They perpetrated colossal damage to the state of Pakistan and killed thousands of innocent civilians in suicide blasts. Security forces were responding in localised chunks and the terrorists were shifting their positions setting up their bases at multiple locations. Policy makers were utterly confused and there was no holistic treatment of this menace. A certain faction of Mullahs was making it worse by either justifying this madness as a response to the state policies or by keeping a misleading silence. Having claimed more than sixty thousand lives they committed something very low that changed the course of history; they attacked an army public school (APS) and massacred 140 children. This suddenly awoke the entire nation and inculcated a deep resolve to fight together against the peril. The state launched an ultimate nation-wide offensive against the militants, chasing them across FATA, Durand line and across the major cities. Within a year terrorism incidents dropped by more than 70%. Almost 90% hideouts in FATA were destroyed. Thousands of terrorists were killed and arrested. Hundreds were apprehended from the major cities via intelligence operations. The surviving militants escaped to Afghanistan from where they are currently operating under the umbrella of Indian and Afghan intelligence.

Having said that one doesn’t have to conclude that everything is alright. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has definitely fractured their backbone and deprived them of safe havens, armament factories and training camps inside Pakistan. But this war is not coming to an end very soon as it’s a war against a mindset. The most recent ambush on Charsadda University is a serious reminder and a wake-up call for those policy makers who were falsely believing that things were under control. There is no doubt that armed forces are doing an excellent job when it comes to fighting on the ground, but it’s a nation that fights a war, not the armed forces alone.

After APS attack, our whole political elite and military establishment unanimously formulated a counter-terrorism policy called “National Action Plan (NAP)”. Qualitatively, it’s an excellent policy document but unfortunately it’s far from being implemented. For example, madrassah reform and regulation are still in jeopardy. Centuries-old, outdated, narrow-vision curriculum is being taught which is more like a sectarian than a religious stuff. It’s high time that the madrassah curriculum be synchronised with the modern age by adding natural and social sciences to neutralize the radicalism from the poverty-stricken societies. The madrassahs that don’t succumb to the state’s policies should be permanently closed. Despite frequent warnings, some madrassahs are still promoting sectarian hatred and distorted version of Jihad, that need to be checked by the civil administrations.

Loud speaker is a primary and the most effective weapon of radical Mullahs who use it excessively to convey their wild thoughts to their followers and brainwash the immature and illiterate masses against minorities and other sects. They either interpret religious content out of context or twist it to meet their radical designs of spreading hatred against everyone who doesn’t agree to their ideology. Government claims to have put a ban on the misuse of loudspeakers, but as usual, it is far from being implemented. Sectarian inspired hate speeches is a routine matter in religious congregations. Sindh government recently took a positive initiative by announcing that ‘Juma’ sermons shall be provided by the religious affairs ministry like in Saudi Arabia, but its implementation is still pending. Furthermore, state is practicing undue restraint in apprehending those religious fanatics who are openly challenging the writ of the state. You don’t need to go far away, just see in the heart of the capital Islamabad; a group of fanatics is overtly pledging its allegiance to ‘Daesh’ (ISIS) and the state is unable to take any action. Are we fighting a war of survival? Seriously?

Infiltration across the Pak-Afghan border is completely unchecked. Thousands including smugglers and militants cross over both sides every day. We can’t bring peace without managing this long porous border. It doesn’t mean we have to fence it thoroughly; we can’t. But implementing strict visa policies and setting up surveillance posts on crucial sites can make the things better. At least state must show some serious gestures that it will not allow visa-free travel across the border and will arrest and punish those who violated the red line. At the same time, it’s high time that the issue of Afghan refugees be permanently resolved, and they should be sent home thus relieving some pressure from our economy and the society.

Meanwhile, meet any resident of Waziristan/FATA and you will record a long list of grievances and complaints against the state about their sufferings and deprival of their rights as equal citizens of Pakistan. They are a patriotic society and have always served the country through thick and thin. They are the worst sufferers of all insurgencies taking place in that Pak-Afghan region. They lost their dear-ones in the crossfire. They are living a miserable life having no access to basic health, education and living facilities. Policy makers should open their eyes, treat them gently with parity before it’s too late and their grievances turns into hatred. Mismanagement in handling IDPs of Waziristan is just an example of how callous the government has been in dealing with the crisis.

All these suggestions are already a part of national action plan, but government doesn’t look serious in addressing these vital issues that are directly related to the national security. Ruling elite is busy doing cheap politics, mudslinging on each other and doing mega projects for their vested interests. They are spending billions from national exchequer on irrational projects like metros and orange-lines, but they don’t have funds to spend on IDPs, FATA rehabilitation and madrassah reforms. Armed forces are doing their best; let’s see when the holy democrats wake up and do their job.