Despite the initial dynamism and resolve to “uproot” terrorism shown by the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister,   neither has the promised All Parties Conference (APC) been held, nor has any visible serious effort been made to formulate a security policy during the past two months. It was said that an APC would be held soon after Imran Khan’s return from the UK. Days passed. He returned, but there was no conference.

Later, Imran came up with a new proposal for holding a closed door meeting with the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff. He wanted inside information about oral and written commitments and assurances given to USA with regard to drones and “special forces” and other matters. His other questions were: what are the military’s aims of operations in Fata, what authority do the intelligence agencies have to pick up Pakistanis, what exactly is going on in Balochistan, how far are the accusations coming from Washington true about double-dealings on our part, what kind of relationship there is with the Haqqanis in North Waziristan and also what is the nature of the military’s relationship with Mullah Umar, Afghan Taliban and other Afghan elements?

Imran’s plea makes sense. All the information, he asks for, is necessary to formulate a realistic security policy.

While little surfaced about the new policy, the terrorists stepped up their strikes and played havoc, all over the country. There were three dozen horrid terrorist attacks, which took a toll of 250 or so casualties during the last eight weeks.

Earlier, it was the daily toll of killings in Karachi, news of more “missing persons” and their bodies found dumped at different places. Now a lot more menacing strikes are taking place across the country - dozens shot dead in Parachinar, target killings in Kohat, bumping off more Hazaras in Balochistan, attacks in Bolan and Chilas (where one SSP and two senior military officers were shot dead). What happened at D.I. Khan jail is beyond belief. Almost 250 hardened criminals were taken away by the Taliban, despite prior intelligence warnings. A deep sense of insecurity and helplessness prevailed everywhere. One wondered at the complacency on the part of the new government. The media - print and electronic - almost every day expressed displeasure.

The horrendous blast at the Quetta police lines where 31 police officials, including DIG Operations, were killed that finally shook the government from its lethargic handling of the menace.

Soon after, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan came up with an outline of a national security policy. He took notice of the public criticism of delay in forging the counter-terrorism plan. Making a proper security policy, he said, would take time. It was not a child’s play.

The national security policy, he maintained, would have the components of internal security and matters relating to strategic and external factors. A revamped National Counter-Terrorism Authority would deal with internal security. There also will be a central joint intelligence secretariat. It will rapidly analyse and review intelligence reports for action without delay.

Further, there will be a counter-terrorism rapid deployment force, initially, with manpower of 500. It will be well-equipped with the latest technology, including helicopters with infrared night vision capability. The security plan will also have segments dealing specifically with the situations in Quetta and Karachi.

The Interior Minister Nisar observed: “The war against terror was thrust on us by a dictator, but now it had become our war.”

He said that the security policy will be placed before a multi-party conference for approval: “We will leave it to the political parties to decide whether we should hold talks with militants, use force against them, or adopt a mix of tact and might.” His statement on security policy has been widely appreciated.

The policy, however, falls short of a clear-cut decision as to how to deal with the TTP and other extremists.

The question is: when the conference is held, will there be consensus amongst all the parties on the approach to be followed? The Army Chief’s views are already known. The thinking of religious parties may not be in line with some others. Chaudhry Nisar says that the decision as to whether preference would be for a dialogue or an “all-out war” would be taken by the political leaders. But what will happen if there is no consensus? What if Imran does not attend the meeting?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his Independence Day speech on Wednesday vowed to defeat terrorist forces and turn Pakistan into a cradle of peace with the support of people and the cooperation of army. He said: “We are in high spirits and will defeat the terrorists with full cooperation of the army as well as other security institutions.” Will it not be advisable for him to take the initiative to come to a clear decision availing of the authority he now possesses because of the people’s mandate? He may hold consultations with the Army Chief and some of the national political leaders.

The Prime Minister must ensure that the final policy, plan, and strategy are available for implementation by the second week of September.

One more thing: the policy, strategy, mechanisms, and SOPs (also providing for strengthening and modernising law enforcement agencies and, in particular, the police) should have an implementation plan that will include national monitoring and review, with review reports placed before the cabinet, twice a month. 

What makes the job of managing and ultimately eliminating terrorism most challenging are the inbuilt, convoluted complexities. It is not merely a question of dealing with the Afghan and Pakhtun militant elements. There are other local operators and foreigners as also religious extremist militant groups. Not to be forgotten is the fact that there are still close to two million Afghan refugees, some of whom are lured to join the ranks of militants on promise of payments. Then there are foreign agencies, like Blackwater and CIA contractors. There is further the probability of Indian involvement in the militancy in Pakistan.

There is further need for governments - federal, provincial, and local - to follow up the military operations and rebuild a new effective administrative system in Fata and some other areas.

Our two immediate neighbours on our east and west are by no means friendly. Both are in a relation of partnership and enjoy the patronage of the most powerful state in the world. Despite its nuclear assets, Pakistan has been reduced to a divided, weak, badly-managed, and insecure country. Without the restoration of law and order, it will go on deteriorating. The first and most urgent task is to get rid of the menace of terrorism, which has been threatening its very existence?

    The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a political and international relations analyst.