Saturday, July 4, 2015

Daily Times Editorial July 5, 2015

Where is NAP? A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the case on Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) has taken the government to task for its failure to seriously implement the National Action Plan (NAP). The honourable judges characterised the NAP as a big joke devised to deceive the masses. The SC asked for a report from the federation and provinces by July 22 on the total number of registered NGOs (which we hope includes madrassas), details of their foreign and domestic funding, audit of their accounts and action taken against them. In the context of the NAP, the court ordered filing of the details of the budget allocated to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and other institutions for the war on terror. Further, the court wanted to know how many NGOs have so far been banned, the accounts of how many have been frozen and cases registered against them. These questions go to the heart of the widespread concern at the seeming maze into which the NAP has become entwined. It may be recalled that the NAP was supposed to, amongst other things, make NACTA the overall coordinating agency for all anti-terrorist campaigns; set up a Joint Intelligence Committee comprising civil and military agencies; ban all terror groups and prevent their reinvention under a different name (as has been happening since Musharraf’s time); stop religious extremism in all its manifestations; protect the minorities; reform and regularise the madrassas; block foreign financing of extremist groups, and carry out reforms in the criminal justice system. The mere listing of these tasks reads as an indictment of the government for its failure to even start taking steps towards, let alone completing these tasks mandated by the political parties meeting in an All Parties Conference (APC) early this year after the Army Public School, Peshawar attack in which our schoolchildren were horrifically massacred. The political consensus of the APC had the backing of the military, already engaged in Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas. The seeming paralysis of the government in carrying out the tasks outlined in the 20 points of the NAP may be explained by reference to the possibility that its heart is not in the job. Let us not forget that soon after it came to power in 2013, the government sought to negotiate with the terrorists of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It was the TTP that brought those negotiations to an inglorious end by its attack on Karachi airport, which became the trigger for Operation Zarb-e-Azb. To the possible factor of sympathy for the terrorists may be added fear and, last but not least, incompetence. Where the will is lacking on the civil side, the military can rightfully claim success in its operations in the tribal areas. Operations Khyber-I and Khyber-II have concluded successfully with the redoubtable Tirah Valley all but controlled, while Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen the army occupy the heights in the Shawal Valley, a position that gives it the ability to carry out aerial and ground operations to clean up the remnants of the terrorists in the area. COAS General Raheel Sharif’s visit to the area was meant to congratulate the troops, raise their morale further and see that the temporary displaced persons’ return and rehabilitation programme launched in North Waziristan is taken to its logical conclusion. General Raheel made no bones while addressing the troops that the military’s operations will continue until Pakistan is made terror-free. He was very clear that this campaign must be conducted without discrimination to arrest the terrorists and their facilitators, abettors and financiers, irrespective of the cost. The COAS was also very appreciative of the special integrated teams carrying out intelligence-based operations across the urban areas of the country, which had severed the links between the terrorist sanctuaries in remote areas and their sleeper cells in the cities. While there is little room for complacency in this regard and there is still some distance to be travelled to the final goal, the military has come through with flying colours, in sharp contrast to the slow, ineffective efforts of the government. What this does is provide ammunition to the critics of democratically elected governments and the democratic system per se to argue that the country should simply be handed over to the military. Pakistan has enough experience of the downside of such ‘solutions’ to remain wary of such suggestions. Nor does the military leadership pay heed to such foolish prattle. However, this does not absolve the government of its duty and responsibility to first explain what is holding it back from implementing the NAP and then actually carry out the task in practice.

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