In the wake of the terrorist attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on 16th December 2014, the Government of Pakistan came up with a National Action Plan (NAP) to combat terrorism and extremism. NAP is a manifestation of national consensus and all stakeholders including the armed forces were taken on board for its formulation and implementation.

Pakistan has been trying its level best to implement NAP to combat terrorism and extremism ever since its formulation. For example the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted for terrorism related cases for it was felt terrorists were abusing this suspension. Pakistan’s legislators passed the 21st Amendment to the Constitution and the Pakistan Army Amendment Bill to temporarily allow military tribunals to try militants accused of waging war against the state. NAP also highlights the importance of capacity building of the criminal justice system i.e. courts, police, prosecution etc.

Security forces have carried out 54,376 combing operations so far under NAP and as results of these 60,420 arrests were made. Government has put 7,923 people in the fourth schedule in addition to including the names of 188 hardcore militants on the Exit Control List. The government has registered thousands of cases related to terrorism, while hundreds of terror suspects have been arrested so far. National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) established vide NACTA Act 2013 with a view to curb the menace of terrorism is working diligently. Under the law the NACTA board of governors, headed by the prime minister must meet every quarter.

Books and other hate material have been confiscated and many shops sealed. 1,961 suspects have been arrested and 1,893 cases filed against persons who were disseminating hate speech and material. Action has been initiated against authors, publishers and retailers circulating hate material but cannot check everyone so government is mulling over ‘Hate Speech and Inciting Literature’ laws, no one will be permitted to express hatred towards someone based on ethnicity, religion, sect, nationality, race or colour. The government also working on removing objectionable material from textbooks but this is the purview of the textbook boards.

To choke terror financing, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has frozen roughly Rs1billion in approximately 126 accounts linked to proscribed organisations. The Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) have recovered Rs251.2 million in cash which was being traded through Hawala and Hundi. National Terrorists Financing Investigation Cell (NTFIC) has been set up recently to be jointly operated by FIA, the State Bank, FBR and intelligence agencies so as to check illegal outflow of money.

More than 200 outfits have been declared as proscribed organisations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs banned 171 organisations, while the Interior Ministry banned 60 more organisations.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 lays down the legal framework of counter terrorism efforts. Section 11E (1A) states that anyone carrying out the activities of proscribed organisations their movement can be restricted, their financial transactions monitored and their arms licenses revoked.

The government has shut down over 250 madrassas across the country. 167 suspected seminaries in Sindh, 13 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, two in Punjab, and 72 unregistered madrassas in Sindh have been closed. The registration and regulation of seminaries however is still pending.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has directed all TV channels / FM radios not to give any kind of coverage to any banned organization. This is necessary action so that media cannot be taken advantage of in this fashion.

The National Action Plan (NAP) implemented by Punjab police has produced positive results. Under NAP, 33,772 combing operations were conducted, 5,549 cases were registered out of which 980 cases were registered under Foreign Act violation. During the initial period, 6,162 general hold ups were held, in which 24,436 suspect criminals were arrested. 122,800 suspect vehicles were impounded and police took action against the display of arms for which 2,851 cases were registered. The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Punjab arrested 40 hardcore activists and detained 69 in 2015. On violation of Tenancy Act, 7,328 cases were registered, in which 11,036 persons were arrested and 1,754 were convicted.

The Punjab Information of Temporary Residents Ordinance 2015 has also been promulgated by Punjab Government to provide and share the information of tenants and other temporary residents. The government has cracked down on misuse of loudspeakers, 9945 cases have been registered, 10,177 people arrested and 2,664 devices confiscated under the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Ordinance 2015.

The Rangers have arrested over 58,000 criminals in Karachi and related areas. Of them, 9,570 were absconders while 630 were proclaimed offenders. Security forces also recovered 15,612 illegal weapons during the operations. Operation is ongoing and Prime Minster has stated that it will not stop until it reaches its logical end.

Security forces have carried out 1,945 activities including security and search operations in different districts of Balochistan including Quetta, Pishin, Chaman, Zhob, Ziarat, Loralai, Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Bolan, Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Awaran, Turbat and others, during that 9529 suspected persons were taken into custody including 423 suspected terrorists. This is a start but Balochistan needs to have all stakeholders on board to make progress regarding NAP. It’s the people of Balochistan who must be considered.

Security vigilance has been tightened at borders with Iran and Afghanistan. 3,416 Afghan refugees have been deported including 2,844 from KP, 195 from Balochistan, one in Islamabad and 376 from FATA. Along with Afghan refugees IDP’s rehabilitation is being made a priority, they need money, resources and a sense of security to be able to return to their homes.

The National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism is being implemented with great responsibility and fervour but there is still work to do. Pakistan as a country has to fight this battle on all fronts and with relentless ferocity.

Military courts and hangings are not the long term answer. We need an effective criminal courts system in place. Eradicating militant organisations and dismantling terrorist networks is a huge task that can only happen if all law enforcement agencies cooperate with each other on a national level and they are given the requisite resources. Also when funding of the extremists stops their activities will also suffer.

Sectarianism and extremism should be eradicated from society. There is a necessity to educate the masses in this regard. Hate literature and glorification of terrorists should be addressed. Regulation of madrassas also needs to be a priority. Also areas such as Karachi, Balochistan, and FATA that have been ignored for long, their issues must be resolved.

The various law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, the army etc. should have a combined database to share information on terrorists this will allow for a syncing of operations across the nation. The list of proscribed organisations also needs to be on this database.

Elements spreading sectarianism and extremism can be checked with the cooperation of the people as they can report to local authorities. Same is the case with monitoring the World Wide Web. Volunteers from the citizens can be trained by police for neighbourhood watches, NCC training and emergency training can be imparted. Children in schools can also be given training. Leaders of religious seminaries should be taken on board and in tandem with them a regulation and registration system for madrassahs should be worked out. IDP’s must be rehabilitated with due dignity.

Pakistan is at a crossroads and now is the time to find a way forward regarding National Action Plan. We all need to work together and stand united for this is a fight that needs all our efforts and diligence. The future of Pakistan is in the hands of the people, may we triumph and succeed with the blessings of Allah Almighty.