Lack of clarity in War against Terrorism : Dawn Editorial

SHUJA Khanzada is dead and the state has found refuge in a familiar set of responses. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered that the architects of the attack be found and punished, as has army chief Gen Raheel Sharif. Prime Minister Sharif and Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan have emphasised that the National Action Plan be implemented. Meanwhile, in Punjab, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his cabinet have adopted a resolution appreciating Mr Khanzada’s efforts in the counterterrorism domain and have pledged to eliminate terrorism from the province. The provincial government has also called on its sister federal government to honour the slain Punjab minister with the highest civilian award posthumously. In all of that, there are absolutely no details about what exactly will be done, and how or where. There is no mention of how and why the NAP has stalled in key areas and what will be done to re-energise it. In weeks or months from now, the country will learn, possibly through an ISPR Tweet, that the architects of the Attock attack have been killed in air strikes or a surgical operation, or have been secretly caught and tried in military courts and condemned to death. The public and the media will have no way of independently verifying what the state claims.

Time and again, the difference between what government and military officials assert and what is seen to happen is the same: the policy promised is rarely delivered and never implemented. The state would point towards the decline in militant attacks and the re-taking of terrain in the North Waziristan and Khyber agencies as signs of meaningful and genuine progress. There have likely been a number of attacks thwarted in the cities by so-called intelligence-based operations. Militants have been killed and captured and the immediate capabilities of several militant groups reduced. But consider another reality. The most devastating militant attack in the country’s history was the Army Public School attack in Peshawar. That was claimed by and has been blamed on Mullah Fazlullah, the TTP kingpin who waged war against the state in Swat and who was dislodged after a massive military operation in 2009. It says much about the nature of the long war against militancy that the leader of an insurgency that the state stamped out in Swat in 2009 caused the convulsion that was December 2014.

Mere vows of immediate action by the political and military leadership mean little. The war will be a long one and it will have to be fought purposefully and with clarity. There the state is failing. What, for example, is Towheedwal Jihad Group, six members of which were condemned to death for the Peshawar school attack last week? If the public is unaware of even the names of militant groups being fought, how can it be sure the state is winning the fight?

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