Col (R) Shuja Khanzada, the gallant son of the soil, has embraced Shahadat while fighting against the enemies of the Motherland. Indeed the entire nation is proud of these bravest Pakistanis who are rendering supreme sacrifices to secure a better future for this country. Being the Home Minister of Punjab, he was the focal person for all counter-terror operations carried out by the law enforcing agencies in the largest province in the country. In this capacity, he has rendered many valuable services to eliminate terrorism in the province. He was best known for his courageous and uncompromising stance against the militancy and sectarianism in the province. He was also appreciated for providing a foolproof security to visiting Zimbabwe cricket team during its stay in Lahore in May this year.

The soldier-turned-politician has also been very vocal against the alleged negative role played by the Indian Intelligence agency RAW in destabilizing Pakistan for a long time. Feeling insecure, the terrorists must have chosen to target him to remove a potential threat to their very existence in the province. After the killing of high-profile sectarian terrorist like Malik Ishaq in a police encounter last month, he was facing serious life threats. However, the easw with which two attackers approached and attacked the top person, who was responsible for the entire internal security of the province, has raised many eyebrows. Obviously the quality of security provided to him was necessarily poor and unsatisfactory. Reportedly, the Elite Force Squad, meant for his security, was not accompanying with him at the time of blast.

Although Pakistan Army has broken the backbone of militancy by launching a decisive onslaught on the miscreants in the form of Operation Zarb-e-Azb last year, yet a lot of things remain to be done to completely curb this menace in the country. After unfortunate APS Peshawar carnage last year, an extensive 20 points National Action Plan was devised to effectively curb terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. In this plan, the government vowed to take certain administrative measures ranging from strengthening the NACTA to the establishment of the military courts and a special counter-terrorism force. This plan also includes some strict actions against militant outfits and armed gangs like freezing their funding sources and dismantling their communication network. Similarly, the sectarianism and extremism were also decided to be tackled through the effective regulation of the religious seminaries across the country.

Regrettably, the government has failed to play a proactive role to enforce these measures in the country so far. It has failed to improve the state and quality of criminal justice system. It has made no serious endeavour to enforce the much-debated Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 in letter and spirit. As required by this law, it never tried to establish special prosecution agency, special courts and joint investigation teams for conducting speedy trials of the terrorists. Instead, by establishing the Military Courts through 21st constitutional amendment, it conveniently chose to shift the task of court trial of militants to the military too. In fact, these military courts have given rise to many legal controversies in the country.

As a matter of fact, the NAP, by and large, contains certain counter-terror measures that necessarily relate to the basic and ordinary functions of the police. At present, comprising some more than 1,400 police stations across the country, there exists an extensive law-enforcement network in Pakistan. We should have seriously evaluated the option to utilize this network for the enforcement of some important points of NAP. For this purpose, first of all, we have to improve the institutional capacity of our police force. The ongoing military operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan have somehow achieved their desired objectives by significantly eliminating the terrorist elements in these areas. Now the civil armed forces and law enforcement agencies are supposed to effectively perform their role in consolidating the writ of the state in these areas as well as other parts of the country. At this stage, the role of civil armed forces and LEA’s is all important.

In order to effectively eradicate the dengue epidemic, the Punjab government has launched an extensive anti-dengue program in the province. For this purpose, well-equipped control rooms have been set up under the direct supervision of District Coordination officers (DCO’s) to oversee and coordinate anti-dengue actions in each district across the province. On the other hand, we have hardly observed any significant arrangement of this level made by the provincial government for the enforcement of measures pledged in the National Action Plan. Ironically, the government feels the dengue a far greater threat than the terrorism in the province. Had the government treated the issue of terrorism at par with the epidemic of dengue, there would have better security situation at least in this province.

The so-called external dimension of the phenomenon of terrorism in the country also needs serious consideration. When Pak Army launched a crackdown on the miscreants in North Waziristan last year, a large number of prominent commanders of TTP, including its chief Maulvi Fazlullah, fled to neighbouring areas of Afghanistan. Ever since, they are enjoying a sort of safe heaven there. Now they are planning various terrorist attacks in Pakistan from the very soil of Afghanistan. Despite the fact the security forces of Pakistan have destroyed all the known sanctuaries of militants in the country, the Afghan government is constantly criticizing Pakistan for not taking strict measures against these militants. Pakistan must also ask the Afghan government to either kill or hand over these high-profile TTP commanders.

Besides this, for a long time, fingers have been pointed at Indian intelligence agency RAW for its involvement in various terrorist activities in Pakistan. Pakistan should devise a proactive strategy to counter nefarious designs of this hostile agency. Recently, India has approached the UN calling for action against Pakistan over the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, an alleged mastermind 2008 Mumbai Attacks. Pakistan has also long been planning to raise the issue of Indian interference in the country on international forums, namely the UN. However, this plan has not materialised owing to usual inaction and lack of resolution on the part of government.

Besides the ruling political party, the opposition political parties have also been retaining a soft corner for the militants in the country. They have been propagating the negotiations as the only important instrument to bring peace in Pakistan. This is the reason they have never condemned these militants in absolute terms. In the event of death of Col (R) Shuja Khanzada in a suicide attack, the PTI chairman readily announced his decision not to contest election on this provincial seat in the next by-elections. However positive, this announcement was quite inappropriate and uncalled for. The leader of a large political party was being expected to make a better statement showing our undeterred resolve to fight against militancy and extremism in the country. Sadly, the ‘protagonist of change’ is quite unable to think anything beyond elections and electoral rigging. The current apathetic attitude exhibited by our political leaders vis-à-vis the challenge of counter-terrorism will not help us win this war for good.