The government, for the first time after assuming power, has initiated procedures to come up with a comprehensive, detailed, feasible and progressive anti-terrorism policy. In a country with one of the world’s worse militancy problem, an on-going military operation, thousands of previous casualties, and with knowledge of the imminent US retreat from Afghanistan; we are only now the formulating a policy to counter terrorism? While the elected government’s lack of vision has cost Pakistan a lot of innocent lives; the government has the potential to make amends. However, the PML-N’s policy, which is to be unveiled at the All Parties Conference on June 12, has covered some ground but suffers from fundamental flaws, according to the brief of the draft that has been made public.

The draft essentially beefs up present arrangements. While it is a prudent and intuitive method of combat terrorism it is sadly nowhere near enough. What it lacks is a bold vision, a re-evaluation of the pervasive problem, and strong initiatives to tackle terrorism not just terrorists– the mere symptoms of a deeper disease. The government has gone for the reactive route; it executed convicted terrorists, promised to set up new courts for speedy terror trials and hinted at other military operations. The draft’s five elements — dismantle, contain, prevent, educate and reintegrate – sound expansive, but are all geared towards the status quo. The first three tenants broadly propose the same things; beefed up security, intelligence gathering, stricter laws, border management, emergency response, fast trials and the like. The fourth tenant merely signifies plans of countering propaganda and media campaigns to promote a moderate outlook. The fifth is a rather optimistic idea to use convicted terrorist to urge others to lay down their arms.

To even have a shot at untangling this knot, the state must do some fundamental things. Firstly it must bring the sprawling madrassas under state preview; not to let them operate as autonomous institutes with their own curriculum, but with state supervision to ensure hate speech and radicalisation is not disseminated. Secondly, it must reform the national curriculum so that it positively inculcates tolerance, inter-faith harmony and co-existence. This needs to replace the PTI-JI’s KPK style curriculum; with petty ‘Islamisations’ and bigotry. This war must be fought where it hurts, not just in remote mountains far away from the average person. Any counter-terrorism policy would fail if Jihadi organisations in Punjab still survive. ‘Rebranded’ banned outfits and dubious ‘charities’ must be called out for what they are. Integration must mean bringing modern economy and administration to the tribal areas; it is time to foster a deeper interaction between the tribes and the citizens.