Coun­ter­ing the Mon­ster

Southasia - - COMMENT -

It was a happy au­gury that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Pak­istan found them­selves hud­dled in a ten hour long meet­ing on Dec 23, in the af­ter­math of the Dec. 16 school tragedy in Pe­shawar. Among them were also the Pak­istan Army chief and the direc­tor gen­eral of the ISI. That day they whit­tled out a 20-point plan that was to be put into im­me­di­ate ac­tion. Among the salient points of the plan were for­ma­tion of ‘spe­cial trial courts’ led by mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, re­ac­ti­va­tion of the Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Author­ity (NACTA), devel­op­ment of a spe­cial anti-ter­ror­ism force and ban on print and elec­tronic me­dia pro­mot­ing ter­ror­ism. In sub­se­quent days, the Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter held sev­eral small meet­ings with his close as­so­ciates in the cabi­net and formed sep­a­rate com­mit­tees to han­dle most of the is­sues that had been high­lighted in the 20-points. This re­sulted in the for­ma­tion of a Na­tional Ac­tion Plan with an um­brella com­mit­tee and 17 sub-work­ing groups re­lated to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ac­tion Plan. It is com­mend­able that the Prime Min­is­ter and his min­is­ters chose to at last rise from their slum­ber and go about se­ri­ously ad­dress­ing the ter­ror­ism is­sue that has con­fronted Pak­istan so acutely over the years. For a change, in­stead of just leav­ing ev­ery­thing to the armed forces and their mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in North Waziris­tan, they demon­strated their will­ing­ness to sit to­gether and tackle the prob­lem head-on them­selves. It was also com­mend­able that the other po­lit­i­cal par­ties also co­op­er­ated. Im­ran Khan called off his Islamabad sit-in and the MQM and PPP, de­spite hav­ing reser­va­tions about the ‘spe­cial courts,’ sup­ported the gov­ern­ment’s new strat­egy.

The Na­tional Ac­tion Plan looks like a menu for im­proved gov­er­nance, con­sid­er­ing that it touches some very ba­sic and sig­nif­i­cant is­sues and pro­fesses to strike those is­sues at the very roots. It takes into ac­count all those fac­tors that im­pact the spread of ter­ror­ism in the coun­try and it in­tends to have mech­a­nisms in place that would weed out the evil for good. The plan cov­ers ev­ery­thing - armed mili­tias, hate speeches, ex­trem­ist ma­te­rial, fi­nances of ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, re-emer­gence of banned or­ga­ni­za­tions, set­ting up of a counter-ter­ror­ism force, re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion, madras­sah reg­u­la­tion, ter­ror­ist glo­ri­fi­ca­tion by me­dia, re­forms in FATA, dis­man­tling of ter­ror­ist com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works, the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion in Karachi and the Pun­jab, sec­tar­ian ter­ror­ism, the ques­tion of Afghan refugees and ap­pro­pri­ate for­mu­la­tion of crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms.

It is be­ing said by some quar­ters that for­ma­tion of so many com­mit­tees would, in the end, lead to nowhere and the is­sues would en­tan­gle the run­ning of the com­mit­tees. The very fact that the in­te­rior min­is­ter is head­ing some 11 of the com­mit­tees could prove to be a self-de­feat­ing act. But it is also true that the ter­ror­ist threat is an ex­is­ten­tial one and needs to be tack­led from all pos­si­ble an­gles in­stead of be­ing given a sur­face-deep, one-di­men­sional treat­ment. In the past, one se­ri­ous mis­take on the part of suc­ceed­ing gov­ern­ments was that no ef­fort was made to look more deeply and more com­pre­hen­sively into the mat­ter. While the present gov­ern­ment made all ef­forts to talk to the Tal­iban, the lat­ter con­tin­ued with their ne­far­i­ous acts of ter­ror­ism. Then the armed forces launched the Op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb which served to scat­ter the ter­ror­ists – but only for a while – be­cause they re­grouped and ren­dered even more bloody strikes on the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, in some cases from across the bor­der re­gions of Afghanistan.

Fol­low­ing the Pe­shawar tragedy, it is ob­vi­ous that the peo­ple of Pak­istan are in no mood to see fur­ther in­ci­dents of ter­ror­ism. For once, they are en­cour­aged by the fact that Nawaz Sharif and his gov­ern­ment are com­mit­ted to their word and that the PM has, over the days since the massacre, demon­strated more by deed than by word, that he means busi­ness. In this he is fully sup­ported by the Army which has also speeded up its op­er­a­tions and has brought the Afghan gov­ern­ment as well as ISAF forces to co­op­er­ate in the elim­i­na­tion of ter­ror­ist groups. The set­ting up of spe­cial courts (read mil­i­tary courts) and their be­ing headed by serv­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers had kicked up con­tro­versy and the view was bandied about that this was akin to im­pos­ing of mar­tial law. It is good that the mis­con­cep­tions in this re­gard have been sat­is­fac­to­rily re­moved and it has also been made clear to the dis­sent­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties that the spe­cial courts would only be uti­lized to try ter­ror­ists and that their life would not ex­ceed be­yond two years. It is hoped that in the midst of all the ac­tion sup­ported by good in­ten­tions, the en­thu­si­asm with which the na­tion has risen to coun­ter­ing the chal­lenge of ter­ror­ism would not be lost to bu­reau­cratic plod­ding and the men­ace would be oblit­er­ated for all times.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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