Since its launch the National Action Plan to counter terrorism has scored some impressive gains, but going by the reports emerging from the deliberations of Thursday’s high-level meeting to review its progress, it is clear that much work remains to be done.
It is encouraging to see a consensus emerging at the top that the menace of sectarianism needs to be pursued with vigour, along with the agreement that concrete steps would be taken to achieve this.
It is equally heartening to see a renewed focus on choking off the sources of terrorist finances, and mobilising alternative narratives against the hate-filled ideologies that fuel extremist actions.
The regular rounds of consultations at the top, involving civil and military leaders, to review progress and agree on a course forward indicates that some stock-taking is taking place at regular intervals and the implementation of NAP is not as lacklustre as some reports earlier in the summer may have suggested.
On the other hand, it is obvious that progress is patchy in many areas. For example, following the latest meeting, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan underscored certain tasks that were going to begin in earnest.
These include reviewing gun licences, registering seminaries and putting an end to terror financing. It is discouraging that these tasks still remain to be done more than 260 days after the announcement of the anti-terrorism plan.
Choking off terror financing is a key objective of NAP, and the interior minister had announced as early as January that all efforts would be made to accomplish this goal. So why are we still talking about getting started on the job, some eight months later?
How much has actually been done to enable the superior tracking of terrorist finances since that decision in January?
In fact, the words that leak out of every such ‘high-level meeting’ to review action under NAP indicate that whereas some progress has indeed been made in hunting down terrorist personnel and organisations, progress to close down the spaces that allow such militant groups to exist and ply their trade has been slow.
This means that the gains of today can be reversed tomorrow as the organisations under fire at the moment can reconstitute themselves quickly if the swamp that breeds and nurtures them is not drained.
It is high time that implementation of the plan moved towards denying the terrorists this space in our midst and expanded its focus to suppressing militant narratives and choking off extremists’ access to funds, supplies and recruits.
Military means alone cannot accomplish the goals set out in NAP to rid ourselves of the menace of terrorism.
For that to happen, greater clarity will be required in the precise objectives that are being pursued under NAP, and a willingness to acknowledge not just what we are fighting against, but also what we are fighting for.