The attack on innocent children of Army Public School in Peshawar finally brought the establishment to sit with the politicians and at least appear as if it was committed to resolving the terrorism riddle. The was followed by a list of fancy broad-brush promises of doing what was needed. At the twilight of 2014, this list of promises was issued as the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism. A constitutional amendment was hurriedly passed in the Parliament to give way to the Army to lead the process of justice with Military Courts.
The NAP comprised twenty points covering different aspects of the terrorism problem. These included issues like tackling armed militias including the ones in Punjab, terror financing and terrorists communications, proscribed organizations, sectarian outfits, hate speech, social media abuse, as well as reforms areas like activating and reforming NACTA, establishing counter terrorism force etc. It also promised to work on the Karachi operation, Balochistan reconciliation, FATA integration, and review policies on Afghan Refugees etc.
Lets not forget that a thorough and ‘inclusive’ process was followed to reach the political consensus on NAP. There were multi-party committees that sat for long hours and came up with a consensus on the provisions of the NAP. In the decisive meetings where key decisions were to be made the Army Chief was present himself. After all, none of the wily politicians can go rogue or go back on promises made in the presence of the big boss. No one did. Even those unsure of the need for Military Courts, who spoke to the media about their strong reservations, had to agree when the second meeting was convened.
The NAP after such intense parleys was finally announced and prompted no negative reaction from the otherwise ready-to-complain usual suspects in a few ‘favorable’ political parties. Everyone was hunky-dory and Op-Ed pages spewed column after column on how the Pakistani nation was united and the civil-military leadership was finally on one page. Despite being an unabashed optimist, I found it convenient that this was believed of the establishment that hat fooled the nation repeatedly in the. I never believed in this impulsive hypothetical ‘unity’ and ‘commitment’.
I was not at all surprised when an official of NACTA said that the NAP now had only 17 points. Three points that were pruned down included; one: repatriation of Afghan refugees; two: regulation and registration of Madrassas; and three: firm action against the proscribed organizations. These were not possible in the short term the NACTA official was reported to have said. Correct. If certain things need more work, let’s just delete them from our plan!
As far as Afghan refugees are concerned, the problem arose when the police was left to decide what needed to be done with them. Under the NAP, a gradual repatriation was to be followed in very close collaboration with the foreign ministry. Until then, all Afghan refugees had to be registered and if they lived as tenets in settled areas outside the refugee camps, the landlords had to be asked to inform the local police station, so that a centralized database was created about the whereabouts of all Afghan nationals residing in any part of Pakistan. Without the police having a proper framework of action, and required paraphernalia, the force was unleashed on poor refugees.
To date not a single desk has been established at any police station in the country that could receive and register information about the Afghan refugees. It was destined to create a foreign policy disaster. It was completely avoidable and was unnecessary when our establishment was trying to improve relations with neighboring Afghanistan.
The second issue was of the registration of Madrassas. Madrassas have produced at least three generations to fight blindly and with utter conviction for an altruistic ‘bigger objective’. The managers of this progeny of Madrassahs have been growing exponentially along with strengthening their agency and entitlement. Change this for 150 dead kids? Oh, Please.
The proscribed organizations were banned when they got too independent, too big for their size and started biting the hand that fed them. Just a few of them were banned because the silly United Nations and manipulative United States has to be appeased. Some of them had to be banned because international lending institutions had an issue with them due to their role in terror financing. However, over all they are friendly organizations, which have done and continue to do some brilliant work. Sometimes they come out against the drones and Amreeka when we need them to. At other times they come out to respond to India. Some times they even come out to malign a TV channel when it has to be maligned. Some times they run such efficient welfare organizations that help our army in the event of natural or man-made disasters, like the one in Balochistan. Some times they run Madrassas also, to keep producing those blind robots to fight our wars. So why allow the NAP destroy this arrangement?
I have maintained ever since the Dec 16 massacre of our children that change in policy of keeping strategic assets does not fit into the scheme of things as thought by the authors of this strategy. Just because almost three hundred people have died and injured in an attack, you think the strategic assets would be abandoned? Didn’t we embrace this kind of bloodletting as ‘collateral damage’ for a ‘bigger cause’?