WHEN a terrorist slaughtered 38 foreigners at the resort town of Sousse, the Tunisian government shut down 80 mosques for preaching extremism.
The British home secretary, Teresa May, flew to Tunisia to lay flowers where the victims — most of them from the UK — had fallen. She also discussed future security arrangements with her Tunisian counterpart.
A large team from Scotland Yard flew into the country to investigate the crime, and David Cameron spent over an hour in the House of Commons announcing new anti-terrorist measures, and declaring that his government will meet the challenge with a ‘full-spectrum response.’
NAP remains a dead letter.
This includes the creation and training of a commando squad within the police to counter terror attacks like the ones experienced by Mumbai and Nairobi in recent years. A massive training exercise on the streets of London was carried out to test the response of the police force.
I am merely giving these few examples to illustrate how states react to the challenge of organised, ruthless violence against their citizens. And yet, the victims of terrorism in Tunisia and Britain can be counted in the scores. Pakistan, by way of contrast, has lost well over 50,000 to Islamic extremists of various stripes. And how have we responded?
With our usual lethargy, bumbling and lack of spine as well as political will. The military is the only element that has conducted anti-Taliban operations with clarity, commitment and courage. For the rest, the National Action Plan remains a dead letter.
And the National Counter Terrorism Authority, even though this body was set up in 2009, to date, remains a largely toothless, moribund organisation.
The National Action Plan, agreed by all major political parties in the wake of the TTP attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014 that saw over 140 children killed, had called for a number of steps. These included, among others, the decision to ban all terror groups, and prevent their resurrection under other names; measures to stop religious extremism and to protect minorities; the reform and regularisation of madressahs; blocking foreign financing of extremist groups; and basic reforms in the criminal justice system.
Although this plan was launched six months ago, no step seems to have been taken to implement it seriously. And yet, on the conclusion of the all-parties’ conference held after the Peshawar attack, Nawaz Sharif said in a speech on Dec 24:
“We have to act fast and whatever is agreed we have to implement it immediately… this agreement is a defining moment for Pakistan and we will eliminate terrorists from this country…”
Six months after these brave words were uttered, nothing has changed except for more civilians, policemen and soldiers falling victims to terrorism. Clearly, ‘fast’ and ‘immediately’ mean something entirely different from their normal meaning in Sharif-land: here, only expressways and mega projects have priority.
So why is Nawaz Sharif shirking from taking the steps he had himself agreed upon just six months ago? Clearly, his heart isn’t in the tough decisions required for the job, and his interior minister isn’t the man to put some steel in his boss’s spine. Remember, he was the person dragging his feet over tough action against the TTP, and insisting on a dialogue with the terrorists we all said was bound to fail.
And while welcome action against various militant and criminal groups in Karachi has been going on successfully for some time, the jihadis in south Punjab remain untouched. Are we to assume that because they form part of the Sharif constituency, they have special immunity?
Of course, the larger question of cleaning up our textbooks of their hate-filled, extremist contents remains unanswered. Just as madressah reform runs into a roadblock manned by mullahs, so too does any clean-up of the school and college curricula. Even Musharraf at the height of his power, and despite his pledges, failed to tackle the issue of regulating madressahs. To expect Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar to take on this task is perhaps expecting too much.
In Turkey, clerics received faxed khutbas, or sermons, to read after Friday prayers. Incidentally, they are all civil servants, having got their jobs with the religious affairs ministry after passing an exam. There is no question of a maulvi making up his own khutba, unlike Pakistan where many clerics preach hatred against virtually all non-Muslims — as well as Muslims from different sects — on a weekly basis.
As many experts have been saying all along, Islamic militancy cannot be defeated by armed action alone. Tough measures have to be accompanied by socio-economic development, educational reforms and a change in laws where necessary. In Pakistan, despite a growing consensus, the state has been unable and unwilling to get its act together and take the steps necessary to safeguard its citizens. Until it does, Pakistanis will continue to die needlessly.
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2015