LAHORE  - Years gone, thousands died and billions destroyed in the war on terror, but the political leadership failed to realise the seriousness of the very “existential threat” posed by militant organisations.

Intelligence and security experts say that both the PPP-led coalition and the ruling PML-N continued point-scoring on the most sensitive security issues during the last six years rather than taking concrete measures to quell extremism from the Pakistani soil. Though these governments introduced a few legislations like Fair Trial Bill and Protection of Pakistan Ordinance to punish the militants but the process of essentially required legislation remains blank and weary.

During the last decade, at least 31 militant outfits including Al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Tehreek-e-Jafaria Pakistan were banned but the authorities failed to keep a proper check on the activities of their activists and leaders.

The governments also failed to de-radicalise such elements. Instead, most of the outfits like SSP, Tehreek-e-Jafaria Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba re-emerged and are still operating under new names.

The interior minister on Wednesday told the National Assembly’s standing committee that Islamabad is the most dangerous city because of “sleeper cells” of the banned TTP, LeJ, and Al-Qaeda. The report also mentioned that the LeJ and TTP were the most dangerous groups in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

“Had they (political leaders) adopted short-term, -medium, and long-term strategies amid a comprehensive intelligence set-up, the situation would have been better. They continued point-scoring for political gains while the insurgency swelled to an alarming level,” said a retired police officer, who served as inspector general of police in Punjab for a couple of years. He said that the politicians even did not take the threat posed by militants as serious as they considered energy crisis that crippled the country’s moribund economy.

Since 2002, at least 5,964 people were killed and 12,379 others wounded in 387 suicide attacks across the country. As a matter of fact, no less than 51,053 persons including 5,590 security personnel and 18,454 civilians were killed in terror attacks apart from 27,009 insurgents. The gravity of the situation is such that Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, warned at a recent seminar in Washington that the militancy posed an existential threat to Pakistan. Since the government-TTP talks have almost collapsed, experts warned a sizeable surge in terror assaults.

A former Intelligence Bureau chief said that even today, some political leaders like Imran Khan are playing politics on security front by stating that military action against the TTP will have 40 percent chances of success.

There are others who totally blame the third force and thus do not accept any responsibility. “The attitude of political leaders is perturbing as they show least seriousness to end violence and eliminate terrorism,” the IB chief believed.

Experts say that political leaders must not politicise the valuable assessments given by top military leadership on the possibility of success of military operation against the TTP. “Out of context references not only ridicule the armed forces but also glorify the Taliban. They are creating more confusion. Hence, the political leaders must exercise prudence in making statements to gain political prominence,” he suggested.

Political analysts say that senior politicians like Raja Zafarul Haq must not evade responsibility on terrorism by putting the entire blame on the third force. The rulers have to accept responsibility to take the country out of terrorism, they insisted.

During background interviews, security experts on the condition of anonymity suggested there is a need to provide balanced guidance to the youth enabling them to follow the correct path, realise their full potential, and make positive contributions for the well-being of the country. Today, one end of social continuum points at extreme liberals who appear to have lost respect for every norm and custom while extremist elements advocate radical philosophies.

As a result, vulgarity demonstrated by liberals leads to offensive disposition while radicals mark their signatures through criminal acts of violence. Society as a whole bears the brunt as repulsive behaviour of liberals brings a sense of shame and guilt while painful bloodshed is caused by extremists and radicals.

Educational institutions need to develop balanced curriculum and guidance system to sublimate the talent of youth towards triumphant and glorious ends. Teachers must act as role models, setting personal examples in every decision-making process. A system should be developed to enhance character-building capacity. Sense of compassion and mental capacity to tolerate dissent should also be inculcated amongst the youth. Such grooming would make them responsible and useful citizens.