Where does our nation’s failure lie? We must at last confess that we could not sincerely fight the war on terror within our borders. Governments did not come up with a comprehensive strategy and action plan to fight against global terrorism after 9/11 and terrorism affecting the foundation of our nation-state even prior. Actions were taken only as a matter of reactions against particular, isolated incidents.

For example, the Zarb-e-Azb only came into being after the brazen attack at the Karachi Airport took place in June this year. Why could we not clean up our soil from foreign terrorists and militants coming from Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan and elsewhere? Our soil became a favorite sanctuary for terrorists all over the world. Political parties also created their militant wings. Why did the Pakhtun culture and society, especially in tribal areas, provide shelter and protection to these terrorists? Is this not our national failure? Are we still reluctant to change it?

The terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December would not have taken place without ‘local support’. They were from Swat, Khyber Agency, along with Afghans and Uzbeks. They were linked to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The old administration system erected by the British and retained by the successive governments in Pakistan cannot be maintained any longer. A new system of governance should be introduced with the Army in the centre until the situation returns to normalcy. The region should be fully integrated with the rest of the country through political universal franchise representation.

The existence of foreign terrorists, militants, and extremists, should a zero-tolerance point. The Army should especially target all such elements and society should clean up their muhallas, masjids, madaris, imam barghs, churches, and the places owned or rented by such elements. Now we should not tolerate the sympathizers of terrorists, militants, and extremists belonging to any fiqh, school of thought, political party, and organization.

Enough is enough. Afghan refugees should immediately be repatriated to their homes ‘with or without honor’. Over 35 years, the soil of Pakistan was misused by refugees. Terrorism and religious-ethnic fundamentalism was associated with the Afghan war, Mujahideen insurgency, Taliban ascendency, and the post-9/11 war. Let’s get rid of this situation.

Cleaning up our home is necessary. Unregistered Afghan nationals should be deported immediately and registered Afghan refugees should be sent back within a couple of months. We cannot tolerate them on our soil until December 2016. Until then, our schools, colleges, and universities should not be opened. Interior Ministry and Ministry of Frontier Regions should undertake these immediate measures.

Incidents taken before the Karachi Airport attacks, were considered lesser evils and so comprehensive military action was not launched against terrorists and militants. Moreover, why was the Zarb-e-Azb type of military action not considered essential during 11 September 2001 -June 2014?

That successive governments could not come up with an all-round strategy against terrorism is our foremost national failure. The house was divided. As many as eight Prime Ministers were installed in the post-9/11 period with a military General in full command; yet terrorism could not be eliminated. There were supporters and sympathizers of terrorists and militants. Even terrorists and militants funded the politicians to win elections, and we did not rise against terrorists and militants even after we lost 50,000 lives to terrorist attacks.

We must accept that as a nation, we did not comply with our responsibilities and were thrown out for two generations to terrorists. Unfortunately, eight successive governments and two generals were a lost story. Now the nation looks towards General Raheel Sharif, hoping that the PML (N) Government will perform differently from their predecessors and we must win the war against terrorism to ensure peace. The 20-Point National Action Plan against terrorism, put forward by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is a commendable move.

Now eyes are turned to the military courts. They should not be used for political maneuverings or against politicians. They should only be used to eliminate terrorists. We have entered into a decisive moment against terrorism. The lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty is Pakistan’s internal matter. The outside world, EU, and UN need not meddle or exert pressure on Pakistan on how to tackle its legal system against terrorists. China stood by Pakistan against its anti-terrorism plan. Let us remember that capital punishment has been retained by 58 countries including the US, China, Japan, India, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and UAE; all for good reason.

The writer is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He is a political economist.