Tomorrow, September 16th, wouldendnine months of our post-APS collective pledge of countering the menace of terrorism. Probably a time, when we should look back and reflect on what has been, and could have been done.

The governments – federal and provincial – are seen to be doing something, be it a crackdown on selective militants, arrests for hate speech, Karachi operation and ‘reconciliation’ in Balochistan . Going by the reports about recent the Federal Apex Committee meeting, things on madrassas’ registration and de-weaponization seem to be moving ahead as well. Death row convicts are being executed and Military Courts are speedily sentencing the terrorists.

All of this has made the state claim that victory is in the offing. The on-going military operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agencies, including the ground offensive in Shawal Valley have ‘cleared’ more than 90% of the territory previously controlled by the terrorists. The area under operation right now in FATA, however, was less than 3 miles from where our forces had been stationed since 2003-4.

The encouraging statistics on the number of terrorist attacks considerably going down have a dark side too. The side, which is so far a no-go-area for the media and commentators. Because of these, citizens are not being able to see the murkier waters that may lie calmly beneath the lotuses that these numbers are being presented as.

The one-directional handling of Karachi operation has created spaces for the friendlier factions of ‘kaladam’ (proscribed) organizations. Orangi Town area, previously a hub of ANP and the MQM, is case in point where no one but the militants of ASWJ can survive and flourish now a days.

Similarly, much of what is happening near and around the Super Highway is either not being noticed or is deliberately ignored. Before the operation, this area was mainly the abode of Pashtuns. The ‘operation’ has evicted them from here to settle somewhere else in the city. On their own that is. The need for this deliberate displacement is incomprehensible. Managers of DHA and Bahria Town would however, be the happiest people. These newly built posh localities near Super Highway would now have more space for extension or other attractions for the pleasure of the elite.

The action that we see against LeJ, rogue elements of ASWJ and some smaller sectarian outfits has, as an unintended consequence probably, emboldened more friendly factions of these organizations (like the Interior Minister said last week that there are some militants who are not ‘anti-state’). In the name of ‘mainstreaming’ these factions, they are being protected and given a clean chit using existing, insufficient criminal justice system. Aurangzeb Farooqui’s arrest and subsequent acquittal is a case in point. Not touching Ludhianvi, is another. These cases could have been easily dealt with by ‘speedy and efficient’ military courts.

This reminds one of the Binori Town Madrassa that is said to have once hosted Osama Ben Laden and whose ties with the militants in Afghanistan have not been any secret. The ‘B’ word has not figured anywhere in Karachi Operation so far. The militants who are not ‘anti-state’ as per the Interior Minister, have been reportedly asked to lie low and are being ‘mainstreamed’ in order to make them a part of l aw-abiding citizenry. History tells, such militants do not abandon their Project Jihad just because their patrons change the mind. What they would mainstream is, radicalism.

So what we are trying to keep low is actually a plethora of militancy hotbeds which can be activated any time. Thinking that they can only be activated by the original patrons, is an epic lack of vision and strategic thinking. We are living in the age of ISIS and of proxy wars. Any of the parties to the conflict – that we may or may not acknowledge as the legitimate one - can use these hotbeds at any given time.

In at least eight opinion pieces in different newspapers last week, the civilian government was castigated for inaction while praising COAS for being behind every good thing. From people who could not get the ticket to contest for National Assembly seat to the people who lost commercial importance of their prime land due to Lahore’s Ring Road Project, certain sections of media and political commentators were seen eulogizing army and reprimanding civilian government for things as bizarre as Prime Minister’s frequent meetings with the COAS.

For reasons best understood in the backdrop of immense powers vested in one particular side of civil-military equation, one can choose to pretend that counter-terrorism in Pakistan has no other nuance than a ‘changed’ military and an ‘incompetent’ civilian government who is not ready to act. But deep inside we all must know who is the ultimate – de facto - authority to decide which madrassas to be cracked down, which organization to be practically proscribed, whether to establish a joint directorate of intelligence or not, whether to transfer counter-terrorism function completely to the civilian forces, who should be entitled for Coalition Support Funds whatever little money they would bring after the draw-down in neighboring Afghanistan, etc.

Much before army’s readiness for the Operation was propagated (which then was skillfully morphed into a narrative of ‘give peace a chance’ and ‘talks’) and then the operation itself, the post draw down scenario building was quite easily doable. A skeptic mind is most likely to think that the entire episode of ‘talks’ was choreographed mainly to provide safe exit to the ‘good Taliban’, who happily started leaving Pakistani havens and settling in the Afghan areas vacated by the coalition forces, where Afghan National Army had a weak control already.

Once gone, the Afghan Taliban including Haqqanis were not able to provided operational and strategic support to local terrorists (TTP and others). Zarb-e-Azab hit everyone that came our way, so tell the embedded journalists who go there routinely. What remains well beneath our radars is the practice of fracturing the militants, sealing the deal with willing factions to fight the rogue elements and giving them free playing ground to ‘exercise control’. Since these ‘pro-Pakistan’ groups are not posing immediate problem, they are allowed to survive and consolidate. Opacity of the operation does not allow any more scrutiny of the process. Would we be surprised if any time in future, these groups turn against us and FATA becomes breeding ground of militancy once again?

Last but not the least, most important factor in countering terrorism and extremism (both elements can be seen in NAP), is building a narrative anathematic to religious radicalism and xenophobia. Not a Pythagoras Theorem to read who is not letting the narrative be there. What else was it if not counter-narrative when liberal sections of civil society were speaking up against proscribed organizations, sectarianism and hate speech targeting religious minorities? Why have they been discredited with labels like traitor etc.? Who has been saving the likes of Ludhianvi, Maulvi Abdul Aziz and Fazlur Rehman Khalil while accusing human rights activists of being the ‘foreign agents’?

Learn to take the blame when it is due. Hollow chest thumping, otherwise, makes you a joke.