Where are our leaders?
One fine morning, I was on my way to Lahore High Court, and upon reaching the Mall Road; I met a huge traffic jam. On inquiry, it revealed that the road was forcefully blocked by some protestors; getting late to attend to an urgent case made me anxious, however, seeing shielded police force getting off a bus soothed my jittery nerves. Nevertheless, my expectations touched bottom when the police instead of clearing the road, advised everyone to return back as the road would remain blocked. Placards lifted by protestors bore insinuating serious warning to the Supreme Court (where appeal of Asia Bibi is pending adjudication).
Our ruling political elite continuously broadcast proclamations and self-appeasing edicts in eulogising National Action Plan (“NAP”) the much trumpeted consensus document which they claim is forcefully operative. Clichés such as ‘we have broken the backbone of terrorists, the extremists are on the run, extremists will be crushed at all costs, country cannot grow without eliminating the scourge of militancy are proving to be superficial roars’. Seeing dead and mutilated bodies negates the priggish outpourings of our dwarf leadership.
One wonders why despite full scale assault against militants, terrorist incidents are happening here and there. Let we see only which we wish to see, though, reality may be quite opposite, that is what NAP is to a great extent has proved a pleasant and delicious recipe for our leaders. I feel no hesitation to say the NAP has fallen; it is just a paper tiger with whom one can cajole in leisure times.
After the deadly Peshawar School carnage, the Prime Minister on 24th December 2014 announced the NAP to crack down on terrorism and to appendage the on-going war against terrorism. The NAP comprises 20 objectives, the most important are, proscribing sectarian propaganda on all forms of media, banning hate speech, barring minorities persecution, choking financing of terrorists, zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, establishment of military courts, revitalising National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), banned organisations will not be permitted to operate under new names and logical conclusion of Karachi Operation.
NAP’s euphoria subsided very rapidly as the religious parties originally signatory to it backed out in introducing madrasah reforms amid government’s Luke worm approach in its implementation. NAP till date achieved very nominal success, apart from introduction of 21st Constitutional Amendment, expelling of considerable Afghan refugees, the executions of death sentence prisoners, verification of more than 70 million SIM’s by PTA, the government on many crucial fronts has miserably failed. The areas where results have been disastrous are discussed hereunder;
Firstly, most significant failure of NAP is lack of political ownership, it cannot be doubted that the government launched NAP under military’s pressure; this reluctant acquiescence has resulted in lack of earnestness and commitment on the part of government. Sadly, the political leadership, especially PML-N and PTI has failed to fight this menace on ideological fronts.
Secondly, NAP’s objective of countering hate speech is being flagrantly disregarded. Section153-A of Pakistan Penal Code penalises anyone promoting hatred or ill will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups, or castes and communities with maximum imprisonment 5 years. However, many outlaws arrested for hate speech were hypocritically tried under the feeble Punjab Loudspeakers Ordinance1965 where maximum imprisonment provided is 3 months. Although Section 9, 11, 12 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 mandates 7 years imprisonment for hate and terrorism related offences still violence inducing material is widely disseminated on social media and the government has failed to nab these despicable instigators.
Thirdly, the government has failed to choke financing of terrorists and terrorist organisations, although under NAP a committee headed by Finance Minister was constituted in this respect but so far it has failed to produce any concrete results. Quite shockingly, the government has completely ignored the two biggest terrorist financing schemes i.e. Charity and Informal Value Transfer Systems.
Fourthly, the government has failed to achieve target of madrasah reforms i.e. nationwide regulation and registration, however, till date approximately 6000 seminaries in Punjab are unregistered. The danger lies in the fact that non-regulation has resulted in incessant indoctrination of radicalism, intolerance and hate in susceptible minds thus leading to conception of deep divides in what is already a polarised society. Furthermore, the intelligence reports have often intimated that TTP, LeJ and their aides are receiving full support from seminaries across Punjab but the ruling leadership has turned a blind eye towards this warning, thus hinting towards the notion that it is either scared of extremist backlash or is protecting its own political mandate.
Fifthly, another impediment in way of NAP is the hypocrisy of our Ulema, not a single preacher except Ghamidi has so far openly condemned TTP and LeJ by mentioning their names, all they do is condemn terrorist attacks in a very circumlocutory manner and nonchalantly brush aside unpleasant truths. As great masses of a nation are not composed of philosophers, for the masses faith is absolutely the only basis of a moral outlook on life thus their dependence on clergy is colossal. The Ulema must be forced to openly denounce TTP and LeJ and mould public opinion against them, their silence must be taken as a sign of collaboration.
Sixthly, many banned organisations are still operational, under new names. Apt illustration of this truth can be found in the fact that few days ago some prominent members of a banned organisation (In Schedule 4) met the Federal Interior Minister seeking permission to hold a demonstration in Islamabad which was granted, crushing NAP under their feet as they chanted slogans of “Shia Infidel”.
Lastly, NACTA has not moved beyond papers as it is still not fully independent, resourced and functional. It has failed to bring coordination among the two dozen security agencies working in Pakistan thus failing the very purpose for which it was created.
The law of the land does not allow anyone to declare any person an infidel, in fact the freedom to profess religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 2O of the Constitution of Pakistan. The Supreme Court whilst interpreting this right has held that freedom of religion must be construed liberally to include freedom of conscience, thought, expression, belief and faith (PLD 2014 SC 699); however in practice, forget liberal construction even rigid interpretation of this right is unavailable for Shias and other minorities.
Half measures of implementing NAP are signs of decay which will eventually lead to external collapse sooner or later. If we want to survive and effectively combat extremism, we must first strive to remove the spiritual conditions on which it thrives i.e. the government needs to hammer the causes and support systems of extremism rather than bludgeoning the symptoms and outward manifestations.
In midst of this asphyxiating perfume of terrorism our leaders are holding to nothing but congeries of lies and misstatements. We have had enough there unflinching adherence to ostentatious proclamations regarding success of NAP, the failure can be judged from the fact that the government can’t even handle unlawful processions of hate preachers.Blocking of Mall Road gives a message that the either our leadership has prostrated before the extremist mafia or is working in collusion with them. Executors of NAP must focus on the fact that the roots and conduits of terrorism are within our ranks not in mountains of Waziristan and unless they are eliminated, it will be impossible to avoid horrific incidents like Norani Shrine Carnage, Quetta Lawyers Massacre and Quetta Police Training Centre butchery.