As obituaries splashed the media all over the world and condolence messages started pouring in for the Peshawar school carnage, the government sprang into action. Setting aside their political differences, Pakistan’s political leadership vowed to avenge the massacre of 148 people at the Peshawar school and eliminate every single terrorist without discrimination. The Parliamentary committee is in session to formulate an action plan within seven days to eliminate terrorism.
Caution is advised against knee-jerk and unsustainable actions. While speedy trials are in order, news of the setting up of military courts is worrisome. Likewise, the KPK government’s decision to expel all Afghan refugees within a month is neither tenable nor practicable.
Lifting the ban on executions is the right step, and national sentiment supports this. However, there is a need for a consensus based definition of the term “terrorism” lest this term is misused to settle other scores, such as blasphemy cases. We are not short of laws and types of courts; the malaise resides in rampant corruption in the lower judiciary, and weaknesses in prosecution and evidence gathering procedures. Whenever a new type of court is introduced, even with the best possible intentions, soon the prevalent judicial culture overwhelms new entities and makes them equally ineffective.
Another troubling bit of news is that help is being sought from the United States for our counter terrorism strategy. America presents a good example of how not to counter terrorism.
“We have decided to draft a national plan of action against terrorists and act upon it immediately,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said while reading out decisions taken at a meeting of heads of all parliamentary parties at the Governor’s House in Peshawar. “We announce that there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. We also resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated from the country.” Unfortunately, such rhetoric is articulated after every major incident of terrorism.
Prime minister has also said, “We could not achieve anything through dialogue.” It is also a reality that the military effort spread over the last 13 years has not succeeded in overcoming this scrounge. Though he reiterated his government’s resolve to carry out the ongoing operations against terrorists with ‘clear mind and determination’, a statesman ought to remain realistic about the deliverables. We need to supplement the military effort with political means. It may be worthwhile to assign a lead role to our FATA parliamentarians. It is worrisome that starting from the Swat operation, our military has not been able to extricate from any trouble spots. Civil structures have not come up to the level of assuming full responsibility in any of these areas. This is the area where federal and provincial governments need to concentrate.
The Prime Minister has stressed the need for taking stern action against militants across the country and not just in the tribal areas. He added that although the operation had yielded positive results, some militants had fled to Afghanistan. “We want peace not only in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan as well. We want peace in the whole region,” the PM said. Instead of broadening the scope unnecessarily, there is a need to have a focused plan of action for FATA. It would be futile to bracket all acts of violence as acts of terrorism.
The outcome of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Afghanistan has also been diluted. His Afghan counterpart has narrated that General Raheel did not mention Mullah Fazlullah during their discussion. Reportedly, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an operation against banned TTP Chief Mullah Fazlullah, and has directed that Mullah Fazlullah be arrested and handed over to Pakistan. President Ghani has given assurances of his cooperation, but whether he can roll back the dubious arrangement which his National Directorate of Security has evolved with the TTP is quite doubtful. Nevertheless, General Raheel Sharif has done the right thing by getting a handle on the Afghan factor.
Nawaz Sharif’s ambition ‘to pursue militants beyond Pakistan’s borders’ is a dangerous posture. Any such misadventure shall soon be followed by a tit for tat reaction from the Afghan side and the bilateral relationship will relapse into a Karzai era stalemate.
The Prime Minister must present a clear cut strategy. Convening of the emergent meeting in Peshawar and active and meaningful participation of all parliamentary parties without ifs and buts has sent a loud and clear message. Political consensus alone, however, will not create a meaningful strategy.
After coming to power, the government had pledged to establish a joint intelligence directorate and revitalize National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). The government has also issued a 30-page document called National Internal Security Policy (NISP). On the implementation side however, the record has been dismal. The NISP is piling dust as the federal government failed to mobilize requisite funds.
Despite one wake-up call after another, there has been no matching action. Ultimately, we will do much better if we are realistic in our objectives. The government should guard against the pattern of high pitched noises followed by long pauses of slumber.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at kiqbal1234@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter