The war on terror, already in its second decade, has shown significant military success and is moving fast to the logical end of its military component. Other than the military and material losses, the malaise of extremism in our society has caused tremendous psychological and social damage to our people and the country. Terrorist actions are partially an outcome of extremist thinking, besides being sponsored by our enemies from within and without. Extremism is a direct outcome of illiteracy, poverty and injustice. Out of these three factors, probably injustice is the root cause.

Now the present situation is a complicated makeup of our own follies at state and government levels, natural exploitation by our enemies and the society’s apathy towards understanding the situation and providing a helping hand to the government. We are in a mess and military operations alone can never overcome this great catastrophe that has befallen us. Though I hate to say it, but the leadership must understand that the morale is an expendable commodity, as a continuous stretch may give way to national fatigue and loss of stamina. If we start on the corrective path today, even then it may take ten to fifteen years before our children would see semblance of peace and tranquility in our beloved country.

I am not proposing that nothing has been done so far nor do I profess that all that is being done is in vain. On the contrary, my thesis suggests that not enough is being done and not in all the areas where it is required. Time is running short, terrorists at international level are networking, getting stronger and devouring on the flesh and blood of weak societies, governed by myopic and self-serving elites, be in the name of democracies, kingdoms or military juntas. All places void of justice, education and equal opportunities will be natural grazing grounds for extremism, terrorism and enemies.

We suffer from all possible social and governance related inadequacies, consequently all types of vertical and horizontal disintegration. If it was not for the valor, sacrifices and dedication of our armed forces, game would have been over, a long time back. But this non comprehensive approach cannot go on. Hopefully situation is still retrievable, provided we act immediately with combined efforts of government, military, media, judiciary and civil society at large. We need to combine the efforts of all those sincere elements of the society, who agree with this assessment and the remedies. For some time, though it may not sound very democratic, the detractors and the pessimists will have to be kept suppressed.

In my view, effort should be made to reorganize the country and society into smaller, manageable and governable entities. Without going into research and trying to build consensus, all erstwhile divisions be declared as provinces with fully responsible and accountable governors. Strong local bodies at the district and tehsil levels should ensure law and order along with municipal functions. There should be minimum constitutional changes to enable all these steps to be made rapidly. Village and mohallah committees shall be formally organised headed by responsible and accountable entities. All the bureaucratic systems shall have no political interference except for the governors and ministers for issuing policies and assemblies for making laws. Institutions should be given independence in selection, promotions, and postings on the lines of armed forces. All implementation should be done through selecting old and some fresh civil servants, police, Rangers and armed forces.

Religions and sects shouldtake out from politics as these are nothing more than exploitative tools. No political parties should be allowed to use word “Islam”, or any other word depicting any religion, cult, sect or tribe. Anyone introducing merit, education, equal opportunities and justice will be rendering great services to any religion and sect. Introducing Nizam e Salah, Zakat, Ushr and Riba free banking can easily be ensured by passing appropriate laws, without creating much fuss. Similarly no political parties must be named after individuals or families as it encourages dynastic politics, which needs to be shunned. Few changes in political act can manage all this, and can be done on priority. Strict implementation of existing election rules and laws can ensure throwing up good leadership. In fact all non-practical rules and laws be modified or quashed.

The above measures can start empowering the individuals and society to establish themselves on solid grounds of knowledge and development, yet the already misguided, corrupted and negatively indoctrinated segments will have to be reformed, fought and some of them exterminated. Thus, our fight against terrorism and extremism continues. It has to be fought at levels of ideology, economy, development and against foreign interference. It would require very active engagement at political level, positive role of media along agreed ideological thrusts, foreign office to ensure aggressive diplomacy and very active role by intelligence agencies to hit those entities who hurt us. Remaining defensive and passive will never work in all these areas and is not an option, not any more.

Religious teachings cannot be left to mullahs who are educated and indoctrinated on sectarian lines. Well read and enlightened scholars from all backgrounds must be asked to agree on common things and no one be allowed to profess anything beyond that, either in mosque, in a gathering or on any media. Those violating, should be severely punished. Laws must be made to severely punish those involved in hate speeches and materials . The state must take charge and control of all mosques and private educational institutions by promulgating appropriate regulations. This cannot be undertaken half-heartedly, where any delays in dealing with such groups and individuals are only making them stronger. ISIS and Daish are no more phony or distant threats. All their support from within the society must be destroyed, and may I suggest it is not an easy task. A well thought out strategy and plan needs to be implemented immediately. Their intentions of turning towards Pakistan should not be taken lightly.

In my humble capacity, I have expressed the outline of the reorientation that is urgently required to win this long haul against existing and emerging threats of extremism and terrorism. Detailed analyses and recommendations regarding education and justice systems have been avoided as numerous studies may already be available on the subject. Services of eminent scholars and practitioners may be acquired for the purpose. But all this needs to be done on priority with a sense of urgency and dedication. All institutions must get rid of the adversarial images of each other, join their strengths and act in unison. Otherwise, God forbid there will be no governments, no judiciary, no media, and armed forces may get involved fighting in cities and villages. Tyranny, bigotry and confusion will keep reigning, ultimately bringing us to a naught. With this weak governance and absence of writ, the dreams of economic corridors, food and energy self-sufficiency, and rising from the abyss of poverty and illiteracy will never be able to see the daylight.

Let us not be under the illusion that we are close to winning the war against terrorism, as enough is not being done to fight this menace. Armed forces alone should not be expected to achieve this, where the entire nation needs to be organized, reoriented and made to participate against a mindset. If the leaders, the institutions, media barons and others keep indulging in point scorings and emphasizing their own superiority, we may get involved in a war of survival along all external and internal fronts.