The 20-point National Action Plan adopted with the unanimous support of the political forces represented in the parliament and backed by the military establishment, apart from dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism with full might of the state, also includes registration and regulation of Seminaries and choking sources of finances for the terrorist organizations. It represented a national consensus on the proposition that terrorism did have proven links with some religious schools which needed to be brought under the government scrutiny and the imperative of drying up the sources of funding for the terrorist acts.

There are more than 13000 seminaries in Pakistan where according to reliable sources 1.8 million students are enrolled. According to same sources, 97% of these religious schools are privately run. Let me at the outset say it unequivocally, that it would be wrong to assume that all of them are involved or have links with the terrorist organization. Only 3% of them have proven links with the terrorists. Among the rest quite a few endorse and support the dogmas being propagated by the terrorist outfits and a good number of them are also engaged in fanning sectarianism in the country through indoctrination of the young minds, particularly those run by Deobandies who consider Shias as non-Muslims. But a large number of them are decidedly doing a great service to the community from the religious as well as economic perspective and deserve due acknowledgment.

The scourge of terrorism and sectarianism, the ugliest manifestation of religious extremism, pose an existentialist threat to Pakistan and as such it is the duty of the state to take appropriate measures to check the proponents of these destructive philosophies in their tracks. The military and administrative measures envisaged in the plan and already on the roll, though have produced some very encouraging results but they need to be supplemented through scuttling the ability of these entities to carry on with their nefarious designs, by cutting off their money lines. That necessitates the need to register and regulate all the seminaries with a view to know their sources of funding, bringing them into the national mainstream of the education system and sifting chaff from the grain.

There is no doubt about the fact that the terrorist outfits use clandestine methods to raise fund to finance their activities. In certain cases terrorism is also a state-sponsored phenomenon as is being produced by India in Balochistan and other parts of the country through certain entities operating under the umbrella of TTP. But the fact remains that the major chunk of these funds is collected through donations and charities by exploiting the religious beliefs of the faithful in regards to their religious obligations like Fitrana and Zakat. Hides and skins collected on the eve of Eid-ul-Azhaas well as donations solicited from philanthropist elements on the pretext of building mosques and other religious and charitable causes, are also one of the major source of raising money. These religious outfits and seminaries also send out representatives to other countries, especially the Gulf States, African countries and even Europe. The money thus collected is transferred to Pakistan through illegitimate and illegal means to keep the whole thing under wraps. It is believed that billions of rupees are collected through these mechanisms, with the unsuspected donors and philanthropists being unaware of the fact that they were funding the anti-state activities and writing the death warrants of the innocent citizens who become the victims of acts of terrorism and religious extremism.

In view of the foregoing facts, the success of the initiative to squeeze the finances raised by the terrorists, not only administrative and legal measures are required at the level of the government but there is also an inescapable need to create awareness among the masses about the tactics of the terrorist organizations for collecting money as well as to guide them in regards to safe charity. No initiative of the government can succeed without the support and cooperation of the masses. The government on its part has taken a commendable initiative in this regard by creating a counter terrorism research and communication unit known as Pakistan Peace Collective (PPC) charged with the task to develop narratives to counter skewed ideologies of the terrorists and developing media campaigns based on research to promote safer charity with the help of the government and international organizations. The declared objective is to enhance public backing of the government efforts and to bolster resilience against extremism and violence in Pakistan.

Fight against terrorism and religious extremism is a national cause and all segments of the society must be sensitized about the need to use their utmost discretion while donating to the charities by making sure that they give their money only to well reputed charity organizations having impeccable credentials in regards to working for their declared objectives. To accomplish this task in a desired manner the cooperation and involvement of media for this national cause is utmost necessary. The media being a medium of mass communication and an effective catalyst in changing perceptions can certainly play a crucial role in guiding the people on the sensitivities involved and the role that the people are supposed to play in getting the country out of the quagmire that it is stuck into. The media channels and the print media can develop their own specific strategies either utilizing the research studies conducted by the PPC or based on their own reservoir of knowledge about the phenomenon. This is the area where media and government can work hand in hand for a common national cause. The media can and should organize programmes highlighting how the charity has been misused by the banned organizations. Discussions on safe charity with the involvement of Ulemas, NGOs, and political leaders may also be a preferred initiative during the month of Ramadan which is the charity giving month.

The issue of envisaged registration and regulation of the seminaries, misconstrued by the politico-religious parties and Wfaq-ul-Madars as interference in the seminaries also needs to be adequately addressed by the media by highlighting the benefits that will accrue to the students of these seminaries and the contribution that this move will make in tackling terrorism in the country. Majority of the seminaries who are neither involved in terrorism nor support it need not to worry about the initiative. They should rather come forward to help the government in developing a counter narrative to the dogmas being propagated by the terrorist and religious extremist outfits. Security and integrity of the country takes precedence over all other considerations.