A Karachi like Rangers operation in Punjab and mainstream Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could prove to be the magic potion that erases the menace of terrorism and extremism from the country.
However, despite terror incidents in the country the government remains unable to take militant outfits in Punjab head-on.
Among the 20 points of the National Action Plan (NAP), two addressed administrative and development reforms in FATA with an immediate focus on the repatriation of IDPs and zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab. However, no progress be seen on these fronts despite the passage of a year. This puts a question mark on the government’s intention when it comes to implementing the much-touted NAP in its true spirit.
It is a popular perception that an all out military offensive should be carried out in Punjab. There is also a need to speed up reforms in FATA after the Army Public School (APS) carnage and the subsequent Bacha Khan University terrorist attack. However, no concrete and visible steps have been taken in this regard.
The impoverished and deprived FATA area is being widely conceived as a safe haven for militant outfits. However, no real efforts have been made to mainstream the area, which is being governed under a century-old black law known as the Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR).
Though the incumbent government constituted a committee to reform FATA governing system, the seriousness of the government could be judged from the fact that the committee is mainly constituted of, and consulting from, the beneficiaries of the incumbent system.
A FATA Development Indicator Household Survey report carried out by the Bureau of Statistics, FATA Secretariat with a tripartite arrangement between, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and the Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar, with the financial support of Governance Support Project FATA-Multi Donor Trust Fund showed that literacy rate in FATA is mere 33.3 per cent, of which 49.7 per cent are males against 12.7 per cent females.
About the health, water, and sanitation data, the report says only 8.9 per cent of the estimated population has access to piped drinking water while only 6.3 per cent of the houses have underground drainage systems, and only 29.5 per cent of births were attended to by skilled health personals.
Political Analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Pakistan Today said that terrorism could be tackled by the military operation; however, to deal with extremism, reformation of the century-old system in FATA is imperative.
He said that the government should ensure the honorable return of the millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of FATA and make solid and war-footing arrangements to ensure the provision of quality health and education facilities for them.
Rizvi said that only reforming the incumbent system and developing the area could protect the people from the tendency to go towards militancy and extremism.
Punjab is also being widely seen as a factory that produces hardcore militants, and is known for their sanctuaries. However, the government has yet to launch a full-scale military offensive against them to eradicate the menace of terrorism once and for all.
Rizvi said that a FATA like military operation is not possible in the populated areas of Punjab; however, the government has to launch a Karachi-like Rangers operation in the province to deal with the menace.
Awami National Party (ANP) Senior Leader Afrasiab Khattak was of the view that the government has no will to take the war on terrorism seriously, as on one hand military operations are carrying on with full swing in FATA, but on the other it is in no mood to launch such an offensive in Punjab.
He said that the Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan himself confessed on the floor of the National Assembly that there are over 60 active banned groups in Punjab, which, he said highlighted that the Punjab government had failed to check the spread of such outfits there.
Afrasiab said that two of the 20 points in NAP relate to FATA reforms and an operation in Punjab. Despite the lapse of a year, no progress could be made, however. This speaks volume of the government’s non-seriousness.
He said that until the government implements these two points in their true spirit, the war on terror could not be won.