Pakistan inaugurates construction of Maritime Counter Terrorism Centre
November 29, 2023
Photo credit: Associated Press of Pakistan

Pakistan inaugurates construction of Maritime Counter Terrorism Centre

The Pakistan Navy has inaugurated the construction of a new Maritime Counter Terrorism Centre (MCTC) in Karachi on Wednesday, August 15.

According to a report by the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan, the MCTC will provide training to “special operations forces (SOF) and special wings of [local and foreign] law enforcement agencies (LEA) in (sic) Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) domain.”

The MCTC will comprise of various training facilities including, among others: “Fire Shoot Houses, Sniper Ranges, Military Training in Urban Terrain, Close Quarter Combat Ranges and simulators.”

The Pakistan Navy has also raised the 2nd Force Protection Battalion in Karachi, which will be responsible for guarding harbour and offshore infrastructure, undertaking humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations, and countering amphibious operations.

Notes & Comments:

The Pakistan Navy’s MCTC mirrors the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which was established by the Pakistan Army in 2014 to train armed forces and LEA personnel for combat as small teams and in built-up urban environments. As of September 2016, the NCTC had trained 231,000 personnel from the armed forces and nearly 3,500 officers, LEA and other Ministry of Interior personnel.

The NCTC has been a central aspect of the Pakistan Army’s adjustment to undertaking counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. In addition, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has opened a school at its Airpower Centre of Excellence (ACE) to impart COIN-relevant training, namely in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and ground-coordinated air-to-surface strikes. However, the MCTC will be tailored to addressing asymmetrical seaborne threats, from terrorism to potentially countering narcotics, smuggling, piracy and other criminal activity.

MCTC training regimens could cover maritime interdiction operations, such as flag verification of suspect vessels and VBSS (short for ‘visit, board, search and seizure’), which in turn can cover training in integrated close quarters battle (CQB) and search techniques. Besides field training, the MCTC can also look to build competency in mission planning, assessing risk and on-site medical training.

With an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) on order from Damen Shipyards, the Pakistan Navy intends to build its capacity for protecting Pakistan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from asymmetrical threats. However, Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) is also undergoing a modernization phase. It has four 600-ton and two 1,500-ton maritime patrol vessels (MPV) on order. Seeing that the MCTC will also train LEAs, the MSA will likely see improvements to its own maritime interdiction capabilities (e.g. in VBSS).

The promise of increased trade – specifically through usage of Gwadar – from the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has seen (and will continue to see) Pakistan emphasize the importance of its EEZ and sea-lines-of-communication (SLOC)/sea lanes. In December, the Pakistan Navy established Task Force-88 (TF-88) to guard Gwadar and its SLOCs from conventional and non-conventional threats. TF-88 was activated in March and was equipped with frigates, fast attack craft, drones and patrol aircraft.

The raising of the 2nd Force Protection Battalion builds upon the anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) mandate of the Pakistan Navy Marines, which guard Pakistan’s coasts areas from amphibious and littoral sea threats. Currently, it is not known to what extent these units will be equipped for fulfilling their overarching goals, such as HADR and A2/AD. For example, these realms could drive acquisition of rotary aviation assets. The Navy is expecting three ex-Royal Navy Sea King helicopters (from a set of seven units).

In July, the Navy inaugurated a site for the Marines’ 21st Air Defence Battalion, which was activated in 2005 to provide very short-range air defence coverage.