Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, during his address to the nation, revealed key points agreed upon by the committee and attempted to dispel doubts surrounding his government’s willingness to counter terrorism. The Peshawar tragedy has served to change the narrative surrounding the Taliban insurgency and terrorism in general, and the PM’s speech was reflective of that change. It was a clearly worded policy statement wherein the PM expressed the state’s resolve to root out militancy from the country. “Pakistan has changed”, he claimed. In the last section of his speech, the PM directly addressed the terrorists, informing them that their “days are numbered” and that they would not be allowed to find refuge in Pakistan’s territory. The PM’s words show that tolerance, confusion and fear no longer dictate the government’s policy towards militants. The military’s stance and public sentiment has further made it easier for the government to take a strong position against terrorism.

If words alone were the criteria to judge a government’s performance, the PM’s speech would secure him full marks. But, of course, there is more to it. Many points mentioned by the PM during his address are not at all new. They are already a part of the National Internal Security Policy and legislation, but remain inconsequential owing to lack of implementation. In some instances, civil-military imbalance is to blame while other cases involve good old incompetence and negligence. The PM may mean well, but can he do well? The decision to establish military courts, which may be challenged in the Supreme Court eventually, is an admission of failure by the government. Instead of taking steps to reform the criminal justice system, it has caved in to a demand that may result in severe miscarriages of justice. Will we see the government surrender more space in the days ahead or will it finally get its act together and rise to the occasion? In any case, it is indeed encouraging to see the PM attempting to fulfill his role by taking ownership of the war against militancy.