18 April 2015

Has the National Action Plan been shelved by the government?

Courtesy: The Nation


On December 16 last year Taliban attacked Army Public School in Peshawar. The carnage resulted in the death of 133 students and 16 faculty members. That was the most horrific terrorist attack in the history of Pakistan. Peshawar school massacre forced all the political leaders of Pakistan to put their differences aside and formulate a joint strategy to combat the menace of terrorism. Thus, the National Action Plan (NAP) of Pakistan was formed with the consensus of all political parties on December 24. Since then, more than 100 days have passed and the NAP has failed to achieve its results.

NAP consists of 20 points that aim to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan. Based on this plan, Pakistan lifted its moratorium on death penalty and hanged convicted terrorists. The Constitution of Pakistan was amended to empower military courts to try the terrorists for a period of two years. Analysts believed that Pakistan is finally on the right track and the days of terrorists may be numbered. However, the Pakistan government has shocked everyone by drifting away from what it calls the National Action Plan to counter terrorism.

Pakistan was missing a robust counterterrorism authority to deal with growing number of terrorist activities. National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is the official body for counterterrorism in Pakistan, but it’s not functional. Point number 4 of the NAP specifically stated that government will make NACTA functional. Almost four months have passed and there is no sign that NACTA will ever be functional. The main problem is the lack of funds which is preventing the injection of a new life in NACTA. It’s astonishing to observe that the government of Pakistan has funds for development projects like Islamabad Metro Bus Service but not for NACTA. Not to mention that NACTA holds paramount importance to the counterterrorism strategy of the government as it will be used to coordinate between different security agencies of Pakistan. The plight of NACTA speaks volumes about the government’s resolve to curb terrorism.

It’s an open secret that religious seminaries, known as madrassas, are breeding grounds for terrorism in Pakistan. There are over 30,000 religious seminaries in Pakistan and according to the Interior Ministry 10 percent of them are involved in breeding terror. That means there are around 3,000 seminaries that serve as potential launching pad for terrorist activities in Pakistan. The network of seminaries is speared from Karachi to Gilgit and no part of the country is spared. Therefore, point number 10 of NAP is about registration and regulation of these seminaries. Initially the government made tall claims that no seminary will be given exception in the process of scrutiny and every single one of them will be brought under the regulatory net. After few initial attempts, the Pakistani government has conveniently forgotten the need to bring seminaries under check. As of this moment, no meaningful crackdown is being carried out against the seminaries other than asking the religious clerics to fill some forms. In other words, the main source of terrorism has hardly been scratched by the government in aftermath of Peshawar school massacre.

Since 1980s, Pakistan has been home to plethora of terrorist organizations that have different purposes. Most of these organizations are religiously motivated and carry out terrorist activities against the government of Pakistan or against the minority Shia sect. Time and time again, most of the major terrorist organizations have been banned by government. These organizations change their names and resume their activities and thus escape the law of the land. Point number 7 of NAP made it clear that no terrorist organization will be allowed to operate with any other name. Unfortunately, most of the famous proscribed organizations are still operating with impunity using their new names. For the time being, those organizations have stopped their terrorist activities but still they exist with full strength. The NAP has in no way reduced the striking capacity of terrorist organizations in Pakistan.

Peshawar school attack was carried out by terrorists who were motivated by religious zeal. The Taliban terrorists who want to conquer Pakistan and rule it in the name of Shariah were responsible for that act. However, the government of Pakistan has turned its guns towards Muthaida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Although MQM has been accused of ethnic terrorism and it needs to be brought to justice, this is not the opportune time. At the moment, the first priority should have been to eliminate the religious terrorist organizations and not political parties with militant wings. The emphasis on crackdown against MQM has put question marks on the government’s objectives.

Pakistan is facing a multitude of problems at the present moment. There is a full scale military operation being carried out in North West of Pakistan. Karachi, the financial capital of Pakistan is also going through a targeted Para-military operation. At such a stage, the mere question whether Pakistan should join the war theater at Yemen sounds ridiculous. Pakistan needs to bring its house into order and implement the National Action Plan in letter and spirit. Contrary to that, the government of Pakistan is more interested in becoming party in Yemen war. This suggests that the NAP plan has effectively been shelved by the government of Pakistan.

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