Government of Pakistan has recently announced formation of a Parliamentary Committee to chalk out a National Action Plan to counter terrorism in Pakistan. Though the nation has really very little trust in the government, yet let us give it a chance, and support it as much as possible.
The problem has been analyzed and re-analyzed many a time. We do not have to get into a long exercise to find what we need to do. Here are two sets of suggestions – short term measures and long term measures.
The short term measures:
- A clear message should be sent to the entire nation that the government and military are on the same page, and both mean business. Some of the steps that would help send this message in unambiguous terms are:
- Arrest of top leadership of all the extremist groups (whatever their current names) especially Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jundullah and many more
- A complete and meaningful ban on extremist and terrorist organizations
- A clear and unambiguous message to media houses to stop giving space to Taliban apologists especially Orya Maqbool Jan, Ansar Abbasi, Hamid Gul, Imran Khan, Sami ul Haq, Munawwar Hassan, Abdul Aziz (or their disciples). Government should introduce changes to PEMRA Act if necessary. Channels should be punished if they do not take responsibility for the content.
- Cleanse Punjab. No attempt to address the issue of terrorism can be successful if Punjab is not touched.
- Madrassahs known for harboring terrorists should be shut down immediately without worrying about the consequences. Mullahs are on the defensive, and the opportunity must not be lost. Nothing more outrageous than the killing of innocent children can happen.
These measures would send a clear signal not only to the people of Pakistan but to our neighbors that the government means business this time. Many half-hearted and less committed extremists would mend their ways, and we would be left to deal with only the hardcore extremists.
The long term measures:
Following are the major issues that need to be addressed:
Army and Foreign Policy
I have clubbed them together because it is army that controls our foreign policy. Parliament needs to assert its authority as the institution that controls Army, not the one that is controlled by Army. ISI needs to focus on anti-terrorism intelligence rather than on making and breaking political parties/alliances.
We must put an end to the use of terrorist groups as a means to achieve foreign policy objectives. We want Kashmir liberated, Okay, but Jihadi groups have brought us no laurels. Let us admit that this strategy has failed miserably, and let us give a chance to diplomacy. Let us make life easier for ourselves and for the Kashmiris as well. It would be a great service to the cause of Kashmir liberation movement.
Similarly, we need to make it clear through our actions (not words) that we would not let our soil be used against any of our neighbors. Afghanistan, India, Iran and even China – all of them have been hit by the terrorists living in the safety of our land. We need to act against terrorists of all hues – including those complicating our relations with our biggest neighbor India by claiming to wage Jihad for the liberation of Kashmir.
It has been repeatedly mentioned in national discourse that Arab countries are actively supporting religious organizations (mosques and Madrassahs) in Pakistan. It should be one of the main objectives of our foreign policy to persuade the Arab countries to plug these funds pouring into Pakistan’s jihadi networks. We do not need more Madrassahs, we have more than enough mosques. We badly need schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and safe drinking water. If they have spare money, they should help us build these facilities. If they are more interested in earning ‘Sawab’, we should request them to spare us, and earn ‘sawab’ through some other means. If they are not going to plug this funding, we must find ways to plug it on our own.
FATA and Other Special Areas:
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), and Gilgit Baltistan should be brought under the constitution of Pakistan. People living in these regions should be given equal status under the constitution. FCR should be abolished forthwith. Jurisdiction of Pakistan’s higher judiciary should be extended to all of Pakistan including the areas mentioned above.
This is probably the most important issue that needs to be tackled very carefully. We must put an end to various types of education institutions – Madrassahs, Elite Schools, Public Schools, English Medium and Urdu Medium Schools, Mosque Schools.
Government needs to take over /nationalize Madrassahs. Every province should have its own textbook board, its own syllabus, and all the educational institutions (including Madrassahs, Private English Medium Schools, and Public Schools) should teach the syllabus approved by the governments of the relevant province.
The syllabus must be completely overhauled.
- All material that is insensitive to gender and minorities (religious, ethnic or other) should be removed.
- Lessons glamorizing war should be deleted. War heroes should be replaced with Heroes of Humanity – those who did great service to humanity.
- Lessons should emphasize inclusiveness. Lessons should be written for Pakistani students of any faith, any ethnicity, and any gender. The focus on macho Muslim men should be rectified.
- Take out the hate material and conspiracy theories from the syllabus.
- Falsehood must be removed from all books. Historical facts should be presented without any bias. We, as a nation, should be able to be comfortable with the truth. Teaching falsehood to our kids is not going to make us a great nation – never.
These are some humble suggestions. Please feel free to comment and add to these. Let us make it a comprehensive document. I would like to share the final document with the government and media. Your support in this regard would be highly valued.