Corps Commanders Want NAP Implemented. Is A Decisive Counter-Extremism Action On The Cards?
Does the Pakistan Army’s fresh resolve to help government implement the NAP mean something significant in terms of combating terror and extremism is finally about to happen?
The 220th Corps Commanders’ Conference chaired by Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday resolved to support the government and all stakeholders in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), according to a statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The press release further stated that the prerogative of use of weapon rests with the state alone. The statement is being seen as the military’s green signal to the government for initiation of a decisive action against terror and extremism.
In February, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that a fresh action against banned organisations would be taken, reiterating the government’s commitment to ensuring the implementation of the NAP. The announcement was made in the wake of Pulwama attack and India’s accusations about presence of safe havens of militants in Pakistan.
Similar pledges have been made by governments several times in the past, but the implementation of the NAP leaves much to be desired. Members of opposition parties including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto have recently criticized the government for inaction towards extremism and accused them of protecting banned terror organisations.
But the recent announcements by government and the corps commanders’ statement give rise to the question if this is the beginning of a meaningful action against extremist groups and terror financing. Or is it, once again, all talk and no action?
“The onus of non-implementation of NAP lies with the civilian government. Military did what it could to act against terror and it is wrong to blame military for the failure of civilians in eradicating the sources of terrorism”, says security analyst Brig ® Saad Shah. He says the army chief has stated it clearly on multiple occasions that the army wants an across-the-board action against terror.
“There is a clear resolve from the military about the shift in security policy and ending the differentiation between militant groups. But the counter-terror action has now entered a phase where government’s role is essential, so it’s the government who needs to make a decision about the fate of banned terror groups.”
He added that the threat of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also looms over Pakistan and our friendly neighbouring countries are becoming wary of the accusations of terror financing being leveled against Pakistan. “Apart from proving our sincerity in eradicating terror to the world, we need to act against banned terror groups because it is needed for our own stability”, he says.
Saad adds that if we want the revival of tourism, increase in investment and overall development, we need to act against these groups because they are a liability. “Pakistan’s progress cannot go simultaneously with the existence of the jihadi network. It needs to be dismantled at the earliest for the country to progress and achieve durable stability.”
A report published in DAWN newspaper in November 2018 claimed that the Interior Ministry has been working on a new version of the NAP. The new plan is Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi’s brainchild and calls for restructuring of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) to counter security threats.
A document by the ministry further stated that the NAP-2 would bridge the gaps in the earlier version formed in January 2015.
Brig ® Saad Shah is of the opinion that formation of NAP-2 is merely a political gimmick and attempt at obfuscation of the issue. “They should first answer if the existing NAP has been implemented. What is the point of making a new plan if the previous one remains unimplemented”, he says.
Saad Shah further said that all the laws needed to ensure action against banned groups and their facilitators are in place, but lack of will and non-implementation on the part of the government is the problem.
“Even small steps such as implementation of the Loudspeaker Act [to curb hate speech] could not be materialized. It is a failure of the government”, he says.
Analyst Ejaz Haider is of the opinion that the National Action Plan is not a plan per se, because it was put together in a hurry post-APS attack. “Its 20 points can be listed under three heads: counter-terrorism, counter-extremism and reforms. Counter-terrorism is the only side of NAP that has seen some activity because it is, relatively speaking, the easiest.”, he says.
Ejaz added that countering extremism is the most difficult part of the NAP not just because of what is perceived to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ actors. “It is difficult because there’s societal acceptance for extremism in large segments and it has many shades and hues.”
He further said that the corps commanders’ conference shows resolve but doesn’t tell us how the military will help the government implement NAP in terms of any viable policy or policies.
Meanwhile, a briefing on the NAP and progress in its implementation is to be held shortly. But the opposition parties have vowed to attend the NAP briefing only if it was held in the parliament and delivered by the prime minister.
“PPP’s position is that the PM should brief the Parliament over implementation of NAP, instead of a separate meeting to parties outside Parliament”, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar told Naya Daur, adding that it seems the PM does not want to respect the Parliament.
He further said that the government is not serious in combating extremism and it is evident from induction of individuals sympathetic to the militants in the federal cabinet. The PPP leader urged the government to come clean on fight against militancy.
Sources on the condition of anonymity told Naya Daur that the prime minister is reluctant to lead the briefing himself. But a formal announcement from the government in this regard is yet to be made.