Losing the plot, again
The Shikarpur incident once again exposed the incomplete nature of the national action plan, at least in terms of implementation. The Shi’a have been the prime targets of militant wings spread across the country – from the Kurram Agency to the borders of Balochistan. And they were, naturally, sure to be foremost among likely targets for reprisal attacks once Zarb-e-Azb got off the ground, and especially after Peshawar, when the government and military promised a newfound resolve against terrorism. Yet they remain unprotected. As do other minorities, which clearly strengthens the enemy’s resolve.
As warned repeatedly, it will take far more than the bombs and bullets of the military operation to root out terrorism, as the prime minister has promised. Jundullah, which claimed responsibility for Shikarpur, and affiliate groups have long since openly dubbed sectarian minorities like the Shi’a as infidels. And, side by side, the seminary system that dominates the periphery has nurtured an environment that appreciates only a very harsh interpretation of Shari’a. As a result, militants have been able to muscle their mujahid model deep into the society’s fabric.
And far from actively, and forcefully, checking anybody’s authority to push groups out of the fold of religion, the state has not yet taken the smallest step in the battle of the narrative, which will be the longest and hardest-fought in this existential war. Furthermore, the government – even after Peshawar – has not imposed its writ on “sympathisers of terrorists”, as the action plan clearly demands. The lal masjids of this Islamic Republic remain without check, and the hesitation in apprehending its chief cleric has been seen as a sign of weakness. Controlling this insurgency requires not only dealing with those who kill in the name of religion, but also those who glorify these killers. And more importantly, there will be the need to re-educate people after decades of brainwashing. But so far the government is mismanaging the momentum generated after the Peshawar tragedy. If it loses the plot again, it might not be possible to try again.