The National Action Plan (NAP) formulated in haste in the wake of the massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar last December was always going to be a stretch to implement. In broad terms, there was little to disagree with in the NAP, but it was always more of a wish list than a full-fledged plan, and putting flesh on the bones was a delegated task for the provinces, and their performance in terms of implementation has been very patchy indeed. The government has now conceded this at a meeting on May 27 held to review progress in implementing the NAP. The Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, had already met with the prime minister several days before, a meeting at which he was reported to have indicated his concerns regarding laggardly progress and seeking “measures for more effective implementation”. The Corps Commanders’ meeting in April had publicly expressed similar concerns, speaking of “lacklustre” implementation and the need to “re-energise the NAP”.
There are no surprises in the areas of the NAP that are lagging behind. Identification and control of foreign funding for seminaries and terrorist groups; the identification and shutting down of proscribed — as is already banned — groups and organisations; hate speech and inappropriate use of loudspeakers (where to be fair there has been some, but not sufficient, progress); and last but by no means least, madrassa reforms that have run head on into the implacable opposition of the religious establishment. There has been poor or limited progress in all these areas, and in some provinces, there is little or nothing that has been achieved in these key areas.
Sindh has been identified as being particularly behind other provinces. It was severely criticised at the review meeting for “not fully cooperating” and the Sindh Apex Committee, the group tasked with ramrodding the implementation of the NAP, was found to be “one of the worst performers”. The Sindh government was found not to have implemented the decisions of the apex committee regarding the law and order situation in Karachi, nor established the Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) for the urban areas of Sindh. Punjab got a better scorecard. All madrassas have now been “geo-tagged” — which at least means that somebody somewhere knows where they all are, but that is far from anything remotely resembling reform. There are 840 members of the CTF busy carrying out raids and the improbably large number of 4,200 suspects has been arrested under the Anti-Terrorism Act. There was no information as to where they were, how many have been charged or the impact that the arrests might have had on the incidence of terrorism in the province.
Progress is slow to non-existent because the political will to implement the NAP has quickly faded at a provincial level as the complexities of implementation, and the challenges presented, became ever more apparent. The NAP sought to tear up the rule book — if uniformly implemented it would have done just that — but vested interests and cultural rigidity were never going to allow anything as revolutionary as that to happen and so it has proved to be. No government has ever got anywhere close to making reforms in the madrassas, such is their power and stranglehold, and although there has been some success in identifying and — possibly — halting the flow of dark money into establishments that sponsor terrorist acts, it is also far from being enough to say that the flow is significantly occluded.
About all that can be identified as positive to come out of the meeting was that the prime minister and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar are once again on speaking terms and able to be in the same room as one another. Their estrangement has fed into the ragged implementation of the NAP, and it is to be hoped that their new-found amity will in turn produce something more akin to a bang than a whimper.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015.