Condemnation is an easy thing our politicians and state functionaries conveniently offer after every terror hit. And needless to say, the intensity and frequency of terror strikes have just grown since the All Parties Conference on September 9.
The resolution that came out of the APC in itself was quite insulting to the common Pakistani. For the political wizards to refer to terrorists and militants as “our people” in the resolution was an abhorrent lexical choice. Anybody who read the draft of the APC resolution would agree that it betrayed the political leadership’s bending-over-backward approach to appease “our people” to come to the negotiating table. Some argue it was a sincere move for peace, but in all sincerity it has failed. The rising wave of terror in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa is enough to tell that the militants are unwilling to initiate talks. Now it is down to the government to assess if all militants are averse to talks or some. It may decide to talk to those who are willing and take on those who are adamant. But the task isn’t as simple as it sounds; one, because the militants have several groups, and two, because the government lacks preparedness to do such kind of discerning work.
The government, nonetheless, has hinted the PM will revisit the APC decisions once he gets back from the United Nations General Assembly, where he chose to tell the world “stop discrimination against the Muslims” at large. Some say it was a strange choice, but the PM may deliberately have used the platform to dual ends — to send a message to the power quarters in the world which means that “enough is enough, we aren’t willing to be your laboratory for experiments any longer”; and to further build his image in the eyes of the militants at home that look, the PM speaks up for the whole of Muslims regardless of geographic delineations. Whatever the purpose, the fact remains the PM faces a daunting task of restoring peace to his own country by all means at his disposal.
Given the track record of the successive governments, including the incumbent one’s, in foiling militant attacks, one ought not to be overly-optimistic. But if one agrees to the argument that the PM’s defence of Muslim Ummah at the UN was deliberate, not just accidental or a routine flow of the speech writers, then it also alludes to the possibility of the PM, or let’s say the state, knowing possible channels of funding to terrorists groups on the ground. When the PM revisits the APC outcomes, he needs to look beyond “a plain wish for talks” and “an outright onslaught”. Several key tools missing in our anti-terror armoury need to be found now. Funding to terrorism, local as well as foreign, must be checked. Without wasting any further time, the state should embark on “follow the money” initiative. Similarly, sociological aspects of counter-terror strategy should also be looked into, and the people be given a narrative strong and clear enough to counter that of the militants. In this connection, the media may also be considered a stakeholder and be invited for its take, and at the same time be demanded to change the way it (media) covers terror incidents (probably covering a terror incident like a road accident is not a wise approach; the human tragedy be highlighted further by portraying the militants as those who cowardly kill the weak, innocent and vulnerable, and by highlighting the victims as national heroes, so that with each strike these would be the terrorists who would lose). Furthermore, the state may also tell its friends and foes alike its sensitivity on the terror, and that it itself will play clean, which means it may involve exposing the foreign terror financiers in broad daylight fearlessly. The earlier the government wakes up to the pressing need to address terror wholesomely, the better. PM Nawaz may already have realised that the common Pakistanis are so fed up with the routine expressions of post-attack condemnations to the level of clichés. He probably also knows that time is not on his side, and that there isn’t a quick fix available.