By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
Pakistani institutions over the years have struggled to bring in an era of stability in spite of working together (sometimes not) in face of multidimensional challenges. Not just domestic, but foreign policies have also been heavy causalities in the ongoing confrontations.
A deep split has formed in the fabric of the society; on one side are the violent religious groups who are increasing taking more public space, are more organized, and in many cases armed and committing acts of terrorism to establish their dominance. Removed from this group, on the other side, are the moderates and the liberals who are resisting this takeover of public space.
The fact that for a substantial part of his term, Nawaz Sharif has been struggling to clear his name in ongoing saga of Panama case with an absentee Finance Minister, the government’s failure to hire a competent finance minister has further dented the economy. The economy, according to a latest report, has already suffered over Rs. 118 billion since 2001, with all provinces and regions suffering to some extent.
A 20 point plan was approved in 2015 in the All Parties Conference and announced by the then Prime Minister. Although a laudable initiative, it has failed to deliver due to many reasons.
Viewing some of the points within;
Administrative and development reforms in Fata with immediate focus on repatriation of IDPs: Though repatriation of IDPs’ is in progress, little has been done barring lip service to make each of the seven FATA agencies a district of KP.
Militant outfits and armed gangs will not be allowed to operate in the country: Though it is a fact that terrorist based incidents have gone down, they are far from over. Military operations can only be a temporary relief at best. One notable reason has been the government refusing to admit the need of a Rangers operation in Punjab that led to substantial time loss to address the issue. This gave space to the banned outfits to continue their recruitment of youngsters and collection of funds. These banned organizations included ASWJ, LeT and SSP.
All funding sources of terrorists and terrorist outfits will be frozen: Baby steps were taken by set-ups like the State Bank that did freeze 126 accounts connected with prescribed set-ups. Hundi and Hawala fund transmission was recovered to the tune of Rs. 251.2 million. However, other acts continue, destroying our society and bringing in big bucks to the kingpins and chain of people working for them, mainly for drug sales. These big bucks in many cases are used to buy military hardware and other equipment. Hash, weed (different types of Marijuana) Ecstasy, Cocaine…… drugs are now available more easily and to a younger market. The more difficult we make the procurement, the better it will be.
Militant outfits and armed gangs will not be allowed to operate in the country: Not only in certain cases a cap on this change has not been made but also different provinces may have different policies regarding dealing not only with this issue but also regarding registration and regulation of religious seminaries. Even if one accepts the government’s claim of registering a greater number of madrasahs (religious seminaries), relevant data needs in-depth scrutiny like the syllabus being taught within, the source of funding, presence of ghost madrasahs and so on. A news story quoted that “the law enforcement agencies have sealed 102 seminaries for fanning extremism – 87 of which were in Sindh and only two were in Punjab, which is a remarkably low figure for the most populated province.” (Local newspaper: January 30, 2017)
End to religious extremism and protection of minorities will be ensured; Religious extremism has increased not decreased over time. Not only this discrimination existed in the first Constitution adopted in 1956, it was subsequently reinforced in the 1962 and 1973 revisions of the Constitution. Article 41(2) provides that “a person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim,” Not just this, the Blasphemy Law has been used in many cases to persecute the religious minorities. Ahmadis have been target of discriminatory and religious based violence.
NACTA, the anti-terrorism institution will be strengthened; how this organization has been sidelined can be seen by one fact that government allocated zero funds to it in the 2015 budget. NACTA can help intra-provincial issues and formulating uniform policies for madrasah reforms.
Strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, decapitation, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance; A certain regressive mind set has seeped in to the core making this an uphill task.
These are some of the issues that are currently impeding the country’s progress. A sustained, well-coordinated national effort inclusive of mass campaign to raise the bar of public awareness regarding terrorism is the need of the day. A counter-narrative needs to be embedded in school curriculums and media. Educating people, especially the younger age group, about enticingly incorrect Islamic interpretations to join a militant outfit must be a priority. Unfortunately little if any step has been taken on these checkmarks.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9