The fate of our lot
Three key events corresponded with one another last Sunday. One was the case of an alleged blasphemer being manhandled by those championing the cause of religion. The other was a funeral in Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi translating into an organised protest in Islamabad. The last was the most horrendous one, with a suicide attack ripping through a park, rattling the city of Lahore and resulting in over 70 casualties consisting of women and children.
The three events may or may not be linked, yet all three of them do underline the National Action Plan’s shortcomings and loopholes in terms of its scope and implementation at this present time and in this current situation for the country. The palpable presence of an indoctrinated society beneath the veneer of Zarb-e-Azb’s counter terrorism efforts has undoubtedly compounded the entire process of eradicating terrorism. Sunday’s events in Islamabad and Lahore also highlight that while considerable progress has been attained in alleviating the menace of terror through armed assaults, arrests and hangings, there is much room for expanding the mandate of Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan with more holistic strategies aimed at targeting mindsets as much as individuals themselves.
It came as a bit of a shock for the country that while progress on counter terrorism was being hailed by relevant institutions and agencies, an attack of such gravity did take place in a public park in Lahore which resulted in numerous casualties of innocent women or children. It buttresses the point that guaranteeing national safety for citizens needs to be complimented with an overarching strategy which dismantles fringe elements through isolation and indoctrination strategies. After the Salmaan Taseer incident and the subsequent death penalty awarded to his assassin Mumtaz Qadri, a precedent was set that taking the law into one’s own hand will be met with a fitting response. Yet as Sunday afternoon clearly demonstrated scores of protestors managed to rally into the heavily fortified capital after a funeral and that too in a city which hosts the country’s security apparatus and symbolic state institutions tasked with policymaking. The ability of the protestors to penetrate is a testament to the loopholes which need to be addressed in order for the government to live up to its promises of zero tolerance for extremism as part of NAP.
The response to the ensuing madness, however, was teetering yet it is definitely not for the first time. Take the Junaid Jamshed incident at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport earlier as a prime example. Despite being a divisive and polarising character, the singer turned evangelical was confronted with the inability of the airport security officials to curb his assailants hinting at the agencies inability in providing protection to ordinary citizens under such circumstances. The fact that property was damaged in Islamabad when the protestors marched into the Red Zone in Islamabad and a suicide attack of such gravity took place in Lahore when counter terrorism efforts were being hailed on every front hints at how much more needs to be done. NAP’s central theme which is about internal security and counter terrorism would prove to be, or viewed as a cosmetic exercise if it fails to secure ordinary citizens or mobs take the law and order situation into their own hands.
Events on Sunday where 38 policemen were injured in clashes in Islamabad hint at the resolve of the men tasked with guaranteeing security. Yet it is up to the policymakers to answer questions over how successful mobocracy, suicide attacks and a breakdown of the rule of law continue unabated. Above all, what would it take to reign in the fringe? Surely, it is a part of counter terrorism, isn’t it?