The list of 212 national and transnational organisations that has been published by the Pakistan government is nothing more than a piece of window-dressing. It purports to detail those organisations that have been ‘proscribed’ but the Supreme Court has rightly viewed the list with scepticism because the list does not “define how much state proscription is effective” — and therein lies the kernel of the problem. The government has not banned any group since the massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar last December, and despite an emerging body of evidence that the Islamic State (IS) may well be alive and well in Pakistan, it does not appear on the list because the government would be admitting an IS presence if it did — not something it is willing to do, preferring a state of eternal denial instead.
That the state has not moved decisively against many of the groups on the list is evidenced by the profound silence emanating from those on the list. Were the government agencies to have moved against those who operate openly despite being ‘proscribed’ or ‘banned’, there would have been howls of protest and nationwide street demonstrations, organised by those who may have a hand in spreading terror in our midst. That silence speaks volumes in terms of just how serious the government is about disrupting the narrative of extremism in Pakistan — in short and very clearly, it has not the slightest intention of doing anything of the sort. But it needs to look as if it is, hence the list.
Further evidence of invertebrate activity by the government is found in the failure to fund the National Counter-terrorism Authority (Nacta) despite it being a key designated player in the National Action Plan. Nacta does not even have an internet presence, with the monitor displaying the Nacta page that says “Updated website under construction”. Money continues to flow into organisations ‘banned’ or ‘proscribed’ and their literature is widely distributed — as is that of the IS. This pathetic attempt to look busy whilst doing nothing foxes nobody. Any fool can make a list — but it takes a brave man to act on it.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015.
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