Heed the portents


Terrorism’s roots in Punjab and government’s inaction


While looking for the terrorists Pakistan’s agencies fail to see what lies under their nose. Numerous terrorist sanctuaries as well as helpers and financiers of the terrorist networks are located in various cities of Punjab. In January, Yousaf al-Salafi, the local commander of ISIS, was arrested from Lahore. On Sunday, the mastermind of the Safoora killings was reported to have been arrested from Bahawalpur. During the last few months Punjab has seen several deadly terrorist attacks. Fear of the religious parties’ backlash has stopped provincial governments from taking firm action against the seminaries and from purging the mainstream educational institutions’ curriculum of extremist content. Instead of taking firm action, successive governments have remained indecisive. At times the hesitation was caused by the misconception of the terrorist as an ally who had gone astray but could be brought back to the right path through persuasion.

The killing of a PML-N MPA and his son by terrorists should awaken the administration from its slumber. It was a brazen attack conducted in a town situated in the middle of Lahore and Gujranwala. The killings were duly claimed by the TTP. This indicates that the terrorist group is now stalking the PML-N’s leadership as it did the leaders of the PPP, ANP and MQM before and during the 2013 elections. Unless the government realises the gravity of the situation in Punjab, things might go out of control in the biggest province of the country.

Point 13 of the National Action Plan specifically required leaving ‘no space for terrorism in areas of Punjab’. It was understood that terrorism had been provided enough space through a policy of tolerance towards the phenomenon. Most of the provisions in the NAP have over the period remained unimplemented. No campaign was conducted to eliminate the sources of the funding of terrorist organisations. Contrary to the letter and spirit of the NAP banned organisations continue to operate as charities or under new names. There is an urgent need to fully implement the NAP in Punjab.