The ultimate inhumanity enacted at Lahore on Monday that claimed 17 precious lives including senior police officers and caused serious injuries to ninety people has surely sent a wave of indignation and anxiety among the masses and no words are enough to condemn it. Our security forces, intelligence agencies and law enforcement entities, enjoying an unqualified backing of the government and the people, may have broken the back of the terrorists and sent them on the run, but the recurrence of sporadic incidents of terrorism like the one at Lahore testify to the fact that they are still capable of defying the writ of the state and enacting their heinous crimes. The lamentable reality is that the nation might have to brace for similar attacks till the time the entire cadres of the terrorist entities and Jihadi organisations are decimated and a befitting and effective counter-narrative to their dogma is evolved. It is a long drawn out war as is evident from the history of countries which had to go through similar experiences. There is no quick-fix solution to this scourge.

The phenomenon of terrorism in Pakistan has both internal and external dimensions that present a very formidable and convoluted challenge to the state and the government. There is however no denying the fact that the present government and the security establishment have shown an unswerving commitment to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country as manifested through operation Zarb-e-Azb and the implementation of NAP. While operation Zarb-e-Azb has dismantled the entire infrastructure of the terrorists in North Waziristan and created space for action against the sleeping cells of the terrorists and their supporters, the implementation of NAP, though a bit slow due to sensitive aspects of some of its elements, has also achieved considerable success, in apprehending the terrorist elements through intelligence based operations, the details of which have occasionally been released to the media by the relevant agencies. The successes of the government and security agencies in tackling terrorism can be gauged from the fact that there has been more than an 80% decrease in the terrorist attacks since 2013. There were 75 major terrorist attacks in 2013 when the present government assumed power. The figure came down to 16 in the year 2016.

But it is regrettable that whenever an incident of terrorism occurs, the government and the security and law enforcing agencies are subjected to unwarranted opprobrium by the media and political opponents of the government who unfortunately try to play politics over such human tragedies. The coverage of such incidents by the media also leaves much to be desired. In their enthusiasm to improve their ratings and leaving behind their rivals, bizarre interpretations are given to the incidents and truth becomes a casualty of its impulsive streak to lay more emphasis on the negatives. Dealing with a phenomenon like terrorism demands complete national unity and resolve by all the stakeholders. Trying to denigrate the government and the state institutions instead of acknowledging their proven achievements is surely tantamount to disservice to the country. The media being the fourth pillar of the state and a representative of the society owes greater responsibility in lifting the morale of the nation.

Our politicians also have to show sense of responsibility by expressing solidarity with the government and the security agencies by backing their efforts to deal with the existentialist threat that terrorism poses to the country instead of invariably grilling the government over the implementation of NAP without acknowledging the successes achieved through it and understanding the sensitivities involved in certain aspects of its implementation. The debate in the opposition dominated Senate on implementation of NAP and what was said by some senators is indeed very regrettable. The senators launched scathing criticism over the alleged inability of the government to implement certain points of the plan and allowing the banned organisations to work freely. A senator even went to the extent of saying that until the state abandoned its policy of favouring some militant groups targeting countries in the region and curbed the hate speech, the fight against militancy would remain elusive. To put it into nutshell, what the senator said was that the state was still supporting the militants who attacked neighbouring countries. This is the charge that India and other countries including US level against Pakistan, notwithstanding the fact that the government and the security establishment have shown zero tolerance against all militant and terrorist outfits. When your own legislators are hell-bent to go so far as to undermine the national interests by endorsing the narrative of the enemies of the country, how can Pakistan amicably defend its position at the international level? Perhaps our politicians and legislators do not understand the implications of such indiscretions.

The critics of the government who find it convenient to have a swipe at it with regard to the activities of the banned outfits and its leaders, must not forget that most of them who were involved in the terrorists acts or masterminding them like the attack on the Sri Lankan team were released by the courts for lack of sufficient evidence against them, which is a dilemma that the government is facing. It was in the backdrop of this sordid reality that the need for the establishment of military courts to deal with cases of terrorism was felt. Another very pertinent and sensitive dimension in regards to dealing with religious militancy is that entities like JUD have a wide spread support in the country as was evident from the protest rallies in Lahore and across the country over the detention of JuD leaders including Hafiz Saeed. Similarly other religious militant organisations have a strong support base. That makes the job of the government and the security agencies quite difficult. But it is wrong to suggest that the government was not serious about the implementation of NAP points pertaining to dealing with seminaries and the proscribed organisations. Honestly there is no lack of commitment and will either on part of the government or our security and law enforcement agencies. It is also wrong to suggest that the state and the government have been dilly-dallying over the inevitable owing to the vested interests of various institutions.

There is a need to see things from a realistic perspective by the politicians, media and other detractors of the government and the security agencies. They must not forget that even the countries like US who have the best intelligence network and the prowess to deal with any eventuality, failed to prevent 9/11. The recent spate of terrorist attacks in European countries, particularly France are strong pointers to this painful reality. We are up against an invisible enemy who enjoys the advantage of surprise and unpredictability.


n             The writer is a freelance columnist.