Progress on some fronts, inaction on others
A year has passed since the most deadly terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history took place on Dec16, 2014 at Army Public School, Peshawar. The attack claimed 144 lives, including 132 school-children. Immediately after the attack an action plan was put in place called the National Action Plan (NAP).
NAP resulted in the immediate lifting of moratorium on execution of convicted terrorists. It also allowed the setting up of military courts under the 21st amendment. Broadly speaking NAP aims to crack down on terrorist activities as an addendum to the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb operation in the north-western areas. There are federal and provincial apex committees with members from both the civilian and military leadership to supervise the implementation of NAP. As both have an equal share in the implementation of this effort then the results, positive or adverse, need to be shared equally as well. This however is easier said than done. The army recently claimed to be more efficient in the implementation of NAP and asked the civilian set up to reciprocate. The government did not have much to say due to obvious reasons.
NAP resulted in the immediate lifting of moratorium on execution of convicted terrorists. It also allowed the setting up of military courts under the 21st amendment
It would be unfair to say that there has been complete inaction with regards to NAP. There has been progress as far as dealing with banned organisations is concerned. Malik Ishaq, the chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), considered an asset who once negotiated with terrorists when the GHQ was attacked in 2009, was killed this July in a police encounter. Another top LeJ founding member, Haroon Bhatti, was arrested in Dubai in October and killed in a police encounter only a month later. PEMRA has banned the coverage of previously ‘untouchable’ banned organisations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa on electronic media.
The Supreme Court recently gave a ruling upholding the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri while also observing that criticising the blasphemy law is legal. This sort of ruling may not have been possible a few years ago, clearly showing that the atmosphere of fear has somewhat subsided. The FIA has stepped up its efforts to track down and restrict terrorist financing. National databases have been cleaned up while many fake identity cards have been suspended.
Still, more needs to be done and a public blame game between the government and military is hardly the way forward. One year on and there are still individuals and organisations who still operate freely with impunity. These are the very individuals and organisations that the NAP is supposed to identify and stop.
A case in point is Maulana Abdul Aziz. He masterminded the Lal Masjid siege which he famously escaped from in a burqa. He openly supports the TTP and proudly boasts about the number of suicide female bombers who are ready to attack as and when instructed. Most disgustingly, this is the same person who did not condemn the APS attacks, something that generated outrage from all quarters. Most notable was civil society activist Jibran Nasir’s stage-in outside Lal Masjid that resulted in a direct threat to the activist from the TTP. In recent days he has again sprung up and has even moved the Supreme Court demanding that sharia law be imposed nationwide. It’s easy to imagine the form of Sharia Law he wants imposed considering that he has also pledged allegiance to ISIS. Why is this person not being arrested under NAP with the charge sheet he has accumulated over the years? Does he not fall under the 20 point agenda?
The reality of the situation is that this battle will require more than just hangings, killings and banning public hate speech. This is a mindset that has now become embedded in our society due to decades of inaction
There are other short comings as well. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was supposed to be made active under NAP but it took almost a year for the necessary funds to be disbursed and the interior minister has now asked for another six months for it to be fully functional. One of the most important functions of NACTA is the collection and dissemination of intelligence and information. With delays in funding and hiring, this crucial requirement to facilitate counter terrorism operations must be given utmost importance.
The ISIS threat is also a very real one. It has become quite apparent from the spate of recent attacks attributed to them that they are a very potent, organised and influential terrorist organisation whose tentacles are far reaching due to their recruiting capabilities. To underestimate them would be a mistake.
While there are commendable achievements, there are at the same time shortcomings. The reality of the situation is that this battle will require more than just hangings, killings and banning public hate speech. This is a mindset that has now become embedded in our society due to decades of inaction. A combination of counter-narrative, madrassa reform, social and political reform is necessary. Let’s not wait for another wake-up call like the one last year to prioritise the biggest threat to our nation at the moment.