Why is Pakistan not arresting Masood Azhar?

ACCORD - Austrian Center for Country of Origin & Asylum Research and Documentation

August 31, 2016

This query response has been modified for publication on ecoi.net.

This document is based on a time-limited search of publicly accessible documents currently available to ACCORD and, where applicable, expert advice, and has been prepared in accordance with the standards of ACCORD and the Common EU Guidelines for processing Country of Origin Information (COI) created.

This answer does not represent an opinion on the content of an application for asylum or other international protection. All translations are working translations for which no guarantee can be given.

We recommend looking through the original materials used. Original documents that are not available online or free of charge can be viewed or requested from ACCORD.

The Library of Congress (LoC), a public research library of the United States Congress, describes the anti-terrorism legislation in Pakistan in November 2015 and related developments in recent years. One of the most important laws is the "Anti-Terrorism Act" of 1997. In recent years a number of other laws such as the "National Counterterrorism Authority Act", the "Investigation for Fair Trial Act" and the "Protection of Pakistan Act" have been adopted Issued in 2014. After the attack on a military school in Peshawar, the government presented the National Action Plan to Combat Terrorism in December 2014.

The fight against terrorism has become increasingly militarized in recent years. This is shown by changes to the Army Act (“Pakistan Army Amendment Act”, 2015) and the 21st constitutional amendment (“21st Constitutional Amendment Act”), which create the legal framework for military courts in which civilians suspected of terrorism could be indicted would:

"Historically, Pakistan has principally adopted an‘ antiterrorism ’legal framework in order to address extremist activity and sectarian violence in the country. In the context of increasing sectarian and political violence in Pakistan, the then Nawaz Sharif government promulgated the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, establishing Pakistan’s principal antiterrorism regime. In the last few years Pakistan has passed a number of additional antiterrorism laws, including the National Counterterrorism Authority Act, the Investigation for Fair Trial Act, the Protection of Pakistan Act of 2014, and several amendments to the Anti-terrorism Act of 1997.

In early July 2013, the Nawaz Sharif government unveiled a draft counterterrorism policy, which generally adopted the same strategy as the previous government to address militancy through five elements: dismantle, contain, prevent, educate, and reintegrate militants.

In late December 2014, following the Peshawar school massacre, the Prime Minister announced a twenty-point National Action Plan to counter terrorism that included proposals to establish military courts to try alleged terrorists, strengthen NACTA [National Counter Terrorism Authority], and counter hate speech and extremist material. More recently, however, Pakistan’s antiterrorism efforts have become increasingly militarized with the passage of the 21st Constitutional Amendment Act and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, which provide the legal framework for establishing specialized military courts to try civilian terrorist suspects. " (LoC, November 25, 2015)

The US State Department (USDOS) writes in its country report on the human rights situation of April 2016 (observation period: 2015) that the police have the main responsibility for internal security in most parts of the country. The Rangers, a paramilitary organization under the Ministry of the Interior, are represented in Sidh and Punjab. The counterpart to the rangers in Balochistan and the tribal areas are the Frontier Corps. The military is responsible for external security. The effectiveness of police work varies in the districts and ranges from good to ineffective. Failure to punish assault would contribute to a climate of impunity across the country. Police and prison staff are often threatened with blackmailing prisoners and their families. The inspectors general ("inspectors general"), the district police, the district Nazims (senior elected officials of the local government), provincial interior ministers or senior ministers, the prime minister and the courts could initiate internal investigations into violations and order administrative penalties. The executive and police officers are able to propose prosecution and the courts are able to order prosecution. The judicial system is still the only available way to investigate attacks by the security forces. The national human rights commission, which was founded in May 2015, is not entrusted with investigating complaints against secret services and the military and has to forward such complaints to the relevant competent authorities.

In July 2014 the President signed the "Protection of Pakistan Act" after the government and the opposition passed a consensus on a bill in the National Council. The law extensively empowers the executive and military to arrest and detain militant fighters. It also authorizes the creation of a separate legal structure for the prosecution of those charged with terrorism and gives the military police powers (with the assistance of the police). Human rights organizations fear that the law restricts universal civil rights and freedoms in the name of national security. The ordinance on which the law is based has been amended in some areas to counteract these fears. Accordingly, the law is limited, among other things, to a period of two years (until July 2016). During 2015, the government continued to use the military to protect internal security.

The police often failed to protect members of religious minorities from attacks. However, there have been improvements in policing professionalism and cases where local authorities have offered minorities protection from discrimination and community rioting.

"Police have primary domestic security responsibilities for most of the country. Local police are under the Ministry of Interior. The Rangers are a paramilitary organization under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, with branches in Sindh and Punjab. The Frontier Corps is the Rangers ’counterpart in Balochistan and the tribal areas. The military is responsible for external security. [...]

Police effectiveness varied by district, ranging from good to ineffective.

Failure to punish abuses contributed to a climate of impunity throughout the country. Police and prison officials frequently used the threat of abuse to extort money from prisoners and their families. The inspectors general, district police, district nazims (chief elected officials of local governments), provincial interior or chief ministers, federal interior minister, prime minister, or courts can order internal investigations into abuses and order administrative sanctions. Executive branch and police officials have authority to recommend, and the courts may order, criminal prosecution. The court system remained the only means available to investigate abuses by security forces. The National Human Rights Commission, established in May, may not inquire into any complaints against intelligence agencies or armed forces, and must refer such complaints to the competent authorities concerned.

In July 2014 the president signed into law the Protection of Pakistan Act after the government and opposition passed a consensus bill in the National Assembly. The law gives law enforcement agencies and military services broad powers to arrest and detain militants. It also authorizes the establishment of a separate legal structure for the prosecution of persons charged with terrorism-related offenses. The law grants civilian police powers to the armed forces (when acting in aid of civilian power), and it allows law enforcement officers above the most junior grades, as well as any member of the armed forces or civil armed forces, to shoot a person who violates the act. Human rights groups expressed concern that the act would undermine citizens ’universal rights and freedoms in an effort to bolster national security. In an attempt to address such concerns, legislators amended the original ordinance to reduce the time a suspect could be detained without charge (from 90 to 60 days), to require law enforcement officers to warn suspects before firing at them, and to 'sunset' the law after two years, among other concessions. During the year the government continued to use the military to support domestic security. [...] Police often failed to protect members of religious minorities - including Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Shi’a Muslims, and Hindus - from attacks. There were improvements, however, in police professionalism and instances of local authorities protecting minorities from discrimination and communal violence. " (USDOS, April 13, 2016, Section 1d)

The USDOS writes in its terrorism report from June 2016 (observation period: 2015) that the "Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA)" created a system for processing cases related to terrorism, which created a new infrastructure with special courts at the federal level, public prosecutors , Police stations and investigation teams. The provisions of the PPA, such as the creation of a new legal infrastructure, would hardly be implemented. Human rights organizations and legal experts would criticize the PPA for granting the security forces extensive immunities:

“The PPA [Protection of Pakistan Act], passed in July of 2014, sought to create a specialized system for adjudicating terrorism cases by establishing a federally empowered infrastructure with special federal courts, prosecutors, police stations, and investigation teams for the enforcement of 20 specially delineated categories of offenses. Human rights advocates and other legal experts criticized the PPA for provisions granting broad immunity to security forces in the use of lethal force, expanding the power of arrest without a warrant, and eliminating the presumption of innocence. The provisions of the PPA, including the creation of new judicial infrastructure, have been only sporadically implemented in 2015 and the Act is set to expire in July 2016. " (USDOS, June 2, 2016)

In July 2016, the state news agency Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) quoted the minister of defense production as saying that the government was planning to extend the Protection of Pakistan Act to protect against terrorism Wipe out land:

"Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain Friday said the PML-N government was sincere in extending the Protection of Pakistan Act’ to completely eliminate terrorism from the country.

The Act was implemented in 2014 for two years to improve law and order situation and wipe out terrorism from the country, he said talking to a private news channel program. ” (APP, July 15, 2016)

The Pakistani English-language daily Dawn wrote in August 2016 that the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) expired on July 15 and the government had not yet decided whether the law should be reinstated. According to the opposition politician of the Tehreek-i-Insaf party (PTI), the parliamentarian Dr. Arif Alvi, the law was prematurely promulgated from the start. The law has been criticized for its ineffective and inappropriate application:

"The Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA), which was promulgated in July 2014 with a sunset clause of two years, expired on July 15. Special courts" set up under the law remained non-functional for several months because of a lack of staff and other facilities.

But so far, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government seems undecided over reviving the law, which mainly deals with terrorism-related offenses. [...]

According to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Dr Arif Alvi, the government had nothing that could make the opposition support PoPA.

The government had failed to get results from the legislation and only began thinking about reviving the law after it expired. ‘This only shows the lethargy of the government’s legal team,’ he commented.

Had the government’s legal team used the law efficiently, they would have success stories to rally behind, which would mean nobody could even think of opposing the law’s renewal, he said.

Dr Alvi added that the law was hastily promulgated to begin with and it was the opposition parties that had brought amendments to it to make it practical. [...]

The law has been criticized for its inefficiency and because it was not used for the purpose for which it was promulgated. " (Dawn, August 14, 2016)

The International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent, not-for-profit, non-governmental organization whose aim is to use information and analysis to help prevent or resolve violent conflicts, describes in July 2015 that the attack on an army school in Peshawar took place in December 2014, to which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan admitted, changed the fight against terrorism in Pakistan. A week later, the government presented a new counter-terrorism strategy, a 20-point National Action Plan. Six months later, the National Action Plan would act more like a hastily-conceived wish-list for the general public than a coherent strategy.

The military has almost completely lost control of national security and counter-terrorism policies. A distinction would still be made between “bad” jihadist groups that would target the security forces and “good” jihadist groups that were believed to represent the strategic interests of the Pakistani government in India and Afghanistan. Anti-Indian groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) have even expanded their activities to include “charity fronts”. Afghan insurgents like the Haqqani Network support the military's non-objective of military operations in North Waziristan and in the tribal areas under federal administration (FATA). Rather, the Haqqani network as well as the JD and LeT are not to be found on the list of Pakistani terrorism groups:

“The December 16, 2014 attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, which killed 150, mainly children, claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan-TTP), which was ostensibly a game changer. A week later, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) government unveiled a new counter-terrorism strategy, the twenty-point National Action Plan (NAP), with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif vowing to target all terror groups without distinction. Six months later, amid continued terror attacks, the NAP looks far more like a hastily-conceived wish-list devised for public consumption during a moment of crisis than a coherent strategy. Reliance on blunt instruments and lethal force to counter terrorism risks doing more harm than good when they undermine constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law and provide grist to the jihadis ’propaganda mill. [...] Despite claims to the contrary, the military, which has almost complete control over national security and counter-terrorism policy, also still distinguishes between 'bad' jihadi groups, those targeting the security forces, and 'good' jihadi groups, those perceived to promote its strategic objectives in India and Afghanistan. Anti-India outfits such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), the renamed version of the banned Lashkare-Tayyaba (LeT), have even expanded their activities through so-called charity fronts. Military-backed Afghan insurgents, such as the Haqqani Network, have not been targeted in ongoing operations in the North Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Instead, the Haqqanis, like the LeT / JD, have been kept off Pakistan’s list of terrorist groups. " (ICG, July 22, 2015, p. I)

The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) operated by the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi-based non-profit NGO, also describes in its 2016 Pakistan Assessment, which contains developments up to April 2016, that the Pakistani armed forces have differences in the Would do counter-terrorism. According to the SATP, Pakistani armed forces are careful not to target terrorist groups that share interests with the government. This selective policy of Islamabad would create an environment conducive to terrorism:

"Despite the rhetoric of" not discriminating among terror groups ", however, Pakistani Forces have carefully avoided inflicting any harm on terrorist formations which serve perceived" state interests ". Islamabad’s policy of selective targeting of terror groups leaves the environment that breeds terrorism intact. " (SATP, 2016)

The Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an independent, non-profit think tank based in Islamabad and specializing in peace and security issues, describes the number of terrorists and arrests in its security report from January 2016 (observation period: 2015) Members of radical organizations and their affiliations. A total of 2,455 people were arrested across Pakistan in 2015. The PIPS also describes operational attacks against militant fighters, with many clashes originating from militant fighters. There were a total of 13 such incidents in Punjab in 2015. The most famous incident is the death of the leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Malik Ishaq. Ishaq was killed by the counter-terrorism unit of the Punjab police on July 28, 2015 together with his two sons in an alleged exchange of fire in Muzaffargarh:

"In 2015, a total of 2,455 terrorists and members of radical organizations were arrested from all over the country. These included 1021 suspected militants linked with the TTP or as local Taliban. Militants linked with foreign outfits were arrested too from Pakistan: 113 of these were affiliated with the ISIS and 17 were with Al-Qaeda. As many as 746 nationalist insurgents were apprehended, too, mainly from Balochistan. These arrests were made in 438 search and offensive operations. " (PIPS, January 5, 2016, p.43)

"Besides operational attacks against militants, the security and law-enforcement agencies carried out 153 armed clashes and encounters, with the militants, across the country (See Table 23). Many of these clashes were sparked with the attack of militants on the security forces. An overwhelming majority of these attacks involved exchange of fire. Such incidents were reported from Balochistan, FATA, KP, and Karachi. In fact, the numbers of such incidents in Karachi alone are the highest for any country. The total number of such incidents in Punjab stood at 13, the most prominent one being the death of LeJ’s leader Malik Ishaq; on July 28, Punjab’s CTD [Counter Terrorism Department] killed leader of Ishaq, along with his two sons, in an alleged exchange of fire in Muzaffargarh. " (PIPS, January 5th, 2016, p.42)

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), an agency of the European Union whose aim is to promote practical cooperation between the member states in the field of asylum, wrote in a safety report from July 2016 that the government would undertake a coordinated operation in of Punjab Province after a suicide bombing was committed in the provincial capital Lahore on March 27, 2016:

"After the suicide attack on March 27, 2016 in Lahore (see above), the government launched a coordinated operation in the province in April 2016. The Pakistani army, the Rangers, the police, and personnel of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab were deployed. " (EASO, July 2016, p.39)

The Tokyo-based foreign policy magazine The Diplomat goes into an article from May 2016 on the background to the anti-terrorist operation in Punjab described above. Just hours after a bomb attack at an Easter celebration in 2016 in the provincial capital Lahore, in which 75 people were killed and 340 injured, the military announced anti-terrorist operations across the province. According to initial reports, it is obvious that the assassin comes from the Muzaffargarh district in southern Punjab, a part of the country that is often described as a hotbed for extremists and militants. The government then launched an anti-terrorist operation in southern Punjab. It appeared that the military had chosen to comply with long-standing calls for action against extremism. The next day the Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), confessed to the attack and published pictures of the suicide bomber. The police admitted that the initial suspect from southern Punjab was unrelated to the explosion. Despite this, the police, intelligence agencies and the military apparently continued to raid Punjab and reportedly arrested 5,221 people and killed five people in just a few days.

A statement by the military media service Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in the first week of April 2016 confirmed the military operation. The Diplomat writes, however, that it is no longer clear what the objective of the operation in Punjab is, as the terrorist attacks are mainly directed against a group called the Chotu Gang in the ‘Katcha’ area. The military claim that the Katcha area, which consists of small islands in the Indus River, is a good haven for terrorists. However, correct results have not yet been achieved. This can be seen, for example, from the fact that the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, is still in “protective custody” by the Punjab government. Furthermore, the politically militant group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a "reincarnation" of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which is an example of militancy in Punjab, reported that as of March 31, 2016, none of its members Members or leaders had been arrested:

"Just hours after a bomb attack on an Easter celebration in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, killed 75 and injured 340, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif ordered" counter-terror "operations throughout the province. Initial reports suggested that the bomber had been a resident of Muzaffargarh District, in the south of Punjab, a part of the country often described as a hotbed of Islamic extremists and militants. So apparently determined was the military in undertaking these operations in Punjab, and frustrated with civilian reticence on the matter, that the army chief even announced that its operations would not be conducted in coordination with civilian law enforcement, as had been proposed prior to the attack . In the face of such pressure, the government quickly acquired and ordered the launch of an operation in south Punjab. It seemed as if the army had finally decided to fulfill the long-standing demand for action against militancy and extremism in Punjab, with the Lahore attack providing the catalyst. However, the very next day Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility and released images of the suicide bomber. The group, based in the Mohmand Agency in Pakistan’s tribal areas, has launched six attacks since December last year. Police also admitted that the original suspect from south Punjab had no link to the explosion. Despite this, the police, intelligence agencies, and armed forces seemingly charged on with raids in Punjab, reportedly arresting 5,221 and killing five in a matter of days.

In the first week of April, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing, confirmed the launch of a coordinated operation in Punjab. It said that an operation was being carried out by civil and military law enforcement agencies, including the paramilitary Rangers, police, and Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), against "hardened criminal and ferraris [fugitives]." The statement singled out Rojhan, in district Rahim Yar Khan, particularly parts known as the "Katcha" areas, saying that they were being used as refuges by "terrorists" from other parts of the country. The Katcha areas are small islands within the Indus River, which have served over the years as hideouts for criminal outfits due to their remoteness and inaccessibility. The most notorious of these groups has been the Chotu gang, an outfit known for its local criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom. Four operations have been launched against the group by the police in the past, only to see it resurface in the area some time later. [...]

The case of the operation against Chotu gang case has some interesting implications. First, it is no longer clear what the objectives of this operation (or series of operations) are in Punjab. While originally portrayed as a response to terrorist actors, they are yet to produce any substantial results on that front. As one example, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar remains in ‘protective custody’ of the Punjab government. As another, in the aftermath of the announcement of the Punjab operation, sectarian politico-militant group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), the reincarnation of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and perhaps the most-cited example of Punjabi militancy, asked its followers to go underground and reported that none of its members or leaders had been arrested as of March 31. ” (The Diplomat, May 2, 2016)

The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) reports in its Pakistan Assessment 2016 that on April 13, 2016 at least seven police officers and four “criminals” were killed in an exchange of fire in the Kacha area on the Indus between the districts of Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan in the Punjab province. 22 police officers were taken hostage and eight “criminals” escaped injured. Four injured police officers were then released on April 14, but the remaining 18 remained in custody at the time of the report:

"On April 13, 2016, at least seven policemen and four" criminals "were killed in an exchange of fire in the Kacha (riverbed) area of ​​the Indus River between Districts of Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab Province. While eight 'criminals' who sustained injuries managed to escape, 22 policies were taken hostage by the 'criminals'. On April 14 four injured policies were released but the remaining 18 were still in captivity. " (SATP, 2016)

Swell: (Accessed to all sources on August 31, 2016)

APP - Associated Press of Pakistan: Govt to extend Protection of Pakistan Act to eliminate terrorism: Rana Tanveer, July 15, 2016)
http://www.app.com.pk/govt-to-extend-protection-of-pakistan-act-to-eliminate-terrorism-rana-tanveer/

Dawn: Terror cases fate uncertain as key law lapses, August 14, 2016
http://www.dawn.com/news/1277445

EASO - European Asylum Support Office: Pakistan Security Situation, July 2016 (available on ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1930_1469617733_easo-country-of-origin-information-report-pakistani-security-report.pdf

ICG - International Crisis Group: Revisiting Counter-terrorism Strategies in Pakistan: Opportunities and Pitfalls, July 22, 2015 (available on ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/1002_1437645706_271-revisiting-counter-terrorism-strategies-in-pakistan-opportunities-and-pitfalls.pdf

LoC - Library of Congress: Legal Provisions on Fighting Extremism: Pakistan, last updated November 25, 2015
https://www.loc.gov/law/help/fighting-extremism/pakistan.php

PIPS - Pak Institute for Peace Studies: Pakistan Security Report 2015, January 5, 2016
http://pakpips.com/downloads/282.pdf

SATP - South Asia Terrorism Portal: Pakistan Assessment 2016, 2016
http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/index.htm

The Diplomat: The Pakistan Army's Curious Punjab Operation, May 2, 2016
http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/the-pakistan-armys-curious-punjab-operation/

USDOS - US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2015 - Pakistan, April 13, 2016 (available on ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/322459/461936_de.html

USDOS - US Department of State: Country Report on Terrorism 2015 - Chapter 2 - Pakistan, June 2, 2016 (available on ecoi.net)
https://www.ecoi.net/local_link/324735/464433_de.html