APS was an inflection point in our history. It led to a change in narrative. A narrative that had centered around us having our army in an American war against our mujahidin brethren. Talk shows had the most articulate apologists waxing lyrical this narrative every evening. Pakistan had been on this path for quite some time. Whatever the intentions, our path had definitely led us to hell with bombings, beheadings, killings galore. What really made matters worse was the apathy both at the level of the elites and public at large.

The ruling elite both khaki and mufti paid lip service to us being in an existential struggle against a barbaric home grown, once upon a time, state nurtured Frankenstein. Maybe this had to do with the nurturing element. How it was once in our national interest to open up unregulated madrassahs to produce “holy warriors” across the breadth of this nation while making a mockery of the vision our Founder had laid out for this country. Maybe it was this generation. This generation that followed the generation of the founders, growing up through the breakup of this country, in the process losing the romance and zeal for this nation thus becoming utterly selfish, narrow minded and focused on building safety nests abroad as fast as possible.

When APS happened, even the most numbed out of us were shaken to the core. A new leadership of an Army that had been at war for a dozen years and sacrificed many of our youngest and brightest got the political elite together to change direction. The narrative shifted, Protection of Pakistan Act (POPA) passed, military courts were set up and a 20 point national action point hammered out and presented to all and sundry.

A year onwards, we are in the middle of hand wringing, tensions between the political and military elite and a feeling of stagnation. An important debate rages on. Did the military over step its bounds particularly in Karachi, a much more complex beast than FATA? Should the focus be on nabbing and killing terrorists or is reforming corrupt governance part of this operation clean up as well? According to the overwhelming majority of political actors and analysts, corrupt governance has no linkage with our existential fight. The reasons given aren’t very clear or maybe not that convincing. Most acknowledge this to be a big issue but correctly point out this being outside the domain of the Army and the para military forces. This on its own, legally speaking is absolutely correct. They say, again correctly there are institutions specifically formed, staffed and budgeted for tackling this. Then there are some amongst the analysts’ community who argue powerfully that focusing on corrupt governance will take away our focus from fighting terrorism and extremism thus causing great harm to our struggle against these scourges. In addition, it can cause the political consensus against terrorism to fracture and open up fault lines between civ-mil and/or center-provinces. Some also object to the Sindh centric nature of this drive with which I totally agree.

Finally, there are some, especially amongst the political elite who argue that since no one is clean, hence no one should do the cleaning.
As can be seen, each of these arguments have merits but at least to me not one convinces me of this issue being unrelated to our fight against extremism and militancy. So what gives?

Fazalullah captured Swat after years of preaching on his radio. Locals of Swat welcomed his message. His message was a simple one. The state of Pakistan has failed you. its legal system has absolutely failed you. I will give you the ideal system of “Shariah” and a system of swift justice.

The State of Pakistan deliberately allowed the inflow of funds from near and abroad for setting up madaris. Seeds being planted by the state. In thirty years this crop of madaris reached astronomical levels. If the state planted the seeds, the misgovernance provided the water and fertilizer even after state policy changed or at least shifted. If our education spending, the lowest in the region wasn’t shameful enough, our utilization and utter waste of those funds was another level. One could dismiss the ghost schools and ghost teachers as a product of our apathy, but our system of patronage incentivized this pattern of governance as well. The rich got their private schools. Too many got free shelter, food and admissions in madrassahs.

In any fight against extremism and terrorism, the frontline force has to be the police force. Notwithstanding some of the truly brilliant personnel in the police force, our police system is one not based on merit. The reason why merit is trumped by loyalty is so that the rule of law instead of going after the misdeeds of someone in power can protect that someone in power and share in those misdeeds as well. The culture of all our police forces can not change until and unless they are not de politicized and until that doesn’t happen they can’t be an effective force against extremists.

Corruption that affects the economy for years to come, for instance commissions on deals that lock in high power tarrifs, or high gas prices for long term deals only hurt the economy and limit economic growth. Growth that’s needed to give the government greater revenue for spending on the social sector. Growth that’s needed to generate the 3 mn jobs needed annually to keep our unemployment levels stable. If these jobs aren’t provided, guess where more children will go for a “free” education? Which groups might the unemployed join for a regular income in return for picking up a gun?

The connection at least for me seems clear. The state planted the seeds of this extremism. The incompetence, coupled with corrupt governance provided the water and fertilizer for this extremism. Today we are trying to tear off the fruits from the massive tree of extremism but until and unless we wont stop fertilizing and watering this tree, the fruit of terrorism will keep on coming.

One year is left for the military courts and POPA. No ostensible work seems to have been done in beefing up the prosecution, NACTA or up gradation of our Police forces.

NAB and FIA are there. Courts are there. But the system and its overlords who may have committed misdeeds remain untouched be they civil or military. So in the end what does a fighting force that has lost thousands in re establishing our states writ and cleaning up the mess their predecessors were instrumental in creating do? It tries to institute APEX committees to help expedite the necessary reforms to help cut down and eliminate this tree of extremism. It tries to give a fillip to the FIA and NAB to do its job. Not go beyond its boundaries but to do its job. What’s the result? Its for all to see. Corrupt governance has immunity.

For the politicians who have lost so many of their own including their leadership to this scourge of extremism, APS was a moment to grasp. But in the end it seems they want to have their cake and eat it too. Wont work. Sorry.

For the military that’s shed so much blood, the gains will be temporary if the trajectory of Pakistan is not altered fundamentally. Also any ambiguities regarding good militants/bad militants has to be shelved. Again having your cake and eating it too isn’t possible. Take on, mainstream and de weaponise the favorites but the monopoly on violence and foreign policy must rest with the state. And start with the holding of a trial in a military court of someone who is responsible for the death and brainwashing of many including one of this nations heroes Col Haroon Shaheed. If not then all the sacrifices will have been for nought.

For the analysts, any river if allowed to run its course will cleanse itself but it will take an awfully long time if the glacier feeding it is dirty.

As for the evolution theorists, only those who are the fittest survive. So far our system is hell bent on not making itself fit let alone the fittest.