Pakistan is nursing deep wounds. DIG Ahmed Mobeen and SSP Zahid Gondal are among the many dearly departed whose deaths stand testament to the toll terrorism has taken on the people of Pakistan. Many heroes have sacrificed their lives so others may live. Two very brave men died trying to defuse a bomb last week in Quetta. Terrorists tried to take away a piece of our history and culture in Sindh and Pakistanis fought back by going back to the shrine and making it their own again. We should salute people such as Sheema Kermani for bringing Dhamal back to its home of the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine.

The state is showing steely resolve. We seem to be taking out terrorists all over the country and even in a neighbouring state. General Bajwa and the government seem to be on the same page. The police are reporting as many success stories as the military. This is excellent news for reassuring a scared and angry public. It shows a strong united front and a will to stamp out terrorism wherever it may rear its ugly head. The state seems to be making its intentions quite clear. Airforce fighter pilots in North Waziristan actively fighting terror is the kind of story that makes one think, “Go Team Pakistan!” The recent spate of terror events all over the country seems to have awoken something primal and very angry in the Pakistani spirit. The terrorists must not be allowed to win, everyone is angry and wants results. Punjab was dealing with terrorism by sending sting teams for various operations and is currently considering invoking article 147 and asking for a deployment of military trained Rangers for a larger operation. Yes, clearly the state is serious about stopping these senseless acts of violence. Now comes the bitter pill bit, none of this is enough.

The National Action Plan stresses the immediate nature of the physical threat of terrorism but does not push one very important agenda, de-radicalisation programmes. Pakistan’s war needs to be fought at many fronts, and not all of these fronts involve planes, tanks and guns. The military has many centres for rehabilitation of militants; the government needs to make many more civilian ones. There need to be transparent reporting system on the progress of these institutions, preferably one that subject to the Right to Information Act of 2013. Only a transparent and strong commitment to reformation of the extremist and terrorist mind can make these de-radicalisation centres effective. Respect for all religions, and a space for religious pluralism needs to be introduced. So far no such space exists. Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus and Christians face persecution by the hands of the public in Pakistan. Often, the state itself is party to this religious persecution. A basic fundamental respect for humanity needs to be instilled. A state-wide general de-radicalisation programme needs to be introduced where educational institutions and opinion leaders need to push forward the message of interfaith harmony and inclusion of women and minorities. Economic development of FATA needs to become a reality. Without proper state facilities there and access to legal redress, without economic opportunities for the people, without state machinery to carry out a message of peaceful co-existence, FATA will continue as a hotbed of militancy. The state needs to give incentives to the people of FATA so that joining a terrorist organisation is not the only economic opportunity for many residents there. Integration of FATA with the rest of Pakistan is imperative. The outlook has to be on integration with the rest of the world instead building an extremist theocracy here.

It is only by enforcing the rights of women and implementing the laws that help our minorities that we can achieve progress. Only then can we begin to undo the damage that’s been self-inflicted by oppressive laws and bad state policy over the decades. Discriminatory laws that enable people to condemn a sect of Muslims need to be done away with. The state has no right to tell people they aren’t Muslims because they don’t conform to the religious ideals of the majority. It is laws like the second amendment that keep our state backward and empower extremist thought. That is the sort of thinking that leads to a sense of moral superiority, which advocates violence. Brave Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for advocating education and progress. Young heroic Aitezaz Hassan Bangash prevented a terrorist from entering his school and saved the lives of many children at the cost of his own. The APS terror attack shall haunt us always. Let these children’s deaths and the pain their loved ones suffered not have been in vein. To truly eradicate the evil of terrorism, we have to counter not just terrorist plots but also their beliefs. Addressing and neutralising extremist thought is the only way forward. If the state does not do this, no amount of Zarb-e-Azab offensives will make a lasting difference. The only way to fight archaic and violence inspiriting biased ideology is with progressive and inclusive ideology. If Pakistan fails at addressing this issue, the state will be truly lost and the terrorists will have really won.

 

The writer is pursuing his MPhil at the University of Dundee, UK.