On December 24 last year, the Prime Minister announced a National Action Plan (NAP) for countering terrorism in the country as a response to one of the most horrific terrorist attacks at the Army Public School in Peshawar. Statements with “strong commitment to fight terrorism” started pouring in from Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue and the GHQ. We were told there were no good or bad Taliban and that all militants would have to face the law equally.

NAP was made operative after almost eight days of deliberations among the civilian and military leadership of the country. Political parties across the spectrum were involved in it and a consensus-based Plan was announced to a grieved people who wanted nothing but action from their leadership. Amidst all this, the already-not-so-eager-on-moratorium leadership started executions on cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act in order to appear to be doing something. Pictures of executed terrorists were circulated with tales of their begging for forgiveness before going to the gallows. The quest of blood-for-blood continues ever since.

Six months on, the strategy remains the same. Allay the people with shock-inducing actions like executions and a lot of statistics to prove things are happening, instead of taking the issue by the scruff of the neck. The military has been fighting – with negligible transparency and oversight – on the territory we had long ceded willingly to the terrorists. Zarb-e-Azb, as we call the military operation in North Waziristan, began on 15th June last year. It was responded to by terrorist attacks on several targets including the APS in Peshawar, the Imambargahs and Shia mosques in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Shikarpur as well as churches in Lahore.

The overall result of six months of NAP and Zarb-e-Azb is apparently the significant decline in terrorist attacks across the country. Since the targeted killings of Shias, especially Hazara Shias in Quetta, Karachi etc., and of civilian security personnel do not come under ‘terrorism’, their unfettered continuation might not mean anything, at least for the media and the state institutions. There seems to be a near consensus among the intelligentsia that NAP is far from progressing and being effective. Then how the number of terrorist attacks is dropping? Must be because of Zarb-e-Azb carried out by our boys. That’s what media proxies in anchors sitting on almost all TV channels would have us believe.

This is what the Director General ISPR was saying when he was talking to Russian magazine Sputnik last week. Sputnik was told that intelligence-based operation, physical operation in FATA and squeezing the funding of terrorist group were the ‘fine achievements’ of NAP, while the remaining points of NAP were delayed ‘due to some political issues’. Meaning thereby, everything under the domain of his institution was going quite well, while the rest that was not being done was political domain. With a big applause for the performance of his institution, and without going into the aspects of civil-military relations and of national security policy that have been at the root of terrorism in Pakistan and in the region, one should better restrict oneself to NAP progress here.

NAP, firstly, is a misleading moniker. National Action Plan is a compendium of guidelines with a mix of short, medium and long-term policy directions. When the Prime Minister announced it, he must be expecting his team – at the Interior Ministry and NACTA – to break each policy proposal into a set of objectively verifiable actions and indicators against which their progress would be measured. This would never happen. If it has happened already, there is no knowledge about it known to the experts or the media. Since the actions and the indicators could not be coined, it was difficult to come up with budgetary estimates, legislative proposals to prop any action under NAP, a coherent administrative strategy for the implementation and, most importantly, timeline for each action.

Under the first NAP point, according to the HRCP, 176 convicts have been executed so far, of which only 13 (i.e. 7 percent) were from terrorist organisations. Of these 13 terrorists, two had attacked the GHQ and eight had attacked military dictator Pervez Musharraf while three had target killed Shias. First few executions were carried out in last December, without any legal provision in the statute allowing head of the military to issue death warrants of civilians. But then, the means justify the end you see!

Under the second NAP point, military courts were established in all provinces when parliamentary parties were coerced into voting for the notorious 21st Constitutional Amendment allowing these courts to execute civilians. But the case is sub judice in the apex court challenging the establishment of these courts.

Under points 3, 7, 15 and 18, the armed militias, proscribed organisations, militants in the Punjab and sectarian militants had to be curbed. Armed militias are far from being curbed when the madrassa elites, including Lal Masjid, openly threatens the state with “consequences” if they are touched. According to one media report, some militants in North Waziristan have sealed the deal with Pakistan’s establishment for not targeting the state of Pakistan. That is enough to certify them as “former militants” whether or not they lay down their arms, which they have not, if media reports are to be believed.

The Ministry of Interior in all its wisdom took off the list of proscribed organisations that NACTA had uploaded on its website. The effectiveness of the state’s writ can be ascertained from the fact that ASWJ, which was banned on February 15, 2012 (entry #32 in Annexure K of the National Internal Security Policy issued by the Ministry of Interior) holds public rallies on Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue as well as on Meezan Chawk of (de facto) military controlled Quetta yards away from the Headquarters of FC.

Progress under other critical points of NAP doesn’t look much different either. Six months on, neither ASWJ nor any other Deobandi terror network can be seen dismantled. These are the groups, which have repeatedly expressed their desire for allegiance with ISIS. On the other hand, almost every week there is a report about the laying down of arms by one Baloch militant organisation or the other. Zarb-e-Azb is still keeping our forces busy despite months old claim that only 10% of the area remains to be cleared.

It is now high time that the people rise up to the occasion and continually remind the state of its responsibility and probable consequences of their inaction. If we don’t, a dark unfathomable abyss is already staring at the future of our next generations and of our country.