Despite the National Action Plan going nowhere, the narrative of a supposed ‘paradigm shift’ in Pakistan’s security policy has been gaining credence. The post-APS attack Army, it is said, is different and much more determined to root out terrorists from the soil of Pakistan. The skeptics, however, have been warning about the visible selective actions by the state in the name of implementation of NAP.
Some of this skepticism could be set aside keeping in view the trust deficit between the security establishment and the progressive and liberal sections within the observers of complex civil-military relations in Pakistan. Much of it however, must be heeded and questions answered. The takers of the establishment’s narrative would argue that the Operation Zarb-e-Azb on North Waziristan has been across the board and ‘things are happening’ otherwise too, which provides adequate reason to not criticise the establishment. The naysayers however, have more than one reason to raise perpetual questions, on not only an opaque military operation, but also on everything being done in the name of NAP implementation.

Under NAP, Pakistan ended its moratorium on death penalty for the convicts under the Anti Terrorist Act (ATA), soon to be expanded as the blanket lifting of moratorium for all cases under ATA and PPC. However, the executions that have been conducted so far have largely been for non-terrorism offences. According to one report around 185 executions have been conducted out of which only 21 were terrorists while 18 of them convicted by Military Courts.

Similarly, the government tried to pass a highly controversial Cyber Crimes Bill in the name of NAP. The bill later came under fierce criticism by the citizens’ rights groups for trampling individual liberties. Since the loudest voices against both, blanket lifting of moratorium on death penalty and the faulty Cyber Crimes Bill, came from the progressive sections of civil society and human rights defenders most of whom work under the aegis of one organisation or the other, all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) became not only the target of government’s anti-NGO campaign but also came under severe criticism from media proxies of security establishment and the government. All of this was in the name of NAP implementation.

The most recent ‘victim’ of NAP implementation have been the dwellers of informal settlements – commonly called katchi abadis, criticised wrongly as ‘illegal settlements –mainly in Islamabad. Ours is the state that not only protects every kind of land mafia nut also becomes the land mafia itself. Okara farms are a case in point where the poor peasants are fighting the state against the occupation of their lands. This is a state, which is habitual of supporting one militant group or the other. It is the joke of the millennium, that the same state, while being all of the above, attacks the poorest of the poor of its land and claims to be acting against the land mafia and the terrorists. Day before yesterday, an informal settlement near Chak No. 11/BC District Bahawalpur was demolished without giving any warning to the inhabitants. It is yet to be ascertained what kind of terrorism is being fought by rendering people homeless.

Apart from these ridiculous contradictions of NAP implementation and a ridiculous way of countering terrorism, there are some big developments also being claimed as the evidence of ‘paradigm shift’. Killing of the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangavi (LeJ), Malik Ishaq, which followed the arrest of the central leader of banned Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Aurangzeb Farooqi and earlier killing of Usman Kurd – all are being boasted as the evidence of this paradigm shift .

It is no doubt a rare development to see the state acting against the sectarian outfits. And in this process, gifting the nation with high profile dead bodies. There are however, some points missing from the analysis. A paradigm shift by definition would mean absolute non-reliance of the state on the militant outfits – any militant. It would mean that the state would not relinquish its power and the writ to any non-state actor under any circumstances. It would mean Pakistan’s security – external and internal – would not be outsourced to any militia. It would mean Pakistan would not patronise militants anywhere in the world, let alone in its neighbourhood. Whether it is East, West or North, South. What we see on the contrary is, a mere tuning and adjustment, while appearing to be shifting and reversing our archetype of regional security.

Malik Ishaq, for example, has been almost non-functional as the leader of LeJ and had not presided over any major attack lately. It was because of two basic reasons. The internal factionalism within LeJ, Ishaq’s more rigid stance on handling of the sectarian fissures with strongest possible militancy and his increasing linkages with the TTP and ISIS (to name few). He has been in custody on and off since past couple of years. Despite his detention and apparent alienation from the rank and file of LeJ, We don’t see much of an impact on the number of anti-Shia attacks. The attacks against the Shia community, especially the Hazara Shia community of Quetta, have been on the rise since 2012.

With little influence over the LeJ foot soldiers as well as his strengthening linkages with anti-Pak establishment forces like TTP and ISIS etc., Malik Ishaq had rather become a liability. There have been reports since many months, of whispers within the security establishment to dump this unnecessary encumbrance. LeJ, just to remind, has been carrying out operations against the Chinese nationals in Pakistan. The kidnap of Chinese engineers back in its hay days is one example. That had made LeJ on the whole, not just Malik Ishaq, a burden in the backdrop of CPEC recently concluded between Pakistan and China.

On the other hand, the pressure on the security agencies have been mounting for making a decision about the sectarian outfits especially the likes of ASWJ, which despite being proscribed, have been given comfortable freedom to operate. This group is also being seen as an irritant for CPEC especially by the Chinese agencies, because of it being in control of the much of CPEC route in Balochistan.
After expending LeJ successfully, or at least making it lie low for some time in future, it seems the next target is neutralisation of ASWJ. This could happen following two models. One is Malik-Ishaq-Model and the other is much more successful Hafiz-Saeed-Model. With its firebrand pro-militancy central leader Aurangzeb Farooqi already under detention, Malik Ishaq’s killing has apparently given a strong message to the ASWJ rank and file, which is: take it easy before you are made Ishaq. There has been a prominent section within ASWJ that was against the political mainstreaming of the organisation, initiated by its leader Ahmad Ludhianvi. With Ishaq’s grave finely dug, these nuisance-makers of ASWJ would also go silent at least for the moment.

What follows? Looking at the open playing field available to ASWJ, it is safe to say that ASWJ would be led into the Hafiz-Saeed-Model with more and more political mainstreaming and reconstructing its image as ‘peace-loving’ political party. In case its terror links are too big to be covered by the new stainless white sheet of ‘political mainstreaming’. An entirely new face with the moniker Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP) is already waiting. In last Local Bodies Elections in KP, this party emerged as second biggest religious party. Seems the theatre is on. The semblance of a ‘Paradigm shift’ is seemingly manufactured as a part of this theatre.