Do you think the state of Pakistan has been successful in countering violent extremism after the Army Public School Peshawar tragedy of December 2014?
In the aftermath of the Army Public School massacre in December 2014, the state announced the initiation of a robust strategy to fight a ‘decisive’ battle against terrorism, which was now becoming an existential threat. Fourteen months on, incidents like the Bacha Khan University attack in January 2016, and the Lahore children’s park massacre a couple of weeks ago continue to threaten the public’s peace and security, and place a question mark on the state’s efforts for curbing violent extremism. The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies generated a poll to findout whether the public thinks there has been progress in the fight against Pakistan’s enemy within. As many as 60% of the respondents affirmed that there has indeed been some progress, while 29% respondents still believe that more needs to be done, particularly against the militants of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its splinter groups. Only 10.8% were uncertain if there had been steady progress or not.
The Government of Pakistan reached national consensus in January 2015 for lifting the moratorium on death penalty and set up military courts by modifying the Pakistan Army Act 1952 via the 21st Amendment of the constitution of Pakistan, for speedy trials of convicted terrorists. Military courts form part of the state’s hastily put together, twenty-points ‘National Action Plan’ – Pakistan’s official countering violent extremism policy. Zarb-e-Azb operation – launched in June 2014 – is a full-fleged military offensive in North Waziristan, entered its final phase in the Shawal valley during last August. However, speedy implementation of the NAP in terms of seizing hatespeech material; confiscation of terror finances; complete mapping of madrassas throughout Pakistan; creating a paramout authority such as a joint-intelligence directorate or National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) for sharing intelligence information and proper execution of small-scale operations has remained slow and ineffective.
Of Pakistan’s 1764 most wanted criminals, almost 700 hail from South Punjab. The Federal Government has opened an offensive in Dera Ghazi Khan, but with setbacks. First, it is far too little too late; it took 75 lives in a park in Punjab’s heartland to reach this decision. Secondly, the law enforcement agencies are ill-equipped and unprepared as a result of which dozens of cops were taken hostage by a ‘Chottu Gang’ hiding on a riverine. Provincial Counter Terrorism Departments, Anti-Terror Forces, Pakistan Rangers and other such LEAs work in isolation from each other. The cyber police is not yet active and has failed in terminating thousands of accounts on social media being used by extremists. A comprehensive CVE strategy is earnestly needed to counter violent extremism in multiple phases, instead of resorting to drastic options like carpet bombings and airstrikes on populations.