Quick fix action plan


The prime minister has called upon the military to “speed up” the country’s latest anti-terrorism drive. If only it were so easy. Sadly, there is no magic wand with which to wish terrorism away. This latest urging raises questions as to the PM’s possible over confidence in his recent counter-terrorism moves. That is, the ethnic profiling of Afghans and ethnic Pashtuns as well as the seeking of a two-year extension for military tribunals.
When the two are viewed side-by-side it suggests more of the same quick-fix approach. It also calls into question the timing of the long delayed national census. Especially considering that the Army is charged with conducting a parallel headcount. The government would do well to revisit its own 20-point National Action plan that it secured on the back of a national consensus. It was right to prohibit both print and electronic media from glorifying terrorists and terrorist organisations. Yet this does not absolve the government from keeping a check on its own missteps. One of the most damaging being the allowing of (or at the very least not banning outright) the shrine dedicated to Mumtaz Qadri. For in doing so, the state inadvertently cast itself as complicit in such glorification. The military cannot be expected to create a political consensus to fix the madrassas. Their support is vital but it is the Parliament that has to legislate on the regulatory framework for seminaries. It is about time that we thought of a comprehensive policy to convert madrassas into regular schools and end the parallel systems of education. Let us not obfuscate the overwhelming body of evidence that shows how some of these seminaries are linked to extremism and nurseries for potential terrorists.
The civilian set-up needs to be willing to flex its muscles in overseeing coordination between various intelligence and police departments, in terms of information gathering and sharing. In addition, those at the helm of these departments need to ensure that a central command is operational at all times. The same must also apply to the government. We cannot have a prime minister who talks tough on terrorism while some of his ministers are happy to be seen consorting with known militants.
Needless to say Pakistan’s security policy requires an urgent review by the civil-military leadership. The spurious distinction between pro and anti Pakistan militant groups needs to end. The national security committee has to deliberate these policy shifts and not turn into an arena for a civil-military contest. The responsibility of the Prime Minister to lead this process is paramount.