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Monday July 22, 2024

A holistic operation

By Editorial Board
June 23, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs the meeting of Central Apex Committee of National Action Plan on June 22, 2024. — APP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs the meeting of Central Apex Committee of National Action Plan on June 22, 2024. — APP

The approval of Operation Azm-e-Istehkam marks a critical juncture in Pakistan’s ongoing battle against terrorism and extremism. Spearheaded by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and endorsed by a comprehensive array of stakeholders, including regional entities and military leadership, the initiative is meant to underscore a renewed national commitment to eradicating the scourge of terrorism that has plagued the country for decades. The operation approval came after a meeting of the National Action Plan (NAP) Apex Committee on Saturday, during which Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had said that a "soft state cannot win the trust of investors". The committee meeting discussed crucial matters, including those concerning the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan. PM Shehbaz said that the war against terrorism is the prime obligation of all state institutions but he added that the provinces would fully play their part in this regard and end the menace of terrorism in the country – emphasizing that laying responsibility on a single institution "would be a blatant mistake.” This holistic approach aims to rectify past imbalances where the burden of anti-terrorism efforts has sometimes fallen disproportionately.

These remarks come in the wake of a Chinese minister’s statement that in a turbulent world of rising uncertainties, “stability within the country is essential for development”. At the third meeting of the Pakistan-China Joint Consultative Mechanism (JCM) of the Political Parties on the CPEC, Chinese minister Liu Jianchao had said that internal stability is crucial for any nation to progress, suggesting unity among political parties. The security of Chinese workers in Pakistan is an issue that state institutions are making sure does not arise again. On June 16, the government assured Beijing of providing foolproof security to Chinese citizens working on different projects in Pakistan, reiterating that no one can create rifts between the two countries. PM Shehbaz’s remarks at the NAP meeting about security, stability and investment may not be something new but they underline the fact that the state of Pakistan realizes how crucial it is to eradicate terrorism from our soil. Pakistan fought a long battle against terrorism for over a decade and successfully eliminated terrorism from the country. Unfortunately, terrorism has made a comeback in the last three years due to the Afghan Taliban regime providing safe havens to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan. No wonder then that Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Munir Akram has also recently emphasized that despite making commitments, the Taliban regime has not taken decisive action to stop cross-border terrorist activities by the TTP.

The government is taking stringent measures to enforce hard economic decisions so that an IMF programme can be secured without any hiccups, highlighting how much the country wants investors to regain their confidence and bring in foreign direct investment as well as local investment. However, investors also have a legitimate concern about the security situation in the country. We already suffered economic as well as societal turbulence due to terrorism for decades. A hard-won battle against terrorism was not easy. Pakistan sacrificed thousands of lives before regaining peace. Now we are fighting another battle for peace. The government must implement NAP in its entirety. Terrorism and extremism have both made a comeback in the country. It is important that we remind ourselves that when NAP was announced after the horrific tragedy in the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar, we were told that it would be implemented in letter and spirit. In the 20 agenda points, there was a commitment to deal with hate speech but we have not seen anything substantial in this regard. Pakistan cannot progress economically and win back the trust of investors if there is extremism and terrorism in the country. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that not just foreign investors, but the people of Pakistan also feel safe in their own country. All provincial governments must also play their roles in fighting this menace. Encouragingly, the inclusion of regional cooperation in Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy also signals a broader diplomatic outreach aimed at curbing terrorist operational spaces beyond national borders. This proactive stance not only strengthens Pakistan’s security architecture but also enhances regional stability, crucial for economic growth and foreign investment. While military operations remain pivotal, efforts must concurrently focus on legislative reforms to plug legal loopholes, socio-economic initiatives to address root causes of extremism, and information campaigns to shape a cohesive national narrative against terrorism.