Pakistan’s geo-strategic policies jealously guarded by the security establishment and the National Plan of Action (NAP) contradict each other in so many ways that it is hard to assess the seriousness of the authors of NAP.
Looking at the developments post-APS Peshawar attack and performance of various state-institutions on the Plan, the ages-old policies of the state don’t seem to be even touched let alone discarded. One key element of our foreign policy is claim on Kashmir, which determines our relations with neighboring India in the East, which in turn determines our relations with Afghanistan on our Western borders. Both of them define our policy of nurturing strategic assets in the form of proxies (often in the form of armed militias) to make sure we have enough mayhem on eastern front and necessary calm at the western.
As described in the previous part, these assets can’t be developed and nurtured if state insists on its writ and on various reforms covered in NAP. A strictly enforced state writ would mean no hate speech among different ethnic, sectarian and religious communities. It would also mean a check and balance system on madrassas and resultant hurdles in cultivating foot soldiers for the geo-strategic objectives. If this important element of our policy i.e., use of proxies for fixing Afghanistan and Kashmir hasn’t gone anywhere, it is useless and counter-productive to giving people the NAP pacifier. If we have changed, as our Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff have time and again claimed that we have, it is high time to cut short the nonsense and move with unity of purpose and a result-oriented approach. Every action of the state has to be rooted in what results it wants to achieve.
For example, if we want to achieve a society without hate speech (covered in NAP point no. 5), in addition to apprehending people for using loudspeakers, we should be doing things like school curriculum reforms, action against prayer and religious leaders who instigate hatred against the ‘other’ and remove unnecessary expressions of public religiosity that often result in people imbibing a feeling of superiority and uniqueness based on which religion and sect they belong to.
If the result that we want to achieve is disbandment of sectarian militants as well as proscribed organisations, all we need to do is make public who are the proscribed ones and expand that list to include each and every organization and leader that propagates militancy against anyone on the planet. Being normal and peaceful does not hurt Islam, Muslims and the ideology – whatever it means – of Pakistan. Anthropophagy that the state itself imposed on its people (in the form of vigilantism on blasphemy cases for example) in the course of Saudi-ization of the country in lieu of Arab money and strategic support for geo-political goals needs to go now. In case the state has changed its goals, that is to say. No one wants to blaspheme. It is about the violent vigilantism that makes a people lynch, burn and kill each other with impunity. Sheer cannibalism.
During the initial years of War on Terror (WoT), American government started a reward program for most wanted militants with their pictures pasted on every nook and corner in Afghanistan and (theoretically) in Pakistan’s FATA. As per different accounts of the WoT written by many senior journalists covering it, the program proved to be very effective. But for reasons unknown, the program was discontinued gradually within six-seven years. Applying it on Pakistan’s NAP, people here do not even know the names of proscribed organisations as the officials of Interior Ministry reportedly were very upset on making the list public and thus took it off the websites. There is no publicly available list of the leaders of proscribed militant organisations, labeled as most wanted. People are not trusted as credible and reliable partners in state’s counter-terrorism efforts. All efforts so far appear to be state versus people. Recent Bill to counter cyber crimes is one example.
After four months of the announcement of NAP, it is still unclear how it is going to be executed as a coherent approach rather than being a number crunching game. So far, theperiodic ‘briefings’ that the Prime Minister gets on NAP implementation, are limited to number of people arrested for using loudspeakers, number of shops closed for using hate speech posters, number of SIMs verified biometrically etc. None of the briefings – those that got reported in media – carried any information about the execution plan of NAP. There is no focal point for monitoring of NAP implementation. If there is one, it is not shared with the citizens and is working under thick secrecy.
When on December 24 the Prime Minister announced this Plan as a consensus document, around fifteen committees were established for devising strategies to implement different aspects of it. There was a top committee on these fifteen, headed by Prime Minister himself to oversee progress in implementation and for swift decision-making to remove administrative hurdles. After four months, there are neither reported meetings of these committees nor is there any detail available about the discussions and observations of committee-members in meetings if there are any. There is no information available on what strategies these committees have agreed on to achieve results under their respective NAP point.
These committees comprised representatives from across the political spectrum, experts, practitioners and officials from relevant departments. It was very encouraging to see that all of these committees had representation from the opposition parties including the most vocal Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, always ready to offer sternest opposition to the government. But it was equally surprising and disappointing to see no input or challenge being posed by any party to the status quo around the working of committees and of state machinery for NAP.
Most important step that needed to be taken, after devising execution framework, was putting parliament to work. Pursuant to its triangular functions of legislation, representation of the constituent and oversight of the executive branch, the parliament could have created a niche in NAP implementation. As they call the parliamentary committees to be eyes, ears and brain of the parliament, all these vital organs could have been put to use by forming a broad-based Special Committee on NAP. After the recent concerns voiced by the Senate on non-implementation of NAP, formation of this Special Committee – a joint parliamentary committee comprising members from all parties – seems most urgent.
These are but most basic steps if the government and the military establishment don’t want to make a joke of their newfound ‘commitment’ to fight terrorism. NAP would remain an elusive tactic to placate the wounded nation soaked in blood, while not moving an inch on ensuring the security of the country – the raison d’etre of the security institutions. Put the mechanism to work, make the parliament relevant and assume the leadership for ridding the country of the perpetual internal security situation. Political parties, otherwise quite excited about ‘getting justice’ for their electoral benefits, need to be seen at least half that much motivated to work for people’s security.
Making a fancy plan is not enough. Work out what time-bound results could be achieved and how. This is easier said than done. But certainly not impossible if the state decides to do it.