By Sadia Kazmi
Pakistan’s National Action Plan, drafted in the aftermath of tragic Peshawar school carnage, surely was the right move in the right direction. It promised to bring not just an end to the widespread terrorism and terrorist outfits but also aimed at providing the concerned institutions with a mechanism to deal with this menace. The 20 points document was widely accepted and appreciated by one and all across the state. It was also the first time that the civil and military leadership were unanimously agreeing on a plan of action to rid the state and society of extremism. However today, three years onward, the objectives laid out in the document seem to have remained unattainable while the perils of terrorism in various forms appear to have engulfed the society even further. This is not to undermine the efforts like Zarb-e-Azb, military operation in Karachi and the endeavors being carried out in Balochistan, which definitely restored the faith of a common man back into the sincerity of security forces and institutes, but in the face of recurring suicide blasts, target killings, and ever deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi, one is made to question the status and reasons for the declining internal security situation of the state.
The problem may not necessarily lie in the document itself, even if at times those who drafted it tend to argue that it was conceived in haste and hence may have lot of loopholes. But the fact is that the document is more of a “to-do” list, outlining what exactly needs to be done on immediate basis if one wants avoid Peshawar like terrorist attacks in the future. The document clearly points out “what” needed to be done but doesn’t tell “how” to go about it. Being a “Plan” it is expected that it would also contain some line of action or effective policy options for the smooth implementation of the plan. The fact that it was made in a hurry doesn’t hold much justification today after three years, which is ample enough time for any strategy to be evolved, reviewed, revised and improved intermittently.
At the same time, the operation sweep out against terrorist outfits and large scale hangings of the convicts by the military courts did prove to be an effective deterrent for the time being but could not completely snuff out the nuisance of extremism and terrorism. The need is to delve deeper at the micro level and root out the pro extremism factions from the society, who are found alarmingly in abundance among the so called moderate and liberal stratum of general public. This could only be achieved if the mindset is targeted and overhauled into believing that the security of the state and its people is what matters the most and stands supreme in the face of any ethnic or sectarian based division of the society. Indeed such an approach will take time and the results should not be expected to be achieved over night, but so far one doesn’t see any efforts or mechanism being devised to deal with the psychological aspect of this problem. One possibility could be to establish rehabilitation centers for those people, especially the youth who readily becomes an easy target at the hands of extremist elements. Policies at providing employment opportunities could positively supplement the military operations. Crackdown against the institutions/madressah found to be involved in spreading and hatred would have been strictly dealt with, without any concessions. Unfortunately in a recent turn of events, the PTI leadership has donated a huge amount of RS. 300 million to madressah Darul-Uloom Haqqania, which is not only running privately, but has also been notorious for having close links with Afghan Taliban. Key Taliban leaders Mullah Omer, Mullah Mansour and Jalaluddin Haqqani graduated from Darul Uloom Haqqania and so did Asim Umar, the head of al-Qaeda’s South Asia chapter. Its graduates were also allegedly involved in Benazir’s killing.
Such an action causes a direct damage to the very spirit National Action Plan, which clearly disallows the funding of any terrorist and terrorist outfit, and rather seeks for the freezing of all their assets. The sad part is that when criticized for this action, the opposition leader not only justified his motives but also tried to slap convincing arguments that it was done only in the best interest of the state, where it is being aimed at integrating such elements into the mainstream of the society. One fails to understand how can the evil of terrorism be eradicated when its supporters are sitting among the higher echelons of the state directly involved in the policy making process. It also highlights the fact that as long as the sympathizers are allowed to provide for such organizations, there will be no hope for clean society free from such elements. Such organizations will continue to inculcate extremism among the youth. The money will only be used as a bait to attract more fragile minds which can be easily radicalized too.
How can then one even hopes to curb external security detractors who are always on a look out. The recent statement by COAS General Raheel shows a firm resolve where he whemently conveys that proxies will not be allowed on the Pakistani soil. However one is left to wonder how one can possibly disallow proxies in a society which is riddled with radicalized mindset that can be taken advantage of and may be used any time against one’s own state and citizens.
Another important area which is constantly being neglected is that there is a tendency of denial and procrastination towards the harsh reality unfolding in front of eyes. The state leadership has time and again denying the presence of ISIS in Pakistan. However they tend to forget that there is a substantial number of people who sympathies and support ISIS agenda and ideology. Only recently it was reported that 3 Daesh members were held in Lahore. Also LeJ was reportedly seeking to build affiliation with ISIS, before the chief Malik Ishaq was killed last July. However the Pakistani officials have generally denied that Islamic State has gained a foothold in the country, though there are occasional reports of arrests or killing of people affiliated with the group.
The need of the time is that more dedicated and concerted efforts should be invested not just at the state level but at the personal level too if one needs to get rid of the widespread extremism and radical elements in the society. More than anything the NAP needs to be updated to include long term objectives such as devising rehabilitation program that may help in bringing long lasting and durable stability to the internal security landscape of the state.