Needless to emphasize, that Pakistan ever since joining the world community as a front line state in the war against terror, has suffered the most in terms of men and material as compared to any other country that has been a victim of this despicable global phenomenon. The terrorists have been targeting military installations, pipelines, Railways, airports, police stations, mosques, churches, religious shrines and even the cities. According to estimates more than sixty thousand people including personnel of the security establishment, law enforcing agencies and private citizens have been killed in terrorism related incidents. The country has also sustained financial losses to the tune of more than $100 billion, shared by all the provinces in varying degrees. The image of the country has also been tarnished globally besides bringing bad name to the great religion of Islam, which these renegade elements have been exploiting to justify their blood-game.

But regrettably, no cohesive and comprehensive policy was orchestrated to fight the menace of terrorism and religious extremism which posed an existentialist threat to the country. Though military actions was taken against the terrorists in Swat, South Waziristan and Malakand but the overall response has been reactive in nature and for some inexplicable reasons North Waziristan, which was the fortress of the terrorist outfits was not touched with the result that the terrorists continued to plan and execute their terrorist acts throughout the country.

The tipping point came when the terrorists attacked Karachi airport and a decisive military action against the terrorists in North Waziristan was launched in June 2014. And when the terrorists as a retaliatory measure attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar killing more than 150 innocent children and teachers, the government immediately swung into action and with the consensus of all the political forces and the military establishment a comprehensive National Action Plan (NAP) was devised to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and religious extremists from the country. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has achieved tremendous success. Almost the entire infrastructure of the terrorist outfits in North Waziristan has been dismantled and more than ninety per cent of the area cleared of the terrorists. This has created space for successful implementation of NAP and action against the terrorist elements, their supporters and abettors and their sleeping cells throughout the country.

The major elements of the 20-point NAP were establishment of military courts, countering hate speech, choking financing for terrorist organisations, registration and regulation of seminaries, ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media, execution of convicted terrorists, not allowing the proscribed outfits and armed group to function in the country, administrative reforms in FATA, taking the Karachi operation to its logical end, dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists, zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab and empowering Balochistan government for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.

It would perhaps be pertinent to recount the achievements of the NAP during the last ten months to see how it has gone in meeting its objectives and supplementing the operation Zarb-e-Azb. The government lost no time in initiating implementation of the NAP. To provide for the establishment of military courts for two years an amendment was made in the constitution. Moratorium on execution of the convicted terrorists and murderers was lifted and they are being executed on daily basis after meeting the legal formalities. Karachi operation is being carried out with unruffled commitment and the Rangers have been given full powers in this regard which has led to considerable reduction in the incidents of terrorism, target killings and extortions. Balochistan is fast returning to normalcy and the process of reconciliation with the estranged Baloch leaders and bringing them back into the national mainstream is well on course. A five-member committee has also been formed to initiate the process of reforms in FATA.

The action on other elements of NAP is also being carried out simultaneously. According to the verifiable record, security forces have carried out 54,376 search operations so far resulting in 60,420 arrests; 3,019 intelligence based operations have been carried out; law enforcement agencies have sealed 102 seminaries for fanning extremism and funds of the proscribed militant groups to the tune of Rs.1 billion have been frozen; 87 seminaries in Sind, 13 in Khyber PakhtunKhawa and two in Punjab having links with banned groups have been banned; the state bank has frozen 126 accounts of proscribed organisations; law enforcement agencies have recovered Rs.251.2 million in cash which was being traded through Hawala and Hundi; in regards to hate speech 1,961 suspects have been arrested and 1,893 cases filed against clerics out of which 271 have been convicted while 826 cases are still pending before special courts; government has biometrically verified 97.7 million SIMs and 5.1 million SIMs have been blocked within three months; police in Punjab has conducted 33772 combing operations during the last ten months and 5549 cases have been registered and 24436 suspected criminal were arrested; the Counter Terrorism Department arrested 40 hardcore activists and 547 cases were registered for publication of hate material; there has been a 27% decrease in crime rate in Punjab during this period and the government has effectively checked glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations by print and electronic media through administrative measures and cooperation of the media itself.

To review and monitor the progress on the implementation of NAP apex committees have been constituted in the provinces which also include high-ups of Security establishment and Rangers. The Prime Minister personally supervises a special committee for the implementation of the NAP to ensure that the plan stays on course and there is no slackness on the part of the government machinery in regards to achieving its objectives.

As is evident from the foregoing facts the progress on the implementation of NAP has been quite satisfactory in regards to the major areas of concern, contrary to the impression being given by certain circles. There is no dearth of commitment and sincerity on the part of the government. Yes in certain areas due to the religious, cultural and social sensitivities as well as some legal impediments the progress has not been as rapid as one would have liked it to be. What is needed to be understood is that terrorism and religious extremism is a well entrenched phenomenon which has widely penetrated into our social fiber with all its complexities. It cannot be eliminated with the push of a button. Apart from the military and law enforcing aspects we are also confronted with the ideological challenges which take time to be tackled. The example of countries who went through the similar experiences in the recent past is before us. It took Sri Lanka and Italy more than two decades to subdue the phenomenon. Our situation is more complex than theirs as it also has foreign dimensions to it. It needs sustained and committed efforts by all state institutions as well as the society over a long period of time to get rid of the phenomenon of terrorism and religious extremism.