The National Action Plan (NAP) point of strengthening and activation of the Nation Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has been implemented to a certain extent in recent months. It was designed to act as the principal research and analysis body to counter violent extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. Nevertheless, it still needs to be capacitated as it has not achieved the desired level of operationalization and effectiveness.
Insofar as the NAP point of countering hate speech and extremist material is concerned, although it has not been completely stopped, yet insinuating verbal and written attacks on sectarian and other opponents have been curtailed to a greater extent. The fact of the matter is that stopping hate speech has been a daunting task but certain courageous steps from the government have made it possible. There has been a crackdown on nearly all newspapers, magazines, FM radio stations, Internet sites, through which extremists and terrorists carry out their propaganda and got recruits, finances and sympathizers. The government has forfeited a large number of books spreading extremist propaganda. The most significant indicator of government’s action in preventing hate speech has been banning the publication of “Zarb-e-Momin” which has spread its message among its readers for long.
A very important provision of the NAP was choking financing for terrorists and their organizations. In order to counter extremism and terrorism, it was extremely necessary to check and squeeze the financial sources and other resources of terrorists in Pakistan. Making measures to achieve the task was easier said than done. Nevertheless, the government’s crackdown on the Hundi and Hawala business, the unofficial and illegal method of transaction of money from foreign countries to Pakistan, has been appreciable. However, perpetrators of the Hundi and Hawala business could not be brought to book. One has observed that in KP and Balochistan, the worst-hit provinces by terrorism, most of Hundi and Hawala businesses have been carried out by Afghans, in connivance with Pakistani officials. However, it would need continuous and concerted efforts from law enforcement agencies to check financial inflows to extremist and terrorist organizations. In fact, after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Pakistan on its grey list for not taking desirable steps to stop financial succor to terrorist and radical outfits last year, there was no other choice for the country’s law enforcement agencies to put a tap on the funding. Again, much still needs to be done in this regard and as extremist and terrorist organizations have established huge businesses and plazas, the intelligence agencies need to identify them and their setups must be taken into government custody.
Seemingly, the most important point of the NAP was the registration and regulation of madrassas. Given their physical existence and the historic contribution of the seminaries in religious extremism and terrorism in the country regulating and registering madrassas has been quite easy. However, the state institutions have not been successful in regulating madrassas for feat of backlash. Only very recently the PTI government has decided and told the madrassa owners in no uncertain terms that they will have to register with the government come what may. A very important step in this regard is to make madrassas duty-bound to send their children to liberal institutions to study contemporary and modern subjects in order to ratify their certificates and accept it as equivalent to that of mainstream educational institutions. A lot of backlash is expected on the decision from the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) of Fazlur Rahman but if the government remains steadfast, madrassas could be regulated. It is a question of now or never.
A lot of progress could be seen in implementation on the NAP point of carrying out administrative and development reforms in erstwhile FATA with immediate focus on return of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Because in the shape of lawless, underdeveloped and once stateless FATA, extremists and terrorists of all hues got the much-needed mini-state to conduct their gruesome activities in Pakistan and in the region. The former tribal region has been merged with KP and a huge amount of developmental budget of Rs1,000 billion for the next 10 years has been devised to develop the region. Of late, provincial elections have also been held in former FATA which though would not be of great consequences, yet it is an important step in the right direction. However, regarding FATA the government steps though have been in good faith, yet they might have had lacked acumen. This has been the fundamental reason that while the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has waned, but in its place now an ethnic radical organization, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has reared its head.
So there has been significant implementation on various points of the NAP but the government needs to increase the pace of its efforts and also put its priorities on the right track about certain aspects of the policy in order to effectively counter violent extremism and terrorism in the country.