The killing of innocent citizens in Quetta, mostly lawyers, has reminded the nation that (despite military successes in Zarb-e-Azb) Pakistan’s overall counter-terrorism efforts continue to be inadequate. In the immediate aftermath of Quetta killings, while our political leadership was busy in its customary condolences and verbal condemnation, the top military brass convened an emergency meeting to review the causes behind continuing security lapses in civilian security. After deliberation, without mincing words, the khakis pointed out that the civilian leadership had failed in implementing their portion of the National Action Plan (NAP), thus causing a damning shadow on the overall counter-terrorism efforts across the country.

Caught with pants down, the civilian leadership had no choice to react, in some tangible manner, to this observation by the military brass. After some haggling, it was decided that a high-powered committee to monitor and unsure implementation of the NAP would be set up, under the leadership of Lt. General (Rtd.) Nasser Khan Janjua, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister.

All this sounds fine and dandy; but will it fix the NAP implementation problem? Is a committee all that was required for a complete implementation of NAP? There are already some fifteen different committees (mostly under the auspicious of the Interior Minister) responsible for implantation of different aspects of NAP; why were those committees not sufficient? And what should this new high-powered committee do, in order to ensure a successful implementation of the NAP? Should it start with focusing on countering foreign threats such as the RAW or the Afghan militancy? Or is there a deeper problem within Pakistan, which needs our immediate and deliberate attention?

In this regard, while not denying the active and persistent interference of RAW into Pakistan’s domestic security matters, we must also recognise that Pakistan faces a homegrown threat of terrorism and violent extremists. And this internal threat – the enemy within – requires an immediate and concerted focus, if we are to implement NAP in letter and spirit.

We would do well to remember that, in the aftermath of the tragic events of Army Public School Peshawar, and the resulting All Parties Conference, our political leadership had sung its own praises about having forged a new ‘national consensus’ for eradicating extremism from our society. However, successes of Zarb-e-Azb aside, a closer look at our society would reveal that extremism (in all its forms), is still alive and kicking in Pakistan.

The malady of violence that inflicts our nation is deeper and more perverse than a localised cancer in just a few pockets of the country. The poison, as a result of three decades of duplicitous policies, has seeped into our societal bloodstream, and infects the entire national corpus. And, therefore, the treatment of this poisonous cancer cannot be restricted to a localised surgical operation; we need a counter-terrorism strategy that will confront and eliminate extremism in every street, corner, or mosque across our land.

Such a counter terrorism strategy cannot be restricted to merely the legislative, administrative or military domain. There is no policy document that we can write, no legislative instrument that we can enact, no administrative step that we can take, which will, in itself, be sufficient to quarantine our society from intolerance and bloodshed. Because the menace of extremism does not stem from our laws or policies: it emanates itself from a cultural ideology that views disagreement as animosity, and meets dissent with disdain. It is a culture that teaches us to confront fellow citizens as enemies – not to be met with cooperation, but instead with conquest. Not to be befriended, but instead to be subjugated and mastered.

Before any of us fold our arms and shake our heads in disagreement, believing that we (as individuals) do not ascribe to this culture or associate with such individuals, let us pause for a moment and observe the larger print on our national fabric.

While most of us (hopefully!) oppose Mumtaz Qadri and his actions, he was buried under one of the largest public gathering over the recent years, including several politico-legal personalities who continue to command ‘respect’ and ‘honor’ in our society. While groups such as Sipah-e-Sahiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are banned in our laws, we still make space for their sympathisers on our talk shows and political rallies. Even as we raise slogans for a peaceful and progressive country, even as we abhor the fanatical molvi who leads the Jumma prayer in our local mosque, we continue to tolerate his fiefdom at the corner of our street, just so long as he does not come barging into our homes.

This, and much more, is the real counter terrorism challenge in our country. Of course, we have the military might to overpower the rebels near Afghan border; of course we have the administrative muscle to hang those who have been convicted by our Courts; of course we have the legislative competence to enact laws that create special courts, or ban militant outfits. But all of it will just be for show unless we confront the enemy that resides in our streets and towns. No condemnation of the Quetta attack would amount to much change, till such time that Maulana Abdul Aziz continues to enjoy his dominion over Lal Masjid. No political consensus or resolve would be of any use, so long as we continue to donate five rupees to the Jamat-ud-Dawa charity box outside Namaz-e-Eid. And no JIT report would bear any fruit, until we continue to tolerate political leaderships that defend target killers in Karachi.

It is time that the civilian government came to the realisation that forming committees, alone, will not stop the rot of terror. We will have to aggressively confront the evil that resides amongst us.

If the eternal promise of good prevailing over evil, in the final analysis, is true (which it must be); if one day we will all find ourselves face to face with our Creator, and be confronted with unadulterated truth (which we certainly will); if eternity, at the death of stars, will require each of us to account for our time on this planet (which it inescapably will); then it will be no justification to say that we looked the other way. That we knew who the enemy was, and still welcomed it in our lives. That we did not kill, but only tolerated the murderer. That we did not become evil, only transacted with it.

Fixing this hypocrisy, and confronting the enemy within, is the only counter terrorism strategy that can hem the rot in our national fabric.