Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan (to fight extremism and terrorism) have received mixed reviews. Clearly, neither have achieved all goals and objectives, but both have made some positive advances that must be acknowledged and lauded. The Karachi operation too has come under severe criticism, especially by the PPP and MQM, the two parties that have thus far borne the brunt of the Rangers’ operation. None of these two are currently acknowledging that the city is systematically being purged of the Taliban too, because both are trying to build a narrative of victimisation.

However, the figures tell a different tale. According to figures collected by the widely-cited and credible South Asia Terrorism Portal, total fatalities in the country have dropped from an all time high of 11,704 in 2009 to 2,895 in 2015 till 6 September 2015. With four months to go, this year looks set be the least deadly year for terrorist violence in Pakistan in recent years. The numbers are interesting: in 2007, when the TTP was formed, terrorism claimed 3,598 lives (including civilian, security forces and terrorist lives). The number peaked in 2009, and has decreased steadily over the years and dropped dramatically in 2015. The year 2010 saw 7,435 lives lost, 6,303 in 2011; 6,211 in 2012; 5,379 in 2013; and 5,496 in 2014 , before this year’s plunge. Specifically in Karachi a dramatic drop in other crimes besides target killings like muggings etc. has also been reported. More international airlines are reported to be in talks with Civil Aviation to start operations to various airports of the country. Businesses from world over have become willing to hold meetings in Pakistan instead of in Dubai, which was the case for the last two years. Hence clearly something is going right.

Take the MQM’s call to shut the city of Karachi down yesterday, which turned out to be an abysmal failure thanks to the Rangers making sure of it. Is it bad for the city and the country and the economy? Previously, every time the MQM’s leader Altaf Hussain was in a bad mood, all economic, social, corporate, educational activity grounded to a halt thanks to its militant wing enforcing the leader’s will on the city of around 20 million.

Many have critiqued extra judicial killings to control crime and terrorism. And from a legal and moral standpoint, these cannot be justified. However, the context is relevant here. If Malik Ishaq, erstwhile leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), is taken as a case in point, the context becomes easier to understand: he was a self confessed killer of over a hundred human beings. Yet he could not be successfully prosecuted because of the completely broken lego-judicial system. He was the prime example of impunity that reigned in this country. Eventually he was widely believed to have been eliminated extra-judicially by Punjab Police. Judges were too scared of him. Who can blame them? He used to run off the names of their children in open court to threaten them. Witnesses would either resile or be eliminated mysteriously. Police would weaken cases against him with botched evidence. His case exemplified the cases of most terrorists operating on the soil of Pakistan.

However, it is a fact that people like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Aziz of the Laal Masjid are still operating freely. So is the Jamat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam and the likes of Samiul Haq. It is an open secret that these parties and individuals have supported, aided and abetted terrorists and terrorism. So not all is well. The APC meeting presided over by the Prime Minister on Friday itself identified areas of the National Action Plan that have made little or no progress, the most significant being cleansing of madrassas and their financing. Whilst these aspects need highlighting and urgent work, they do not take away from the progress on other fronts.

One of the most interesting developments of the last few days was the tabling of the 22nd amendment to the constitution by all 19 FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) members of the national assembly (MNAs). The bill seeks to integrate FATA with ‘settled’ Pakistan so it may be governed by the laws of the land, ridding it of the ‘other’ status and the draconian, uncivilised Federal Crimes Regulation (FCR). One MNA has also stated that the powerful military establishment has backed/cleared the amendment. This is extremely significant. If one thinks about why FATA was never integrated before, it’s because it was being used to house militias for ‘foreign policy’ and as a buffer against Afghanistan, and the military could act as it pleased within the area.

If the military is indeed backing the 22nd amendment, it signals not only that it is pretty confident of having the area cleared up enough for a civilised legal system to work there, but also that it is willing to give up a lawless area from where to foment and implement its self styled ‘foreign policy’.

Hence, in the overall scheme of the fight against terrorism and extremism, much more remains to be done. But after years, one sees the glass as half full.