The Chief of Army Staff, while speaking at the convocation of CMH Medical College Lahore assured the nation that through concentrated effort we can leave a terror free Pakistan for our next generation; saying that we have already made great progress on the count. While his words may be reassuring, and the Army has been pulling it weight, there seems to be very little objective analysis of our success in dealing with terrorism since December. The government has frequently, and with a measure of pride, released progress reports, but the truth is that these reports focus on the wrong indicators of success, which paint a false picture, one that we can take comfort in, but is far from the truth. Stock must be taken of what law enforcement agencies and the government has been doing.

A National Action Plan (NAP) submitted to the Prime Minister by security agencies details the tactical progress made since the plan came in to action. It reveals that 32,000 arrests have been made on various terrorism-related charges and 28,500 law enforcement operations have been carried out since the advent of the NAP. The rest of the report gives facts on other NAP activities, such as registration of mobile phones and freezing of several bank accounts. The problem is that arrests do not indicate the success of a law enforcement operation, convictions do. The government can arrest any suspect with a minimum of hassle –all it takes is an arrest warrant – finding evidence, building a case and putting them behind bars is the more difficult job; one that indicates the government has arrested the right people. Without convictions the suspects will be released after a period of minimum detention if not charged, and if charged and not tried effectively; liable to be released on bail – like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Furthermore, widespread arrests may also mean that people are being held in violation of their legal and human right – like in Baluchistan.

Admittedly, the report is a positive sign; it shows that the government has not been idle; in fact the numbers suggest they have been quite busy. But the report is incomplete without data on convictions, breakdown of which organisation these individuals belonged too and how this has hampered terrorist activities. Secondly without progress on other objectives of the NAP, such as seminary reform, rehabilitations of the IDPs and rehabilitation of radicals, these numbers lose their effectiveness. True indicators of success will be a reduction in crime rate, reduction of terrorist activities, an increase in the number of children in schools and resumption of everyday activities in the northern areas.