Islamabad - Speakers at a conference on the National Action Plan on Counterterrorism while expressing concern over the slow-paced execution of the policy called on the government to ensure its effective implementation.

The one-day conference on ‘National Action Plan: Policy to Practice’ was jointly organised on Wednesday by the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and German Foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) to  review the progress on implementation of the National Action Plan on Counterterrorism.

The speakers deliberated on the prevailing security situation in the country and the contours of the counterterrorism strategy that was put in place after the Army Public School Peshawar tragedy.

Chairman Senate Committee on Human Right Senator Afrasiab Khattak while emphasizing on the implementation aspect said that the problem has already been diagnosed and the treatment prescribed. “But still we require solid steps,” he said and pointed out that banned organizations were still active and little action had been taken against hate speech.

“I can’t understand why the government was hesitant in acting against them,” he added. The senator noted that the action against terrorism required the support of the entire nation.

President CPGS Senator Sehar Kamran said, “The provisions of NAP point towards a remedy that lies ahead. However, its implementation needs strategic vision and farsightedness. The unity achieved in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre needs to be strengthened further by aiming for the long term, all comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the problems.”

The consensus that has emerged after December 16 tragedy was unprecedented and needed to be built upon, she said and added that there was no space for extremism and violence in Pakistan.

Former defense secretary Lt Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik, speaking on this occasion, said that the only cure to the problem lies in governance. He said there was lot of focus on TTP terrorism, but virtually blind eye was being turned to sectarianism and other problems including Karachi.

Gen Malik said strong national will was also required to defeat terrorism. He suggested various steps that the government needed to undertake for effective implementation of its counterterrorism plan, which included reforms in the police, mosque, seminaries and curriculum; steps for economic revival, ending corruption, ensuring justice and providing education and health services.

Manzar Zaidi, a former director at NACTA, said National Action Plan was important milestone in the counter-terrorism history of Pakistan even though the measures agreed under it were not new. “The NAP postulates were envisaged earlier under NISP and also existed in previous policies and laws,” he recalled adding that one could hope that they are implemented this time. Apart from the civil-military relations, he observed, it was important to look into the civil-military organizational capacity imbalance because civilian institutions have on number of occasions failed to step up to the plate.

Zaidi said it was important that police and law enforcement organizations had functional research wings. He remarked that National Police Bureau and R&D departments of Police were dysfunctional. The National Public Safety Commission, he further said, wasn’t allowed to take shape either. He observed that it was more important to implement the policies and laws instead of creating new institutions. “It’s important to build the capacity of Anti-Terrorist Courts that have existed for 18 years now,” he said while speaking about the creation of military courts for trial of terrorism suspects.

Legal Expert Ahmer Bilal Soofi noted the government’s international commitments to counterterrorism. He observed that the political and military leadership had on several occasions stated that the country was in a state of war. This, he underscored, had legal implications. The confusion in the country, Soofi opined, was because of the absence of a clear distinction between the law of peace and law of war in the domestic context. The recently enacted 21st amendment, he believed, also fell in the basket of law of war framework.

Dr Nazir Hussain of Quaid-e-Azam University mentioned the inadequate progress on the implementation of National Action Plan on counter-terrorism. He suggested a 3 month National Security emergency in the country; putting NAP implementation under one command; and indiscriminate action against all terrorist groups.

Maj Gen Noel Khokhar, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis at the National Defense University, in his concluding remarks said the attack on Army Public School Peshawar was a defining moment that produced extraordinary consensus against terrorism in the country. Gen Khokhar underlined the need for continued policies that could ensure consistent action against militant groups so that the menace could be eliminated from the country.

Senior PPP leader and former federal minister Naveed Qamar regretted that lot of uniformed debate on the critical issue of counter-terrorism was taking place in the media and even in the parliament. He hoped that this fight against terrorism is taken to a logical conclusion so that tragedies like APS Peshawar do not happen again.