Aggression and violent extremism have always remained integral parts of human society. These human behaviours manifest in various forms in different cultures and societies. Violence is the product of aggression that leads to terrorism when it takes the intense form. However, it has been changing shapes from time to time and it differs in different societies. The human journey from the Stone Age to the modern civilised era saw different shapes of aggressions and violent extremism within the human society. The death and destruction caused by the two world wars, violent acts of aggression in the subsequent cold war era, the 9/11 tragedy, the US-led NATO forces aggressions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate reactions from the respective societies are some of the glaring examples. However, the latest story of violent extremism in Pakistan could be traced back to the recent tension on its western border that started with the Russian aggression in Afghanistan back in 1979 that went through various phases in the time ahead.

In recent years militancy has changed its faces from mullah to mujahid and then Al Qaida to Taliban. And now the new face is Daesh.

The militant Taliban at work in the bordering region used FATA as a launching pad for attacking Pakistani as well as Afghani and NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan. The geographic location of Pakistan’s tribal belt proved instrumental in facilitating the jihadi factions to establish a chain of madrasahs along its border with Afghanistan. The madrasah’s with huge following would attract a line share in the flowing America dollars flooding into Pakistan during the Afghan war. This encourages the jihadi factions to establish as many madrasah’s and attract as many students to these seminaries as they can. As a result the number of madrassa’s swelled to over twenty thousands in the country by late eighties. In addition, the influx of the fleeing Afghan refugees into Pakistan multiplied the problems of Pakistanis by a) putting an added burden on its resources and b) adding violent trends into its relatively calm society. The violent extremism and terrorism touched its climax in 2009-10 when the militant under the banner of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) rocked the country by launching its bloodiest militant attacks across the country. The international community started labelling religious seminaries as the breeding ground and nurseries of terrorism and violent extremism.

To counter the rising tide of militancy and violent extremism, Pakistani government established the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) in 2009 tasked to facilitate coordination between the civil, security and intelligence agencies and keep a check on terrorist activities. But the high-powered body failed to achieve the desired results for a number of reasons including shortage of funds, staff and lack of coordination and communication amongst various institutions.

Reactivation and re-structuring of NACTA, reforms in Madrasahs, fixing the issue of the Afghan refugees and mainstreaming of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas become talk of the day whenever we face any national tragedy. The mainstream media would generate heated debates on these issues for a few days before it goes into the background. But we could hardly learn any lesson from these tragedies that has taken thousands of precious lives in the past. Can we fix the problem before looking towards any other tragedy (God forbad)?

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s chairing a meeting of the board of governors of NACTA the other day is a welcome move. Khan became the first Prime Minister to chair the meeting of the high-powered body’s since its inception in 2009. Prime Minister Imran Khan said the ground realities call for revisiting the role of NACTA to make it a truly proactive organisation with a well-defined mandate. The board constituted a committee to review the role and function of the body and submit its recommendations to the PM within a week.

As part of the government’s drive to bring the over 25 million out of school children back to school, the task force on education has also been tasked to look into the challenges on how to reform the madrassa system and making the old syllabi taught at the seminaries matched with demands of the modern world. The government’s move to introduce uniform education system in the state controlled, private educational institutions as well as religious seminaries would help all the students to get a balanced view of the contemporary world with a scientific outlook and contribute their due share towards its solution.

The government’s move to form a task force on mainstreaming the erstwhile FATA on September 6, speaks for its seriousness towards the longstanding issue confronting the country. The high-powered committee headed by the governor KP would identify gaps, loopholes and impediments hampering the smooth process on the merger of FATA into KP. After the extension of the higher judiciary, the merger of FATA’s health directorate into KP’s health system comes as a first step. The government is planning to hold early elections to the local bodies and provincial assembly seats to give due representation to the people of FATA and put an end to the decades long sense of frustrations and deprivations they have developed over the years.

Prime Minister’s statement on giving citizenship to Bengalis and Afghan refugees who have been living on Pakistani soil since almost four decades now triggered debates in social as well political circles of the country. The Prime Minister said he would consult parliament to fix this problem once for all.

The government’s resolve to address all these issues within the very first month of its accent to power is, no doubt, praiseworthy that speaks for its determination to taking the insurgency-hit country towards a ‘safer and secure Pakistan’. But words look good only in books. This needs a strong political will, determination and sincerity of cause on part of the incumbent government. The PTI government need to prove, ‘it can and it will’. We certainly need ‘Clean Pakistan’, ‘Green Pakistan’ but the road to it lies through “Safer and Secure Pakistan”


The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad.