“Good governance, division of responsibilities and an effective communication mechanism between state institutions are key to the success of the NAP”.

Pakistan has been a victim of the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism for more than one and a half decade now. The country has suffered heavy losses, both physically, and economically, in its fight to eliminate this menace. Despite being faced by a plethora of challenges including limited resources, Pakistan has made great headway in its bid to root out terrorism and extremism from its soil. It is the only country in the world, which has successfully executed military counterterrorism operations inside its boundaries and brought normalcy back to the affected areas, in such a short period.

In spite of these achievements, much is still required to be done. The recent terrorist incidents are a reminder that the fight against the faceless enemy is far from over, and only by investing on the people, especially in the domain of education and health, can real progress be achieved.

The nation can never forget the horrific tragedy of the Army Public School in Peshawar, which resulted in the martyrdom of 133 school children, in 2014. Unambiguously, this terrorist attack strengthened the entire nation’s resolve to stand united and undeterred against such recreant brutality. Following this incident, political and institutional differences were shunned for the common goal of rooting out terrorism from the country. Thus a ‘20 Point Action Plan’ was put in force which the Parliament adopted as the ‘National Action Plan’ (NAP). It symbolised the national consensus to achieve this goal.

December 2019 will mark five years since its initiation. It is significant that a critical appraisal of this much-hyped plan is done promptly to identify the shortcomings and achieving better results. Furthermore, it will help evaluate the new dimensions that have since been added to the NAP.

Unfortunately, no follow-up mechanism for determining transparency as well as its pace has been implemented to monitor its progress.

Out of the 20 core points, the most significant one which has also been raised by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is regarding the containment of the finances of terrorist networks by cracking down on their funding chains. The FATF is of the view that it needs to be revisited in the light of ‘strategic deficiencies’. The country is also in danger of being placed on the FATF’s grey list, which of course does not bode well for the efficacy of the National Action Plan.

The continuing re-emergence of banned outfits under different flags is adding to the impediments in the way of the successful implementation of the NAP. It is imperative for the government to understand the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism that are deeply entrenched in social inequality, political instability, rising inflation, and disgruntled youth. These factors serving as fodder for anti-state elements are used to carry out their heinous objectives. If not appropriately addressed and provided an adequate provision of services and resources, in the post-conflict period, these elements can undo the progress and objectives.

It is therefore suggested that NAP should constitute a post-war clause that aims at the reconstruction, rehabilitation, capacity building, employment and improvement of the local population.

Little has been achieved where the other core points of NAP such as propagation of hate speech, sectarianism, resolving Afghan refugee issue, and empowering of the Baloch government are concerned. Similarly, little has been done to encourage the end of religious extremism and the protection of minorities. Pakistan has an abysmal record of the protection of its minorities and indiscriminate use of laws to persecute them, which is nothing but disgraceful.

Furthermore, the process of integrating madrassahs in the National Education Framework is in process, albeit slowly. According to NACTA, 32,272 religious seminaries are operating in Pakistan. In Punjab and Sindh, complete details of madrassas have been recorded, whereas 80 per cent work has been done in KPK and Baluchistan till December 2018. The Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a statemen,t recently revealed that 30,000 madrassas would soon be brought into the mainstream and overseen by the Ministry of Education

There are certain structural deficiencies in the management of the NAP which need attention. Especially those who came to the forefront following the Sahiwal incident, in which personnel of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) killed three people whom they had mistaken as members of Da’esh. Following the investigations, the joint investigation team (JIT) declared them innocent.

This incident not only raised questions on the implementation mechanism of National Action Plan and the counter-terrorism framework, but also calls for the need to re-vamp institutions, and maintain a check and balance on their powers. It also exposed a lack of information and communication asymmetry, between inter and intra organisation on intelligence sharing, and conducting operations. The addition of any new counter-terrorism force will add to the complexity of the scenario. Our focus should be on capacity building and increasing efficiency of the existing state institutions.

Undoubtedly, the operationalisation of twenty points of the NAP has played its role in reducing the acts of violence and terrorism, but still much needs to be done. The current scenario calls for a shift in national action approach, i.e. from the use of ‘hard power to soft power.’

Today there is a need to concentrate on two central themes to achieve success. First, the root causes that contribute to indoctrination and radicalisation of individuals may be ascertained. Second, the socio-economic grievances of the population of terror affected areas need to be addressed. To put more precisely, the critical re-evaluation of the National Action Plan would enable the decision makers to address the weaknesses in the implementation of the plan on the one hand and reviewing the strategy for achieving the desired target, i.e. credible and sustainable peace on the other.

Good governance, division of responsibilities and an effective communication mechanism between state institutions are key to the success of the NAP. Keeping in view the structural, financial, social and administrative determinants of the plan, the respective institutions should make all endeavours to maximise the outcome that will ultimately contribute to making the National Action Plan, a ‘Rational Plan of Action’. To sum it up, the long term solution rests in the practical governance framework, i.e. able to implement the policy from a mere document to practice.

That being said, let us not forget that our courageous people and brave armed forces have laid down innumerable sacrifices for peace in Pakistan. Instead of our vested personal or political interests, we must prioritise national objectives, as we owe it to the martyrs. It is high time that we, as a nation, must join hands to root this menace of terrorism and violent extremism plaguing the peace, and security of our country.