With rising radicalisation, there has been a visible effort by the army to reduce the spread of the extremist ideology. One way of achieving this is through the complete annihilation of militants. But there comes a point when the killing must stop, everyone who picked up arms, cannot be killed or arrested. Their numbers are far too great. The other way is through a disarmament and debriefing policy.

Recently, the Khyber Agency political administration released at least 65 suspected militants, who had surrendered to the security forces during military operation in Bara. After eight to ten months of de-radicalisation programme at the internment center, it is reported that they are now at the disposal of elders of their ‘respective tribes for their future good conduct’. One can see the positive impact this might have on our counter-terrorism initiative. Such a program can not only help rehabilitated these young men who may have a shot at living peaceful and productive lives, but can it can also heal the communities of these areas who have lost much to terrorism. After all, these are Pakistani citizens, and there is room for reconciliation as long as justice is served.

However, given the extent of radicalisation in our country, where immediate action is required to tackle the problem, how successful can de-radicalisation really be? Most people in Pakistan believe that war against terror is the major cause of radicalisation. The US drone attacks have been the cherry on the cake for militants- a reason to fight the state. The motives and loyalties of these fighters are complex. It would be naïve to assume that after an eight-month program, they will be rehabilitated. The program must be encouraged and expanded, but it must also be effective and sustainable. And most importantly, the aim of the military must be to help these men live as law-abiding citizens, and not see them as strategic assets.

Prior to this program in Khyber Agency, a meaningful de-radicalisation programme has already been put in place in Swat and the results have been encouraging. Taking care of de-radicalised persons is a lifelong commitment, where their rehabilitation calls for management of a robust social security arrangement. De-radicalisation has become necessary, not just to re-educate the men who were militants, but to create an atmosphere of security and reconciliation for the tribes and communities they belong to. War and killing has a way of transcending generations, but a de-radicalisation strategy can help break the cycle.