Of the twenty tasks to be undertaken by the government under the National Plan of Action, only two, so far, have been attended to with speed and seriousness of propose.

One, the continuation of the execution of convicted terrorists and second, the establishment of special courts for two years for speedy trial of terror suspects.

In the case of executions,the process is on, despite courts judgments in certain cases calling for stopping execution or freeing the convicts on certain grounds.

For the establishment of special courts (read military Courts) a constitutional amendment has been made. Some safeguards have been provided including the discretion of civilian government to decide which cases should go to the courts. The Prime Minister has justified the step by saying that extraordinary measures are required to deal with extraordinary circumstances. Some criticism has come from the media, lawyers and the religious political parties. One objection is that setting up military courts distorts the spirit of the Constitution and especially disregards the constitutional imperative of separation of execution and the judiciary.

The political unity too has been hit by its first breach. The 21st Amendment targets terrorists “who use the name of religion”. This has caused resentment in the religious political parties especially MaulanaFazal-ur-Rehman’s JUI and the Jammat-e-Islami. They not only abstained from voting in the Parliament but also plan to launch nation-wide protests against the measure. Some PPP stalwarts too have been publicly unhappy at the establishment of military courts although they voted for the amendment to loyally toe the party line. I, for one, consider that all terrorists should have been included. Hardened terrorists in Balochistan and Karachi will escape the net woven for the military courts.

At a news conference on January 3, Interior Minister ChaudhryNisar Ali Khan assured that military courts “would not be used against politicians, religious seminaries, media persons and civilians” and action would be taken only against those Madarissagainst which there is evidence of involvement in militancy.

As for other tasks, there has been no marked progress. The Interior Minister informed in the said press conference that a nation-wide crackdown had been launched against terrorist organizations: “We have launched 400 intelligence-based actions over the last few days in which more than 100 terrorists have been killed and 250 arrested”. He exhorted the provincial governments to do their duty to implement the National Plan and stop blaming the federal government.

Some of the other NPA measures can be taken up by quick executive action like strengthening and activation of NACTA, choking finances for terrorists and terrorist organizations and establishing counter-terrorism forces. The remaining challenges pose serious questions about the capacity and competence of the administration to move forward and secure results. Taking the ongoing operation in Karachi “to its logical conclusion” for one, may be easier said than done. How will the police there be depoliticized? What indeed is the quality of the police force in the Sindh province considering stories about corruption and dubious ways of appointments and promotions? Do the militant wings of the political parties still exist? Is there the requisite federal-provincial cooperation and coordination? What kind of thinking and mutual consultation to sort out the bloody mess is in hand? Or shall the situation continue to drift and festerand not enough done to stop extortions,kidnappings and killings?Will, ultimately the military be called in to do the job?

Another long-neglected but daunting work relates to NPA item 12 which requires administration and development reforms in Fata with immediate focus and return of IDPs. This is a ticklish issue and the first step to address it will be to setup a commission of experts like RustamMohmand, Prof. Ibrahim, AyazWazir and Rahim-UllahYousafZai to propose structural reforms. A lot will depend on the willingness to take up the matter seriously without delay. The consideration of the Commission report will take time. Again the return and rehabilitation of hundreds and thousands of displaced people will strain the already hard-pressed administration. It will take time, a lot of planning,reconstruction and considerable resources.

I have held for many years that Pakistan’s lack of concern for sending back millions of Afghan refugees has cost us enormous damage in terms of our resources including deforestation, increase in crime and the spread of terrorism. Item 19 speaks of formulation of a comprehensive policy beginning with the registration of all unregistered illegal refugees. Amazing that we have so farfailed even to register them. Most of the other complex NPA tasks relate to misguided, unenlightened and unwholesome religious organizations and their nefarious practices. How do you take action for example against religious persecution (item 9), counter hate speech and extremist material or take action against reemergence of pro-scribed groups and reform madrassas?

A statement from an official source, the other day, revealed that 90% of the madrassas are okay and little objectionable activity is seen there. How and when will the remaining 10% be tackled? We need not under estimate the power and clout they have acquired over the years.

As for the role of media and Internet, items 11, 14 demand a ban on the glorification of terrorism and terrorist organizations though print and electronic media and tangible measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism. How quickly can these tasks be attended to properly? Is the government willing to concentrate on these prickly matters? Already differences have arisen on certain counts. Essentially it is for the media itself to self regulate its activities.

Last but not the least is the resolve to revamping and reforming the criminal justice system and strengthencounter-terrorism departments and intelligence agencies (item 20). This is a tall order, which will require amongst other things, legislation, reconstruction of the prosecution system and safeguards for witnesses and judges.

In the final analysis, all these executive and other measures will only partially address the real malaise which in a few words, may be described as an inclination to extremist thinking and behavior which grows out of a certain mindset. It roots lie deep in hearts and minds.

May Allah give wisdom, vigour and capability to the present governments in the centre and the provinces to undertake even half of these tasks expeditiously and to the satisfaction of the people of Pakistan!

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.