“We are in a state of war” is what we get to hear every day. However most Pakistanis seem convinced that the much talked about war on terror is a paper exercise being conducted in conference rooms, over numerous cups of tea and plastic bottled water, by people who have little or no interest in the subject. Absence of action against sectarian terrorists and hate preachers, apologetic ministerial statements, issuing weapon licenses instead of deweaponisation, courts demanding FIRs against casino-goers instead of the Lal Masjid clerics, ‘madrassas’ remaining untouched and repeated extensions for biometric SIM verification are just a few of the many unmistakable signs of reluctance to proceed against the militants and extremists.
If committees could win wars, the world would have been at our feet. To ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), the government has formed 17 committees. Twelve of these are headed by the same individual – the Interior Minister of Pakistan. One can almost take a bet that if asked to name all the committees he is supposed to chair, he would be at a loss to go beyond the first few. Clearly the Prime Minister was not attentive when a few months back, the Interior Minister’s competence and interests were being highlighted in a 2 hour parliamentary tirade by a senator from the opposition benches.
For 10 long years, the citizens of Pakistan have been expressing concern over unverified SIMs through articles in the press as well as letters to the government. How a SIM can be used in crime and militancy is well known to even an eighth grade student. By refusing to take any action, the interior ministry and the PTA indirectly facilitated the militants to launch scores of attacks and kill hundreds of citizens. It is only after we lost 141 children in Peshawar that the interior minister woke up to announce that SIMs not verified through the biometric verification process would be blocked after 28 days.
The figure however jumped up from 28 to 70 days as 26th February was announced as the last date for biometric verification of SIMs. As expected, on the eve of February 26th, the government extended the date till April 14th. Why did the government decide to risk the lives of its citizens and why were the unverified SIMs not blocked after 26th February? The extension can only be seen as a favour granted to militants. They get a window of another 2 months to attack the people and the institutions of Pakistan.
The minister who chairs 12 out of the 17 NAP committees appears to be working part-time as the spokes-person of the terrorists. As if speaking on behalf of his Lal Masjid client, the minister explained that Abdul Aziz has apologised and thus there was no need to arrest him – a fact profusely denied by the client himself. Is it fair to conclude that those who preach hate, claim to represent ISIS and keep the government hostage, in fact enjoy the protection and patronage of the interior ministry of Pakistan.
Dozens of terrorist attacks have been traced to students of various ‘seminaries’ in Pakistan. Only last week, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi was presented with evidence suggesting that the murderers of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto came from one such ‘madrassa’. While only a small number of madrassas may be engaged in militancy, it is imperative to carry out a scrutiny of all ‘madrassas’ for the type of activities, sources of funding, background of the teachers and the contents of syllabi. By not even beginning to move in this direction, the ministry has once again shown its tilt towards potential terrorists.
Pakistan could be living in a make-believe world if it expects to eliminate militancy by allowing 20 million uncontrolled weapons and hundreds of private militias to freely operate on its streets. Deweaponisation ought to have been the first step towards elimination of militancy. Instead of eliminating this critical instrument of violence, the interior ministry lifted the ban on commercial import of prohibited weapons in January 2015. The time and opportunity to launch a major deweaponisation offensive has been and is being squandered. Such lapses and contradictions are likely to raise questions on the real motives and commitment of the government.
These and many other similar examples expose the ‘high rhetoric-low action’ stance of the government. It appears that the interior ministry by its inaction and muddled oratory has opted to go slow and give space to the militants. In deep slumber, the 17 committees continue to ‘nap’ at the state expense. They are a sure recipe for landing Pakistan into an unenviable situation. Our only option may be to promptly bundle out the ‘napping’ brigade and replace it by someone willing to get on with the job.