ISLAMABAD: The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) released on Thursday for the first time focuses on ‘mosque reforms’ which will be initiated from Islamabad.

The reform programme includes an audit of all funds raised for setting up, maintenance or expansion of mosques by the government to ensure transparency.

Read: Mosque versus state

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed expressed the confidence that the policy would be successfully implemented.

Under the policy, funds raised for mosques will be audited by govt

“There cannot be any abrupt change in society but there will be gradual transformation, and many clerics are coming up to cooperate with the authorities.”

He called upon the citizens to lodge complaints at the DC office if there is any illegal construction or establishment of mosques.

The policy says religion-based killings were the key source of terrorism in the country. Many terrorist groups remain active in the country with the stated aim of imposing their own interpretation of religion and establishing a global caliphate while discrediting democratically elected governments, civil and military institutions.

“Most of these terrorist outfits stand either proscribed or eliminated already by Pakistan but comprehensive action is required to remove their traces entirely and choke any financing that they may draw from the country.”

The second most serious form of terrorism in the country, it states, was ‘sectarian terrorism’ as several sectarian outfits originated in Pakistan and continued to have a presence and often used violent means to target prominent personalities, festivals and places of worship belonging to other sects.

The other two are ‘ethno-political terrorism’ and ‘sub-national terrorism’.

The policy focuses heavily on mosque reforms claiming that the federal government would work with provinces and religious leaders to initiate wide ranging reforms to make the mosques centres of learning and religious guidance for the citizens.

It has also been stated that a phased programme will be initiated from Islamabad along several lines which included setting up of a committee of religious scholars with representation from all schools of thought to formulate recommended syllabi and training for Imams.

The policy also suggests offering specialised training to Imams under the supervision of the committee of religious scholars and administered by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The policy calls for granting incentives to Imams through a monthly stipend paid by the government.

The local administration is already working on the recommendation of the policy regarding Friday sermons.

“We have worked out a policy with clerics that there will not be any controversial sermon during Friday prayers - controversial in any way,” the deputy commissioner said.

He added that a committee had been set up under the deputy director Auqaf and consisting of officers from Special Branch to monitor the sermons.

“It has been agreed that we will only give topics to the clerics and not any written khutba,” the DC added.

The capital administration will work along with the CDA to review and reconstitute the mosque committees.

One of the key reasons for focus on religion and sectarian-based terrorism in the policy is threats of Daesh.

“The emergence of Daesh in close proximity to Pakistan has raised new internal security challenges. Recent reports suggest that Daesh is establishing a footprint in the Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan.”

The policy also says there were potentials of [Daesh’s] spillover in Pakistan with the support and collaboration of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its offshoots. The situation has been compounded by the return of battle-hardened militants from Syria and Iraq, it adds.

According to the NISP, there is adequate evidence that radicalisation and militancy is no longer limited to religious seminaries alone as young people from relatively affluent and middle-class backgrounds were also vulnerable to extremist ideas.

The interior ministry has acknowledged that despite success in curbing terrorism, little has been done to eradicate extremism. The diffusion of violent ideologies in a cross-section of society has given rise to intolerance and extremism that provides a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists.

The NISP says extremism is harder to fight given that it is a mindset and can only be defeated by the inculcation of an alternative value system in society. Steps, however, are urgently required to deal with prevalent extremism to realise the dream of a tolerant, peaceful and harmonious Pakistan.

Besides, the recently established Cyber Patrolling Unit of the FIA will be resourced and empowered to monitor the social media, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to curb their misuse for unlawful activities. The policy also suggests steps pertaining to hate speech, fake news, racial prejudice and glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2018