During the All Parties Conference (APC) held on Wednesday, which was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by almost all political parties as well as the COAS and DG ISI, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan shared certain key points to counter terrorism. On this occasion, PM Sharif thanked all political parties for coming together for a national issue and said that his government is willing to address concerns of all stakeholders involved in the process. The PM also stressed on the need to take concrete measures, as makeshift arrangements would further deteriorate the problem and leave the people insecure and unsatisfied. The PM’s remarks show that he is aware of the prevalent public sentiment following the Peshawar tragedy but whether his government will be able to rise to the challenge remains to be seen.

Consensus on national issues such as terrorism is indeed important, but it cannot be used as an excuse for evading responsibility and inaction. Religious political parties such as the JUI-F and JI are unlikely to support madrassa reforms. They will continue to pander to their constituency no matter what the consequences for the wider public. Maulana Fazlur Rehman has already termed attempts to reign in religious seminaries a “conspiracy of the US”. JI is just as averse to the idea. So, when the PM says that this is a time to take difficult decisions, it involves going against apologists sitting in our political class. Interior Minister Nisar has stated that only 10% of religious seminaries are linked with terrorism. If that is in fact the case, 10% still amounts to thousands. The PM and his cabinet must exercise their mandate by devising policies and enforcing implementation without any fear of political backlash. There is no need to seek approval from those who hold political and economic interests closer to their heart than this country’s children.

The points highlighted by the Interior Minister include cutting funding for militant organisations, enhancing cooperation between civil and military institutions, curtailment of favourable media coverage for extremists, regulation of explosive material, regular updating of the Red Book that entails the names of most wanted terrorists and so on. While there is a consensus on most suggestions, the issue of establishing military courts to ensure speedy trials is yet to be resolved. PPP, ANP, JUI-F, JI and the MQM have sought time and details before they submit a final answer. For this purpose, a committee comprising legal experts from various political parties has been formed. If the courts are failing to dispense justice, and they seem to be in several cases, then they should be fixed. It would be in error to take their job and give it to an institution which is simply incapable of performing judicial functions. Desperate times call for desperate measures, yes, but those measures ought to be guided by reason and reality.