Remembering the martyrs of APS Peshawar on their first anniversary on December 16 generated a lot of talk about fighting terrorism. Ceremonies and functions were held throughout the country to express grief over the tragedy and also to show resolve for not letting it happen again. The main program held in Peshawar, in which top political and military leadership of the country participated, remained the focus of attention for obvious reasons. Electronic media broadcasted special programs on this occasion. Most of political and military leaders indulged in high rhetoric while reiterating the determination of the country to defeat terrorism. Most of the opinions expressed in the mainstream media and social media by different segments of population clearly underlined the fact that people by and large remained unimpressed by the high sounding statements of the state leaders. And it was not difficult to find out the reason for this large scale skepticism; there was no honest and frank stock-taking of Pakistani state’s performance in fight against terrorism over the last one year. This glaring omission inevitably reminds people of prolonged duplicity in state policies in regard to terrorism in the past and they tend to develop doubts about the current positions.

 On December 16, the logical thing for the Prime Minister would have been to address the people of the country and take them into confidence about the implementation of the twenty points National Action Plan (NAP) approved by an All Parties Conference last year immediately after terrorist attack on APS Peshawar. It did not happen because unfortunately the Prime Minister did not have much to report to the people of Pakistan. Apart from amending the constitution of the country in an unholy haste and creating military courts there has been very little in terms of implementation of NAP. Crucial points such as registering and reforming religious seminaries, introducing reforms in FATA, disallowing proscribed organizations to function under other names and taking action against extremist militant organizations in the Punjab remain unimplemented. So how are we going to eliminate terrorism without taking effective action against it according to a national plan that has been approved and politically owned by the entire country?

 As we know, terrorism penetrated our body politics during the peak of the Cold War. It got particularly strengthened during the Afghan war against the former Soviet Union when billions of dollars went into privatized Jihad against communism by “non state” actors. After the collapse of the Soviet Union western powers disowned these militant outfits but our security establishment continued considering them as “ assets” to be used in national security and foreign policy. After September 11 Pakistan remained in denial about the existence of terror problem in the country for quite some time. General Musharraf’s famous u-turn proved to be a double u-turn as extremist militancy expanded and flourished under the cover of “enlightened moderation”. Even when Pakistan was forced under international pressure to grudgingly accept the existence of terror problem, distinction between “good” and “bad” Taliban came handy to justify state patronage of certain extremist militant groups. The devastating blowback of this bankrupt policy is too well known to be described here in any length.

The terrorist attack on APS Peshawar on December 16, 2014 was regarded as the 9/11 of Pakistan. The new anti-terror strategy was named as National Action Plan because the ruling elites realized that people of the country were sick of empty rhetorics and they wanted action. But did NAP lead to action? The objective and realistic answer to this question would be, yes, there has been some action but certainly not the type of action that was expected. Official lists of 72 proscribed organizations were shown on TV talk shows on December 16. It was revealed that none of these proscribed organizations has been stopped from functioning under a new name. The existence of Quetta Shura of Afghan Taliban is an open secret. Pakistan is not in a position of even a plausible deniability about the activities of Afghan Taliban from Pakistani soil. The government did not feel it necessary to explain a statement by defense minister Khawaja Asif in which he stated that his government would talk to Afghan Taliban about the security of TAPI gas pipeline. So sourcing out security of strategic economic projects to non-state militant organizations remain a state policy. And then our government leaders demand that Afghan leaders should believe the pious noises emanating from Islamabad in regard to anti terror struggle.

 What is demoralizing for the people of the country is the lack of courage on the part of leadership to take responsibility for the present situation. In the All Parties Conference held on March 24, 2014 all political forces in the country not only gave full mandate to the government but also provided it with a roadmap to act against terrorism. It is confusing for the people when different state institutions shift responsibility to each other for the lack of implementation of NAP. In their off the record expressions political leadership of the government hint at the Afghan and India policy of the security establishment for being a hindrance in taking action against certain militant organizations. On the other hand military commanders have publicly registered their reservations about the gaps in the governance system that have not let the fight against terrorism to reach its logical conclusion. In other parliamentary democracies elected political leadership take national problems for a thread bare discussion in the parliament to seek guidance from collective wisdom. But PML-N is unfortunately well known for putting its back on the parliament and in the process weakening its grip on power.

 Be that as it may the country can’t indefinitely afford this situation to exist. There are two important reasons. One, the country and the region require security for the geo economic being launched in a big way. Two, after Al Qaeda and Taliban, the footprint of IS, the latest edition of international terrorism, is menacingly visible.

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