NAP: the new scapegoat

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Durdana Najam

After the Quetta carnage came the usual clamour that the National Action Plan (NAP) has failed to deliver. The civil and military heads got together to discuss the way forward. The deliberation resulted in a task force that would monitor the implementation of NAP. In due course, General (retd) Nasir Janjua, the National Security Adviser, was made the head of the new force.
More than 75 people were killed in the bomb blast at the Civil Hospital, Quetta, of which 63 were lawyers. The massacre came on the eve of August 14, the Independence Day of Pakistan. The security and intelligence agencies blamed India for the slaughter. The timing of the blast was considered a deliberate attempt to sabotage the morale of the country. It was resolved, however, that the Independence Day would be celebrated with great fervour. Hence the cries and wailing of the families of the deceased drowned in the musical concerts the Quetta government had arranged to commemorate the Independence Day on the night of August 13.
Terror-related incidents are not new for Quetta. The soil of Quetta has swallowed blood of many innocent people. The horror unleashed on the Hazara community can never be forgotten. But what happened on August 8 was perhaps unique and new. The enemy had been able to wipe out a whole generation of lawyers.
The incident brought a fresh reminder that the enemy has returned with a new vigour and force. It is also a reminder that the war on terror is far from over. It is a cue that somewhere the country is still not prepared to take the bull by the horn.
The saddest part of the situation is that no one has assumed the responsibility for the attack. Commander Southern Command Lt General Amir Riaz made some quick visits to the families of the deceased lawyers and journalists. The federal government made an announcement of the compensation money, and finally, there was a consensus that the failure to implement NAP in letter and spirit was the reason behind the attack in Quetta.
NAP was developed in the aftermath of the Army Public School attack where the Taliban ruthlessly killed 147 children. The attack reunited the leadership of the country. In an All Party Conference convened after the assault it was decided to take the Operation Zarb-e-Azb close to the enemies. The civilian government also resolved to step up efforts to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. This brought about NAP, a 20-point agenda that threw the responsibility of strengthening the civilian intelligence base coupled with other reforms to keep a check on the activities of terrorists in cities where the backlash to the operation was expected.
One of the essential elements of NAP was putting life in the dead National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA). The function of NCTA is to centralise intelligence sharing so that a concerted action is taken against terrorists. It also works on strengthening intelligence-based information system, which in turn is used to get deeper into the hideouts of the enemy.
It is almost 20 months, and NCTA has not been formed. The paucity of funds is said to be the reason behind the delay. It is mind boggling to see the federal government and government in Punjab splurging on power plants and road networks, but find it hard to get funds for such an important institution upon which depends the survival of the country.
The Quetta attack is perhaps the biggest after the Lahore Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park massacre where more than 30 children were killed. It was once again the moment to remember the malfunctioning of NAP.
The question is: will NAP begin giving results after the formation of the task force? Will there be funds available to support NCTA? What will be the contours of the new team and how would it question the interior ministry, which is in the driving seat as far as steering the anti-terror drive is concerned?
According to an insider story, in a latest civil-military meeting, government pointed fingers at the military for supporting its choice of religious outfits. The argument began when the military pressed upon the government to take on the proscribed religious organisations operating under new names. Creating another wheel to run NAP and putting Janjua as its pilot is also being seen as an “insult” to the military since Janjua is viewed more of a PML-N man than a former army officer. The footnote of the meeting was military’s assessment that organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa do not indulge in domestic violence, and therefore, they should not be held accountable.
The picture emerges of a civil-military leadership working in silos. It also suggests that the policy of “good” and “bad” terrorists is still in function. Reinvigorating NAP under a new leadership will not make much difference unless there is a resolve and connectivity between the civil and military leadership to eradicate terrorism without making any distinction between the good and the bad. The Punjab government has its skeletons in the cupboards. It is afraid to reveal them fearing backlash and disruption in its vote bank.
In this backdrop how can we stop India or our other real and assumed enemies from not bringing Pakistan down with such terror-related incidents? It is easy to curse NAP rather than taking responsibility and act accordingly. The largest onus falls on the civilian government.