THE third ‘high-level’ review of progress under the National Action Plan since August has produced the same statements of intent that every other such appraisal has generated since the plan began to be implemented earlier this year.
Once again, the list of areas where progress has been found to be lacking is the same: terror financing, madressah reform, moving against proscribed organisations and hate speech.
A patchy track record of action in each of these areas testifies to the immense difficulties facing the state in tackling the roots of militancy in the country.
It is crucial to address each item on this list if militancy and acts of terrorism are to be truly eradicated. Otherwise, the successes scored by the Rangers in Karachi and Operation Zarb-i-Azb in the northwest will be little more than mowing the grass, only to watch it grow back again.
We don’t know what exactly was discussed regarding these gaps in the implementation of NAP, but the impression emerging from all these reviews is that the leadership — both civil and military — appears to be stuck in deciding how to move forward in these areas.
There is little surprise in this. Fighting militants on the ground is a far simpler task than rooting out their networks of supply and support. The former represents a guts-and-glory type of a fight.
The latter is more cerebral, requiring nerve and brains, as well as the capacity to mould the discourse and regulate the flows of funds and materiel within the economy. In short, the latter task rubs up against all the key weaknesses of the state itself — its civil-military fault lines and the fact that the wheels of the state — its very writ in fact — rarely touches the ground.
The case of terror financing is a case in point. Where the standard law-enforcement bodies of the country have struggled to detect and intercept terrorism funds, the Rangers in Karachi have used extraordinary powers granted to them under an amendment to the Anti-Terrorism Act passed in the run-up to their operation, to apprehend all manner of people — from politicians to political workers and street criminals, to hardened members of banned outfits — and charged them mostly with terror financing simply to be able to hold them for 90 days.
Very few, if any, of those apprehended have actually been charged, and even fewer convictions have been obtained. This muscular approach, with open-ended targeting, is the wrong way to intercept terror funding.
The right way is to ratify those international conventions that will activate the assistance from authorities in central banks around the world to trace the movement of funds, and develop an automated system for flagging potentially troublesome flows in the financial system. Thus far, progress on NAP is patchy, mainly because the implementation has been more brawn and less brain.
Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2015