Home / Opinion / Platitudes plentiful | By Raoof Hasan
Pakistan, Extremism, Terrorism, National Action Plan, Government policies, TTP, War on terror, CSS, Current affairs, 2015

Platitudes plentiful | By Raoof Hasan

Grandiose proclamations morphing into ominous premonitions

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

–Bertrand Russel

Of late, one cannot hear the end of the feel-good proclamations from the mightiest within the government: losing against terror is not an option, terrorism will be defeated at all costs, country cannot progress without eliminating the scourge of militancy, and multiple other inane thunders. Each such grandiose proclamation is embarrassingly followed by a terrorist attack somewhere in the country, their frequency increasing alarmingly of late!

What does this signify? Two possibilities: either there is something wrong with the original National Action Plan (NAP) chalked out to deal with terror, or there is lack of sincerity and commitment in implementing it in its entirety. One can sense a bit of both in the catastrophic and deadly manifestations of terror.

There are three aspects to confronting the scourge of terror that has ravaged the country over the last couple of decades: its manifestations, causes and conduits (or support systems). The first is the easiest to deal with but, unfortunately, terror will not end unless the other two are also eliminated. Causes and conduits constitute the breeding grounds and handlers for terror. Pakistan has and continues to follow a policy delineated by a myopic thinking that it should bludgeon the manifestations to eliminate terror

There are three aspects to confronting the scourge of terror that has ravaged the country over the last couple of decades: its manifestations, causes and conduits (or support systems). The first is the easiest to deal with but, unfortunately, terror will not end unless the other two are also eliminated. Causes and conduits constitute the breeding grounds and handlers for terror. Pakistan has and continues to follow a policy delineated by a myopic thinking that it should bludgeon the manifestations to eliminate terror. As a deterrent to further attacks, it has also decided to lift the moratorium on capital punishment that had been in force for the last few years. It hasn’t helped, and it is not likely to help. Terror cannot be bombed out. It will also not be eliminated by hanging a few criminals which, in fact, may be a cause for further blowbacks.

The NAP had outlined a comprehensive paradigm of initiatives to deal with the spectre of terror. It had vowed to register and regulate the madrassas in the country and also ban the glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media. It had resolved to counter hate speech and extremist material, take effective steps against religious persecution and choke financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations. Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab was also an integral facet of the NAP programme.

Whatever little the government may have tried to do regarding these critical issues, if any at all, it has failed miserably in achieving the necessary results. Having endured the initial impact of Zarb-e-Azb, the terrorist outfits seem to have regrouped much faster than the state may have expected. The terrorists and terrorist organisations were able to broaden and intensify their operations because their financial lifelines remained open and the supply of raw material undiminished. Practically every pulpit remains a source of spreading hate and ethnic-sensitive messages to create further divides in the society and the seminaries are continually engaged in indoctrinating radicalism and sectarian hatred into impressionable minds.

Having endured the initial impact of Zarb-e-Azb, the terrorist outfits seem to have regrouped much faster than the state may have expected. The terrorists and terrorist organisations were able to broaden and intensify their operations because their financial lifelines remained open and the supply of raw material undiminished. Practically every pulpit remains a source of spreading hate and ethnic-sensitive messages to create further divides in the society and the seminaries are continually engaged in indoctrinating radicalism and sectarian hatred into impressionable minds

Immediately after signing the NAP, the religious parties had peremptorily reneged and threatened to launch a movement against what they called linking terror with religion and seminaries. The political mafias, eager to strike belittling compromises to continue their tenuous and corrupt hold on power, were put under immense pressure and their much-touted resolve dented. Ever since, we have only seen figures regarding seminaries that are receiving financial assistance from foreign countries – a number that is increasing by the day — but little tangible has been undertaken to choke the flow of funds, or regulate the seminaries so that they could stop producing radicalisation-laden mindsets. The business flows as usual and the state and people have been divorced to face the bloody and harrowing consequences of the growing terror spree.

The failure of the government in gagging the sources and conduits of terror was witnessed in broad daylight on February 5. Kashmir liberation is a cause that remains integral to Pakistan and its people. This time, a varied band of the stalwarts of the proscribed terrorist organisations were paraded right across the blazing screens throughout the day championing the cause of plebiscite in the valley and urging the government to forsake peaceful means to resolve the outstanding dispute and, instead, take to waging jihad for the coveted cause. Where were the government and its foul-mouthed ministers? And why is it that the terrorists of multiple hues and shades, whom the world accuses the state of Pakistan for sponsoring, were let loose on that fateful day to plead the cause of Kashmir? If anything, this brought further harm to Pakistan’s case and also gave the world another reason to continue accusing it of harbouring terror, terrorist organisations and perpetrators.

In the apex committee meeting in Karachi, COAS was candid and categorical in variously describing the provincial government’s performance as inefficient, impotent and incapable. He also accused the government of corruption and held it responsible for collapse of the law and order in the province. There was also a meaningful reference to the intense politicisation of the police force and the support being extended by political parties and the provincial government to criminal gangs

The federal and provincial governments have already been indicted by none other the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. In the apex committee meeting in Karachi, COAS was candid and categorical in variously describing the provincial government’s performance asinefficient, impotent and incapable. He also accused the government of corruption and held it responsible for collapse of the law and order in the province. There was also a meaningful reference to the intense politicisation of the police force and the support being extended by political parties and the provincial government to criminal gangs. As if knowing what was coming in the apex committee meeting in Quetta, the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif showed his utter disinterest and remained busy toying with his phone. The meeting was also attended by the prime minister and the COAS.

The whole anti-terror gambit is coming apart at the seams. The government was never sincere in launching it in the first place. It only did so under intense pressure from the military and when there was an underlying threat to its continued hold on power. Consequently, it agreed to be in it, but the high level of commitment and sincerity required to deal with a deadly narrative like that of terror were palpably missing. Additionally, governance suffered from indescribable levels of inherent corruption that is built into the very system the country is ruled with and which has been gruesomely manipulated by all ruling mafias.

But the gross and shameful duplicity of the criminal ruling gangs does not appear to wane. Addressing a White House Summit, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar presented a four-point charter to combat extremism: strengthening local communities, winning the trust of mainstream peace-loving majority, building resilience in local communities against radicalisation and addressing the factors driving people to extremism. There is nothing new in the picture except that he failed to elaborate on who is the one going to do this and so much else that needs to be accomplished to eliminate the curse of terror. In over two months since the launching of the NAP, the government has failed miserably in addressing the causes or nabbing the conduits of terror. All it can boast of is the continuing military operation in the FATA and occasionally in some other areas of the country, this, too, because of the military! What steps have been taken for regulating the seminaries, stopping the flow of illicit funds to their coffers, banning the hate speech and glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations? And, most important of all, when will the operation be launched for eliminating the vast and prosperous terror networks in the Punjab – the heartland of the Sharif empire – which are allegedly patronised by the Sharifs?

We have had enough of the platitudes. People are quite sick of the grandiose proclamations amidst unending explosions and suicide bombings. A level of seriousness needs to be injected into the entire operation if the goal remains to eliminate terror. It cannot be more of the same potion. That’ll only spread the poison further. So much must change to create a substantiating environment, both in terms of strategy and people in command to deal with the existential challenge that Pakistan faces. It is not an easy task, but at some point in a nation’s life, it has to contend with the available options: continue with sipping the poison to ultimately slow-haemorrhage to death, or gather the courage to conduct the difficult surgical procedure now that there is still hope for recovery. The challenge may be monumental, but failure to realise either the severity or the deadly consequences of not facing it head-on may spell the doom

Unfortunately, the very mafias responsible for spreading the scourge of terror and precipitating the abdication of governance have been entrusted with the task of eliminating it. This is well nigh impossible. Improvement of governance is an integral component of the fight against terror and those responsible for having brought it to the existent low ebb, and their unwavering interest in keeping it there, are hardly the right choice to bring about a mega paradigm shift. By indicting the government of Sindh in a no-holds-barred manner, the COAS may well be on his way to realising the dilemma that he is confronted with. He may already have understood the same about other incumbent governments. He may also be tossing up the difficult options that he has before him to deal with multiple-menaced people and their corrupt roots that require further corruption to nourish its saplings. This is a task a million times more difficult than contending with the threat of terror.

We have had enough of the platitudes. People are quite sick of the grandiose proclamations amidst unending explosions and suicide bombings. A level of seriousness needs to be injected into the entire operation if the goal remains to eliminate terror.

It cannot be more of the same potion. That’ll only spread the poison further. So much must change to create a substantiating environment, both in terms of strategy and people in command to deal with the existential challenge that Pakistan faces. It is not an easy task, but at some point in a nation’s life, it has to contend with the available options: continue with sipping the poison to ultimately slow-haemorrhage to death, or gather the courage to conduct the difficult surgical procedure now that there is still hope for recovery. The challenge may be monumental, but failure to realise either the severity or the deadly consequences of not facing it head-on may spell the doom.

This is no exaggeration. In fact, this may be understating the truth because of one’s inability to put in words what may be unprintable!

Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/21/featured/platitudes-plentiful/

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