Whenever terrorists carry out acts of ultimate bestiality like the attacks on APS Peshawar and the Bacha Khan University, they invariably cause a deep sense of grief.
The natural reaction, rightly so, to such incidents is outright condemnation coupled with the resolve both at the government and public levels not to succumb to the machinations of the terrorists – and take the fight against them to its logical end. That kind of determination is a vital ingredient in ensuring success against those who are bereft of all humane faculties and are ideological weapons of mass destruction.
In times of adversities faced by nations, intellectuals, intelligentsia and the media are supposed to play their role in lifting the morale of the nation and lending support to the strategies and policies evolved by the government to deal with diabolical challenges. And while evaluating the efficacy of the state initiatives they are required not to lose sight of the prevalent ground realities and the internal and external factors that create impediments in the implementation of those policies. An objective and well-meaning appraisal of such policies is always a welcome and appreciable undertaking. But regrettably that kind of constructive support is not forthcoming.
Some political commentators, media outlets and members of the intelligentsia suffering from cynicism continue using such occasions to denigrate the government’s achievements, challenge the rationale behind the policies orchestrated by the state to tackle terrorism and even resort to scathing criticism against the government and the security establishment for making claims of success against the terrorists.
These elements probably fail to understand the complexities of the war against terror. First of all, what is needed to be understood is that tackling terrorism is a long-time undertaking which needs a combination of military, administrative, political and ideological initiatives to challenge the narrative of the terrorists. It took Sri Lanka nearly three decades to quell the insurgency by the Tamils. The war against terrorism has just begun. There is no quick-fix solution to this phenomenon.
Criticism is the easiest thing to do and the most damaging when undertaken without understanding the dynamics that are involved in sustaining this phenomenon. Extraordinary situations like terrorism demand extraordinary solutions. Those worried about fundamental rights need to understand that these rights are contingent upon subservience to the state. Anybody taking up arms against the state loses his claim to the fundamental rights that the state grants to him.
It is absolutely a wrong thinking that the establishment of the military courts and hanging of the terrorists has failed to create any impact. Physical elimination of terrorists through military actions and quickly dispensed justice in case of the apprehended terrorist have invariably formed part of the anti-terror strategies pursued by nations confronted with terrorism. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is doing exactly that. The overall law and order situation in the country has improved. According to DG ISPR 6000 intelligence-based operations have been conducted and 20,000 terrorists captured in addition to thousands killed in the operation. This has also created space for the implementation of NAP which has also created quite an impact in the fight against terrorism.
The critics of the implementation of NAP, particularly in regards to the seminaries, are probably not aware of the sensitivities involved and the political repercussions of taking random action against all the seminaries as is advocated by them. This path needs to be followed with utmost care. The government is determined to take care of this aspect and already 182 seminaries have been shut down.
The government is also working with religious circles to find a plausible and practicable strategy to oversee the working and performance of all the seminaries, without compromising on the basic objectives of NAP. The foregoing facts are undeniable success stories, though we still have a long way to go.
The terrorism we are confronted with also has external dimensions. The terrorists who escaped from North Waziristan have relocated themselves in Afghanistan from where they have planned and executed those attacks through their operatives and local facilitators. Then there is the Indian factor. The scourge of terrorism cannot be eliminated until there is peace in Afghanistan, and our relations with India improve and the strategy of proxy wars is abandoned for good.
Unfortunately that does not seem a near possibility in view of the prevailing situation, though some encouraging developments have taken place on restarting the process of dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, as well as the renewed pledge by Pakistan and Afghanistan not to let terrorists use their soil for cross-border attacks. In the wake of the Charsadda attack, information has been shared with Afghanistan and their cooperation has been sought in stopping such attacks by TTP terrorists located on Afghan soil.
The military establishment has also urged the Nato commander in Afghanistan to target Afghanistan-based TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah with drones. Efforts to improve relations with India are also on the anvil. However, their success is not in the hands of the Pakistan government alone. As they say it takes two to tango. A matching response by India is absolutely necessary to achieve that objective and subduing RAW sponsored acts of terrorism within Pakistan. The critics of the war strategy against terrorists must consider these factors before taking a swipe at the performance of the government, security establishment and the intelligence outfits. In my considered opinion, the government of Nawaz Sharif, the security establishment and our intelligence agencies deserve unqualified accolades for what they have achieved so far.
No actions and strategies of the government can, however, succeed without the unqualified backing and support of the people. On the internal front, there is a need for participation of all the segments of society in the war against terrorism not only by supporting government initiatives but also to lend a helping hand by exercising utmost vigilance and reporting any suspicious activity. Their help in identifying the sleeper cells of terrorists, their supporters and abettors is an indispensable ingredient of winning the fight against terrorists.