Recent Wave of Terrorism & the Search for National Action Plan

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When we know who did it and when we know why they did it, the only question remains to answer is “what we are going to do about it”. Riding on the retaliatory wave of emotions and sentiments much of the country is mourning the horrific acts of terrorism in Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, and Sehwan, last being the bloodiest. As harsh as it might sound it still needs to be said, what we are doing and how we are reacting to this ongoing carnage as a nation and as individuals, has a frustrating monotonous pattern. Every time a bomb goes off or a terrorist blows himself off, a flood of condemnation messages from government, officials and different factions of society start to flow. Then a wave of anti-terrorist campaign begins where Government claims the capture or neutralization of x number of terrorists in encounters, then it becomes a media frenzy for a week or so  until everyone totally forgets about it completely and literally sits back again and waits for the next episode of the drama.

Terrorist attack in Sehwan, has again stirred the debate of narrative as to what exactly is the state policy over the menace of terrorism. When this question is put on the table, people normally come with the answer of “National Action Plan”, outlook of which gives the impression of quite a serious commitment to answer the questions raised by extremism. By the book definition, the National Action Plan is a strategy that was established by the Government of Pakistan in January 2015 to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive in North-Western Pakistan. It is considered a major coordinated state retaliation following the deadly APS Peshawar attack. The plan received unprecedented levels of support and co-operation across the country’s political spectrum, inclusive of the federal and provincial governments.

Generally, National Action Plan combines foreign and domestic policy initiatives aimed to crack down and eventually eliminate proscribed organizations across the country. The plan was provided as the framework for the twenty-first amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, which established speedy trial military courts for offenses relating to terrorism. It has also led to the resumption of capital punishment and mandatory re-verification through fingerprint recognition of all subscribers on mobile telephony. The National Action Plan authorizes the Foreign, Finance, and other ministerial departments to reach out to the friendly Muslim countries to clamp down on financiers of sectarian and terrorist networks operating in Pakistan.

Here in this piece of writing, we will try to discuss and assess the efficiencies and effectiveness of some of the key points of the National Action Plan. The first point of the National Action Plan is about establishment of military courts for two years interim period to accelerate a rapid prosecution in terrorism related cases. This initiative aided a lot in effectively expediting the judicial process for terrorists’ trials by providing swift and secure due legal prosecution. Unfortunately, no parallel efforts were made to restore the competence of the civil judicial system, which by and large still is a rotting corpse of 19th-century Indian Penal Code, hence, now after completion of the 2 year provisional term of military courts, there is no clear way forward. Resulting in a situation where this critical point of the National Action Plan is becoming staled slowly with every passing day.

In the context of this predicament, National Action Plan’s proposal of military courts has a clear distinction from the rest of the plan. This is perhaps the most significant area of improvement, which is a compulsory notion in order to fight chaos created by the menacing phenomena of terrorism.

First and most important step to implement any kind of security apparatus in current situation should start from total revamping of current police order. At the same time, there should also be clear intent of legislating Pakistan’s Criminal Penal Code in a way which provides swift judicial prosecution. If we are able to achieve it then an independent, depoliticized police force with an effective judicial system would become corner stone of our security policy. These are the frontline topologies of any society policy to maintain order. Whether it is in a wartime situation or peacetime, maintaining law and order is the duty of the civil security apparatus as they remain closer to the community and understand challenges of urban security threats more. Therefore, the groundwork needs to be done for a new police order and reconstruction of Civil Penal Code. It is a compulsion of this time; it has to be done as the more we are going to delay it more we are going to suffer.

Federation should assign a deadline to all provinces to comply with this requirement; a generic national police reform followed up by provincial police act would certainly do the job to make police as an institution, independent from any political pressure. NFC award and development projects should be subjected to the achievement of this milestone. Meanwhile, military courts need to work as interim make shift measures as the ad-hoc solution because of the necessity of the time until the new police and judicial framework comes into place.  There are several other key points in national action plan, like prosecuting financial resources of the terrorists, keeping an eye on the banned outfits so that they cannot resurface with a new name, raising a special anti-terrorist task force, protection of the minorities, regularization of Madrasas and restricting media coverage of terrorists and their agenda. These are the goals which can be achieved by having a robust, effective, determined, agile and internal security focused policy doctrine.

Staying objective during a time of crisis is a painful duty, there is no doubt that these are atrocious times and agonizing moments, but anguish should not cloud the judgment. It is a bloodstained war, there is a notorious nexus (India, US, and Afghanistan) of foreign forces acting together in collaboration with their local pawns (Taliban, MQM, BLA) against Pakistan, and every single innocent life lost is a notch on the belt. Only sane way to fight this battle is to remain objective and enumerate efforts we are putting in to eliminate this wicked trend of insanity. Numbers, events, acts, intention and all the computable entities need to be picked, analyzed and make note of so they can serve as the parameters to substantiate the effort to achieve what is necessary, the result, the outcome, the peace, the tranquility, the victory.

What happened in the last week or so in Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Sehwan is an example of continuous extreme brutal episodes of total injustice people of Pakistan are facing. Its response should not be an unbalanced rhetoric based on retaliation; it should not merely intend to satisfy populace demands and should not root its strength on sentiments, as sentiment is the chemical defect found on the losing side. The forthcoming retort should be cold, calm and calculated set of actions to bring culprits to the justice, state of Pakistan needs to punish those who are responsible, using a policy doctrine comprised of specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-oriented factors; the state of Pakistan needs to serve justice, it should be swift, it should be righteous and it should be without mercy.

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Ahsan Malik is an IT professional with a passionate & candid version of his own on national and international issues relating to Pakistan, he tweets @MohdAhsanMalik and can be reached at m.ahson.malik@gmail.com

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