In the next ten days our National Action Plan (NAP) will be one year old. It was on December 24, 2014 that an All Parties Conference, in which the army leadership was also present, had approved the 21 points plan for fighting extremism and terrorism in the country. Consensus on the plan was significant because Pakistan had lived for quite some time in a denial mode. Significant portions of state and society were not prepared to give ownership to the war on terror as they had been claiming that it was some one else’s war. Under General Musharraf the government had claimed to take action against terrorism but actually that was the worst period in the country’s history as not only all kinds of Taliban networks mushroomed here but the country also became a hub of international terrorism. In 2003 Afghan Taliban were not only allowed to regroup in Waziristan and other parts of FATA but they also used these sanctuaries for launching attacks in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. So the approval of NAP in December 2014 was a turning point of sorts when the country came to accept the fact that it was its own war and that it has to fight it to avert the existential threat posed by it. That was not all. The political and military leadership of the country declared that they will take on all types of terrorists and that they will not make any distinction between “good” and “bad” terrorists.

Taking stock of the situation after one year one finds serious gaps in the implementation of the plan. What is more disturbing is the fact that both civil and military leadership of the state are not only reluctant to take responsibility of the failure but are out to shift it to one another. The civilian part of the government has clearly not been able to implement reforms regarding NACTA revival, Madrassas and FATA mainstreaming. We already know about the lack of allocation of resources for NACTA in the last annual budget. Now it has been revealed that even service rules have not yet been framed for the authority, which means that no fresh recruitment can be made for it and only personnel from service pool can be deployed in it. So the most important counter terrorism authority of the country is still in a limbo six years after its creation. Madrassas reform has not progressed in an effective way. Even the completion of the registration process is under question. The government has yet to come out with an authentic and final figure about the number of Madrassas existing in the country. Reforming their syllabus and controlling their finances is still a wishful thinking. There has been a lot of talk recently about mainstreaming FATA. But the officialdom ruling FATA is clearly hell bent upon gaining more time for squeezing the dying system. It is interesting to note that although Pakistan Muslim League (N) is a part of the All Parties Alliance on FATA formed in 2010 and is committed to support its 11 points reform agenda but refuses to implement it without stating any reason. Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has appointed yet another commission to prepare recommendations for reforms. The move is clearly aimed at gaining some more time as Governor’s secretariat is full of reports previously prepared by governmental and non governmental bodies. As if that is not enough the federal government has deemed it fit to appoint a ministerial committee. Basic problem is the lack of political will on the part of the federal government to go ahead for taking practice steps to reform FATA. Unfortunately the present federal government is too Punjab centric to spare time and energy for the pressing problems of the other areas that constitute the periphery of the country. Pashtun IDPs from North Waziristan and other parts of FATA are still living a miserable and uncertain life. Operation Zarb-e-Azb seems to be an open-ended affair and it is difficult to talk about any time line about it. In the total absence of any civilian oversight no one can strategize to mitigate the hardship faced by non-combatants in the area of the armed conflict.

It is interesting to see that the top leadership of the army has deemed it fit very recently to publicly point finger at the failure of civilian leadership of the government in implementing NAP. As pointed out earlier there are a number of shortcomings. There are no two opinions about that. But government servants from any branch or institution are not supposed to issue public political statements. They have relevant government forums for raising issues. It is particularly so as the military dominated apex committees are practically ruling the country. We know that even after retirement the government servants have to wait for two years to take part in politics. Flouting the rules of the game (theConstitution) is some thing that turns an important country like Pakistan into a banana republic. But there is another and a more serious point. And that is the question of proscribed organizations. Unfortunately origin of most of these “ non state players” can be traced back to the intelligence agencies of the country. No one can disagree with choking of terror financing from all sources. The government should do whatever it can do to block terror financing. But first and foremost is the need for crystal clear state policy of zero tolerance towards extremist militancy and private militias. The hope that the state will translate the new stated policy in action remains unfulfilled. Afghan Taliban is still making large-scale use of their sanctuaries in Pakistan. The activities of their leadership and camp followers in choosing a successor to Mullah Mohammad Omar on Pakistani soil has deprived the country of the fig leaf of plausible deniability that was maintained to some extent in the past. Extremist militancy is one large body. You can’t do away with it by smashing one part while keeping intact other part of it. Curbing this menace will not be possible without a clean break with the past policies of the security establishment of the country. A clear and practical shift in this area will be necessary to honor the valiant sacrifices rendered by the personals of law enforcement agencies and the people of Pakistan in fighting terrorism.

The writer is a retired Senator and an analyst of regional affairs.