Now that we have the National Action Plan for Counter Terrorism, wouldn’t it be useful if the citizens start watching the progress of it, independent but in cooperation with the state? If yes, then asking pertinent questions and challenging the hypotheses and inferences of the state, is natural.

It must be understood that this exercise cannot and should not be confused as something designed to discredit the state institutions. It should rather be taken as a much-needed contribution of citizens, for fighting this complex war, which would be absolutely impossible if the state insists on working in an adversarial mode.

Having said this, an important point that all of us need to always keep in mind is, trying to affect a change in public policy and the popular mindset, is the hallmark of a vibrant civil society. Without this, state institutions, however disciplined or professional they might be, cannot even think of achieving the challenging goals of counter radicalization, counter terrorism and counter insurgency.

Pakistan is one of the fortunate countries having a very dynamic, energetic and proactively progressive civil society, which has always played a role in not only the restoration of democracy but also in supporting healthier civil-military relations. These are the people who stood up against it, whenever a dictatorship was imposed in this country, including one in 1999. Although, it was a difficult decision in October 1999,for most of the liberal-minded people to stand up in support of a toppled democratic government, one that had encouraged religious zealots and political use of religiosity. In addition, the same democratic dispensation was responsible for cracking down ferociously the civil society, just because some of the human rights issues and the liberal ideology it had been standing up for were opposed to the ones held close by the civilian government.

History is perhaps repeating itself today. The same people are being targeted and are being vilified on unsubstantiated accusations of being ‘anti-state’. It is also unfortunate that most of these people committed to Pakistan’s democracy, balanced civil-military relations, and principles of equality, freedom and human rights are working in non-governmental organisations because local philanthropy does not support these causes.

I have worked really hard over last two decades to get the attention of our philanthropists, to support such causes but in vain. People would rather support a welfare program than an organization that does for example, advocacy of the rights of minorities, or provides legal and other help to the victims of domestic violence. It might also be a child rights organization that works on monitoring the child rights education or the status.

Most of these causes are being supported by the western secular democracies, and not by the Pakistani donor, is not because these causes lack relevance to our problems. It is mostly because we do not care about these values and are not bothered to bear the burden of our skin-deep concern for violations of human rights. For most of us, these are just a ploy to defame our country. News about a rape on TV can only move us to utter a few words of condemnation. That is what our enlightened moderate benign author of ‘participatory dictatorship’ did: Rape victims for him and for most of us still are fabricating stories for getting a citizenship of foreign countries.

These values of equality and human rights depict liberal political thought, which is not necessarily disruptive to the status quo (this term must not to be confused with the interpretation used by most young revolutionaries these days). Unlike the socialist and communist ideologies, liberalism does not seek a commotion in the existing class structure, or an absolute and upside down change in the fabric of the state. All it seeks is, a breathing space or the powerless with access to resources and opportunities. The elite control on the means of production would remain intact. So, the good minister need not be worried about his assumed disruptive role of these individuals, working in non-governmental organisations.

National Action Plan would only increase the prospects of our success against terrorism and extremism, where an army or a law-enforcement agency can’t fight this war alone. It must be fought as a nation, where we cannot fight it through the religion-based welfare organisations established as an after-thought once their militant mother organizations had been banned. Neither, can it be fought through ambitious youngsters being constructed as ‘brave leaders’ who can get quick media attention using shock & awe tactics, but can’t question the powerful state institutions and the exploitative system on critical issues.

In case the state is serious in curbing violent extremism and terrorism, progressive citizens from different walks of life should be involved in the exercise to achieve that. The people being demonized today as ‘dollar eating NGOs’ are natural allies of a state, one that is determined against religious fanaticism, xenophobic extremism and radicalization on ethnic grounds. When they question you, they are helping you improve the policy and the strategy, which is only in the best advantage of the country.

We are once again ignoring a big ‘if’ here. How would we know the extent of the state’s resolve, when we can see it failing on almost each of the twenty promises originally made? So much so that the state has retracted on three major promises, which are, the regulation of madrassas, dismantling the proscribed organisations and implementation of a comprehensive policy for Afghan refugees.

These points, the backbone of NAP, have been scrapped without taking people into confidence. Senate sought the status of NAP once, but stayed short of asking the reason why NACTA singlehandedly scrapped three important provisions of NAP.

No political party, neither the vibrant ones, claiming to be the ‘real opposition’ nor the secular ones claiming to be most by terrorism, has bothered to inquire who was responsible for the negligence, incompetence or complicity in the attack on APS Peshawar. Campaigning for the inquiry commissions on fourteen civilian murders in Lahore and on elections rigging, however important they were, should have been coupled with this vital agenda. Let alone the ‘inept’ politicians, these questions were not even addressed by the ‘reformed’ and professional institution ensuring the country’s security.

In such situations, if some people decide to play their role as responsible citizens, and ask the questions nobody is asking, would it be a scheme to defame the country? Should thee people be called traitors and foreign agents? Should they be discredited through media proxies?