It is really hard to take issue with the view that the civilian and military leadership acting in unison have really taken the fight to the terrorists and extremists with an unruffled resolve and commitment. Operation Zarb-e-Azab, and the targeted operation in Karachi spearheaded by the Army and Rangers respectively, has produced encouraging results. The terrorist infrastructure in North Waziristan has been effectively dismantled and thousands of the terrorists have been physically eliminated. Similarly the Karachi operation against terrorists, target killers, extortionists and land mafias is on the right track. The sacrifices being rendered by the Army, Rangers and law enforcement agencies in fighting terrorism and religious extremism are decidedly unparalleled and deserve unqualified accolades of the entire nation.

Bu the fact remains that irrespective of the debate about who is actually calling the shots in this fight, the present government can rightly boast about its role in making this happen. And those who are striving to belittle the role of the civilian government in the on-going crusade against terrorism and religious extremism, conveniently neglect the fact that the Army is part of the executive and operates under the supervision and guidance of the elected government. The mandate for starting operation Zarb-e-Azab and targeted operation in Karachi has been given to the Army and Rangers by the elected government with the support of the entire political leadership of the country. The National Action Plan was also devised through consensus among the political and military leaders. The PML (N) government by initiating a decisive action against the terrorists and extremist—- which even the military regime failed to take—- has shown great courage and commitment to ward off the existentialist threat to the country and must be given due credit for it.

The success of the administrative actions taken by the government and the Army against the terrorists, however, pertain only to one aspect of the problem. General Raheel was right on the money to say, “The achievements in operation Zarb-e-Azb have created space for a decisive surge against terrorists in the Urban areas and the environment is getting ripe for political optimization towards a meaningful and sustainable closure”. The real problem afflicting Pakistani polity is the religious bigotry and religiously motivated hate-syndrome. Terrorism and sectarianism are the off-shoots of this hate-syndrome and the skewed understanding of religion underpinned by the belief that killing of the people opposed to their views was their solemn obligation. That is the common creed of the terrorists and religious extremists. This dog-driven culture of terror cannot be eliminated only by administrative actions.

Greater focus and attention needs to be given to fighting these scourges on an ideological basis and bringing the factories (seminaries) producing the terrorists and religious extremist under a regulatory regime making sure that those who were involved are no more able to do so. We need to dry up the sources of supply of terrorists. Nobody in his right mind can deny the role played by the seminaries in disseminating religious education to millions of students whose parents otherwise cannot afford the expenses of the mainstream schools. Their role in strengthening the ideological basis of the country is also beyond reproach. But unfortunately it is also an irrefutable reality that some of them are responsible for promoting hate-culture, terrorism and sectarianism that have shaken the foundations of the country. Most of the acts of terrorism have been traced back to the seminaries and mosques. That makes it all the more necessary to devise a regulatory mechanism for the seminaries and bringing them into the mainstream of the education system of the country. One of the important ingredients of the National Action Plan indeed relates to this vital aspect. The plan devised through collective wisdom of the political and military leadership reflects the resolve of the entire nation to bring the seminaries under some kind of regulatory mechanism. Now is perhaps the right time to pursue this objective vigorously.

The resistance shown by the religious political parties, Wafaq-ul-Madaris and sectarian outfits to the government oversight, is absolutely unjustified and their fears about unnecessary intervention of the government in their working are also unfounded. They fail to realize that their coming under a regulatory system would bestow multifarious benefits on them and also integrate their seminaries with the education system of the country, enhancing the chances of their students for gainful employment in different spheres of national life. Weeding out the black sheep from their ranks would also enhance their overall prestige and reputation. This is being done in the national interests and there are no two opinions on the subject. Therefore all the religious entities need to adopt a reasonable disposition towards the implementation of the National Action Plan, especially with regard to regulating the seminaries.

The fight against terrorism and religious extremism cannot be taken to its logical end unless the government, military establishment and the civil society collectively show zero tolerance to religious extremism. While there is a need for uninterrupted continuation of operation Zarb-e-Azb and targeted operation in Karachi, a political decision must be taken now to deal with the abettors, supporters, handlers and producers of the terrorists and religious extremists.

The most sordid aspect of the activities of the terrorist and extremists organizations is that they are supported and financed by the enemies of the country. The foreign intelligence agencies find it easy to penetrate these organizations by making a common cause with them and execute their nefarious designs through the natives of Pakistan. The involvement of RAW in Balochistan and acts of terrorism like the Safoora incident are a ranting testimony of this phenomenon. RAW has also been in league with the Karzai regime in sponsoring cross-border terrorism and has established sanctuaries and training facilities for the terrorists on the Afghan soil. The government of Pakistan has rightly taken up this issue with the new Afghan government. The agreement between ISI and Afghan intelligence agency NDS to thwart the designs of the common enemy is also a very positive development in regards to checking the Indian intelligence agency in its tracks. Here again the success to a great extent would depend on our ability to put our own house in order by taking decisive action against the preachers of hate and religious bigotry. The media being the fourth pillar of the state and representative of the society, also has to play a pivotal role in fighting religious extremism in all its manifestations on the ideological front and also by creating awareness among the masses for the need to regulate the seminaries.