How Far Has the National Action Plan Been Implemented?
By Javaria Khalidd
Terrorism is a global phenomenon today. No other country has underwent immensely at the hands of Terrorism as Pakistan. Since 2001, more than 70 000 innocent lives have been lost due to various acts of terrorism.
Three years have been passed since the devastating attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, in which more than 150 children and school staff lost their lives. The incident quivered the country and brought the Government, Military and other political parties on one page. Thus, making a National Action Plan (NAP) to curb terrorism and extremism for good. However, the whole motivation seems to fade away as no remarkable progress can be seen so far in this regard.
Implementation of Death sentence of those convicted in cases of Terrorism:
long moratorium on death penalty in 2014, around 465 people accused of involving in terror-related activities were hanged till death. However, the government faced criticism on the account that the large number of executions were not related to the terror convictions at all, questioning the credibility of the Judiciary of Pakistan.
Special trial courts under the supervision of Army:
Another silent but a remarkable clause in NAP is the creation of Military courts under the 21st Amendment of the Constitution that deals with the formation of Military courts for speedy trials of the terror-associated cases for the duration of two years. Throughout the above mentioned time-period, 274 people were convicted in which 161 people â€˜confessedâ€™ to their crimes out of which 43 convicted terrorists were executed by the Military courts, which was a positive indicator. However, these Military courts faced criticism over their closed and secretive procedure. Furthermore, the government has also failed to improve the performance of civilian courts within the given time period.
Ban on Militant outfits and armed gangs, their funding and communication:
The NAP deals largely with the ban of militant organizations, choking their financing and communication. Prior to that, there were 60 banned outfits as already announced by the government of Pakistan. During the last three years, four more organizations were added to the list including Jamat-ul-Ahrar and a globally renowned terrorist outfit known as ISIS that got banned in Pakistan. Two other groups, Ghulaman-e-Sahaba and Maymar trust (Maymar Trust, a front for the banned Al-Rasheed Trust) also got proscribed in the country. However, merely banning the Militant outfits isnâ€™t fruitful unless a strict action is taken against their free movement within the country and outside, which however, is debatable as there are various reports of the free movement of the members of Militant organizations and the government falls flat to counter this argument by providing any proof at all.
It is no longer surreptitious that National Counter-terrorism Authority failed miserably to perform its prevalent actions, either due to lack of vision or because of the absence of capacity and human resources. As a result, Military took control of much of the process including Apex committee and anti-terrorist military operations such as: Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Operation Raad-ul-Fasad and Operation Khyber. Insouciant handling of counter-terrorism process by NACTA may also lead to conclusion that the department does not have a clear pathway and resources. They do not have complete authority over other relevant departments such as CTD (which falls under the provisional authorities rather than federal administration), intelligence communities and other governmental institutions that thwarts their performance.
Check and balance on Electronic and Print Media and action against religious parties promoting sectarianism:
National Action Plan also focuses largely on taking strict action against Electronic and Print media that sometimes becomes a mode to endorse extremism, hatred and intolerance among the people. Clause no 9, 11, 13, 14 and 18 in the document deal with these similar concerns one way or the other. Various religious parties use Social media and Print media to aggravate sectarianism and religious hatred. Undoubtedly, there is a significant improvement in rooting out such elements as compared to the past in this regard. Security agencies detained 15,259 clerics and religious teachers for delivering hate speech and enflaming violence, whereas, 14,869 cases were registered against them. A large number of arrests were carried out in combined operations against such elements across the country in the past three years. As a result, an undeniable reduction in sectarian conflicts can be seen. So far this year, there were only 16 incidents which can be linked to sectarian violence as compared to 91 incidents in 2014 . Total 70 shops were closed down as they were accused of promoting hate speech, which is a positive progress. The role of Cybercrime cell that works under FIA is also very encouraging in respect to efficiently monitoring the Social media accounts and websites.
Registration of religious seminaries:
It became highly controversial after the government decided to register the religious seminaries all across the country and to keep track of their funding through their bank accounts. As of the religious scholarâ€™s point of view, the seminaries does not promote hatred or supply arms to its students thus calling it a â€˜western agendaâ€™ to degrade seminaries. This clause became awfully provocative that just days after the formation of National Action Plan, the religious parties negated to get on board with the government if madrasas were targeted. There are total 35000 madrasas in Pakistan and 374 in capitalâ€™s territory. All of them are freely operating. Till this day, majority of the madrasas remains unregistered showing governmentâ€™s feeble attitude towards this issue.
Rehabilitation of IDPs:
After the military initiated Operation Raah-i-Nijad in 2009, followed by Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014, majority of the population in Waziristan and FATA got displaced and moved to Punjab and Sindh. Even today, there are few conflict zones such as Rajgal and Shawal valley which are not completely safe, due to which the fate of the IDPs remains uncertain. Secondly, a large number of IDPs are reluctant to return either due to the damage of their properties, lack of food and health facilities or because of better employment opportunities in other provinces such as Punjab and Sindh. For the rehabilitation of IDPs, government lacks the focus of providing basic facilities to them and recover their losses.
Registration and Repatriation of Refugees:
As far as the repatriation and registration of Afghan refugees is concerned, there are nearly 1.3 million registered refugees in Pakistan and around a million unregistered refugees. The unregistered Afghan refugees living in different provinces of Pakistan pose a direct threat to the national security as there is no check and balance of their movements across the country. They are also involved in arms and drug trafficking. The heated tensions on the Pak-Afghan border forced the government to repatriate the registered and non-registered refugees. Certainly, due to the forced repatriation, Pakistan has gained a bad reputation both from the Afghan government the right-wing. Moreover, the focus has been shifted from repatriation towards the effective border management as Pakistan Army announced to fence the whole 2430 km of Pak-Afghan border and making check posts and forts to further toughen the security and ensuring that no one would cross the border illegally.
Despite the long-standing history of Military coups, the army of Pakistan still stands a victor as they achieved all hallmarks successfully. From strengthening border security to successfully eliminating all terrorist elements from within the country, while convicting the terrorists under the military courts. The achievement can easily be noticed, as there is a drastic decline of around 70% in the terrorist incidents as compared to the past. Whereas, the Civil government sees and speaks an entirely different and even a contradictory story. A narrative which was initiated enthusiastically to eradicate extremism and violence, has merely become a sidelined instrument. There is a lack of performance by the Ministry of Interior and NACTA. The political parties and religious groups does nothing but accusing one another for the failure of National Action Plan. Although Pakistan has achieved its target to kill the terrorists, the government has failed to form a strategy to root out the idea of violence that fuels Terrorism and Extremism.