bear arms. “Nothing has changed. We thought security would improve after the APS incident, but the government has failed to take serious measures in this regard.”

Most teachers felt that 90% schools were unprepared for any such incident in the future.
PTI Education Standing Committee Chairman Muhammad Arif also admitted security at government schools had not been increased. He worryingly said that providing security to each and every such institution was impossible. Arif pointed out the Rs7billion released by the government was used by the parent teacher council to provide basic security facilities to schools.

Schools renamed after APS martyrs

After the APS attack, the K-P government renamed 128 existing government schools across the province after APS martyrs.

A notification in March, 2015, stated two schools each in Abbottabad, Hangu, Lakki Marwat and Swabi; 10 in Charsadda; five each in Malakand and Nowshera; four each in Kohat and Mardan; three in Karak; and one each in Chitral, Lower Dir, Haripur, Mansehra, Tank were renamed after the victims. Similarly, 63 were renamed in Peshawar. 

Providing the basics
Talking to The Express Tribune, Muhammad Atif said the province had a total of 29,000 schools equipped with basic facilities. He added Rs43billion had been earmarked for any institutes without the basics and Rs10 billion of the amount had been released.

He claimed a large number of government schools now had boundary walls and the same would be constructed soon for schools missing them. Atif said PTC funds were also increased from Rs1 million to Rs3 million per school.