It is very timely to analyze the existing National Action Plan (NAP) meant to eradicate extremism and terrorism from the country. At the beginning, I shall highlight that evaluating both aspects – extremism and terrorism in isolation will be a blunder. Because extremism, irrespective of its type and reasons, is the root cause of instability, intolerance, unrest and terrorism in our society. Countering extremism is in the national policy and strategic domain which is a long arduous journey likely to bear fruit in medium to long term time frame, while countering terrorism is mainly tactical actions or eliminating the symptoms which involves immediate and short term measures. Since masses look for concrete actions and immediate effects, the nation, media and public at large fall in line behind the counter terrorism actions considering them to be the end itself. These actions must be viewed not by the number of terrorists killed or captured, but by the effects or results.
The Establishment of Military Courts
The masses’ biggest grievance against the state is that of poor governance which gives rise to trust deficit. Has the formation of the military courts helped in bridging this deficit? Will these courts act as deterrence to the potential terrorists from undertaking future terrorist acts? Will these courts be able to stop the fresh recruits from joining the ranks of the terrorist groups? All of these questions may have answers in negative. If we look into the reasons behind poor governance, then the issue of less or more democracy must be viewed in a different manner. Democracy is supposed to be a form of government where the masses are simply not only meant to have a choice in electing their representatives but be a stakeholder in the prevalent systemin that country. So democracy is meant to be for ‘the good of the people’, not for the business tycoons and people of vested interests. Have we been able to provide a level playing field for marginalized segments of our society, minorities and under privileged? Has the present democratic dispensation for the last 7 years been able to provide even symbolic good governance? If none of it is visible then the question needs to be re-framed? Has the Parliament shown any sagacity in carrying out the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which in my opinion is not ‘The Solution’ or ‘Amrit Dhara’ for either countering extremism or terrorism? Indeed theParliament has proven to be a rubber stamp of vested interest people who are only doing the bidding. In my opinion we move forward by improved and better governance and not by a more or less democratic but dysfunctional government.
Regulation of Madaris
Education is the prime responsibilityof the state. Not only madaris but the entire educational system in the country needs to be regulated. Various streams of education systems have to be transformed into a uniform education system. As a minimum a uniform curriculum upto 8-10 initial years of education should be implemented. Education must empower individuals to at least be self-employed for sustenance of self and the family. Present system of madaris needs the following:
• Registration with district administration (Education Department) in a given time frame (could be 3-4 weeks), including all private educational institutions.
• Submission of their financial statements (Starting 1 Jul 2014) giving complete assets, sources of income and expenditures. An amnesty can be announced for those who declare how their assets were made. But for future every penny must be accounted for.
• Unregistered institutions be closed down after the deadline. Students in such madaris be the responsibility of the state to support them in registered and reputedly good madaris.
• Present system of award of degrees on religious education be streamlined with university degrees, possibly through exams conducted by respective universities.
• All direct foreign funding to madaris or their philanthropic wings be strictly banned. Countries like KSA, Gulf and Iran be conveyed firmly through diplomatic channels to stop it or donate through the Ministry of Auqaf who should maintain complete transparency by making all accounts public. Once the madaris start receiving financial support from the government, regulation will be easier.
Good and Bad Taliban
The phrase is coined by the West and the US. In Pakistan we have to agree that policy of sponsoring non-state armed groups will always be counter-productive. All over the world, states and governments continue to use non-state actors as leverages to further their national interests. However, no state provides its own land or arms its own people to launch them in other countries.
All armed groups in Pakistan must be disarmed and disbanded. Those who do not agree have to be forced to accept the law of the land. All these militant groups must only be addressed as ‘militants, terrorists or dehshatgard’, never as Taliban or Jehadi groups. They may call themselves by any name but the state and media must never address them as Taliban. A large number of our people link it with a religious struggle; this linkage has to be broken. There is no good or bad terrorist but one must leave a door open for reformation and mainstreaming those foot soldiers willing to give up. The timing is such that one hopes that the old policies will be given up for good.
Moreover look at the conduct of US itself in this region. In 80s they sponsored and encouraged armed resistance in Afghanistan based on religion (specially facilitating Muslims to converge here from all over the world) thus laying the foundations of Islamist militancy, which got out of control and AlQaida turned its guns against US and the west. At that time the US President equated the Jehadi Afghan leaders with their ‘Founding Fathers’ and hosted them in White House. Having suffered at their hands and also being unable to crush Afghan resistance for over 13 years, a transformation is again being witnessed. Before pulling out in December the White House initially announced that the Taliban leadership will not be sought and targeted any more. Now on two consecutive days the White House spokesperson kept defending their position that Afghan Taliban are no more to be considered as ‘terrorist group’ rather they are ‘armed insurgents’. While on the other hand, TTP remains a ‘terrorist group’. Pakistan only recently having withstood the US pressure for 12 years agreed to term the Haqqanis as terrorists and banned them. So the Americans have changed their outlook. It manifests the prevailing international norm that what is important remains your national interests while friends and adversaries keep changing. We have to sincerely decide and understand that no disputes (internal or external) can ever be permanently resolved by use of overt or covert force.
Lack of Political Will
Unfortunately the political culture in the country has not matured enough. Dynastic politics undermines the possibility of a true democracy. Feudal culture and mindset prevail all over and anyone in authority becomes and behaves like an autocrat. Rampant corruption, nepotism, self-centered approach to perpetuate one’s rule lead to compromises. No hard decisions can be taken in such context. The policy of appeasementand of riding the tide rather than leading the way result in a lack of political will. Such policies and practices need to be changed.
In existing system there is only selective transparency, while accountability has never been our forte, whether in civil or military institutions. The government announced 13 to 15 sub-committees to follow up on the NAP but who knows what they have done so far. It has been reported that the National Apex Committee has met to review NAP, but the people will never get findings of that meeting. We are in a state of war but the government is not working on war footing. An unending military operation is continuing for over 6 months and nobody knows the timeline when it will conclude. No initiative has been taken yet to dismantle any of the armed militant groups in the mainland.
We have to ask for effects, effects, and effects.