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January 7, 2015

Political hypocrisy makes NAP weak


January 7, 2015

ISLAMABAD: “Divided we stand, united we fall,” seems to be the motto of our politicians. The National Assembly on Tuesday adopted the 21st constitutional amendment but not before the two mainstream religious parties - Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and Jamaat-e-Islami took a “U-Turn.” They got their amendments incorporated when the bill was tabled but stayed back at the time of voting.
The National Action Plan (NAP) and the 21st amendment hardly provide an answer to counter terrorism and the kind of challenges we are facing today. It appears that JUI (F) and JI made a tactical move to please their “constituencies” by not participating in the voting and yet got their concerns addressed in the amendment. But this is hypocrisy, as they should have come and voted against the amendment if they still had reservations. They should have shown the moral courage by voting against it and supported the counter narrative.
I am sorry, but I don’t agree with Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif and the leader of the Opposition, Syed Khursheed Shah that through this amendment and NAP, we have made the future of our children “secure.” Can they guarantee that Peshawar-like incident will not happen when Children start going to school from next week?
NAP and the 21st amendment do provide for action against those outlawed organizations, which have resurfaced under new names, but what about those parties that preach extremism and are ideologically close to the extremists’ narratives but are not banned. Thus, the activists of outlawed groups can very easily take shelter in these parties and continue their activities.
NAP is also silent on the clear-cut definition of terrorism and extremism. There is no plan to cleanse the cities of million of illegal weapons, thousands tons of explosives and over three million fake arms licences. The makers of the 21st amendment and NAP used the old document of madrassa reforms, though the tendencies of extremism are more dangerous in

our campuses and colleges today.
It is quite strange that after reaching consensus and expressing resolve to fight terrorism and extremism, not once but twice since December 16th, JUI and JI backed off from their commitment, while some others also have “ifs and buts.” All this has made NAP a non-starter. The present scenario is more suitable to the terrorists’ narrative rather than the counter-terror narrative.
Perhaps, our leaders are waiting for another Peshawar-like incident before they wake up. Schools will reopen on January 12 after extended winter vacation because of the Peshawar incident. During this winter break our political leadership had only talked but did nothing practically, leaving our children at the mercy of the extremists.
The question is: will the army allow the functioning of Military Courts under the shadow of such polarisation? Is this not a setback for operation zarb-e-azb? Where we stand, today?About a week back I had talked about the possible difficulties that NAP will face. JUI (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Siraj ul Haq have now expressed their dissent, which is certainly disappointing for the other parties.
The net result of this division was a very defensive speech of federal interior minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan on Monday in which he tried to assure the NA what Military Courts would not do. He also said that 90 per cent Madrassas were not involved in any illegal activities. He was also too defensive about the Afghan refugees. One wonders how the government would launch an army operation in the major cities of Pakistan with such defensive approach.
The NAP draft should have defined terrorism and extremism. Any attack on the law enforcement agencies or on the people should have been considered as an attack on the State, irrespective of from where it has come. Terrorists take shelter anywhere; in madrassas, in campuses or even in the residential areas. Post 9/11, more arrest were made from the places other than madrassas. Thus, there was no point to single out madrassas.
Under NAP, the security forces should be allowed to raid any place, where they have reports of the presence of terrorists.We not only need madrassa reforms but major education reforms too. It is the responsibility of the State to provide education to all. A better, free and modern schooling system is the answer, which we had been ignored in the last three decades. Expansion of madrassas was the outcome of the collapse of our education and economic system.
Not only we have un-registered madrassas, but also thousands of private schools and colleges illegally established in the residential areas without proper registration. Thus, the issue is “illegal construction” and not merely non-registration.
Karachi is one of the biggest nurseries of madrassas. Most of the students here belong to lower middle class and there are two or three reasons why their parrents send them to madrassas. (1) Parents can’t afford private education as most of them have six to eight children. (2) They don’t send their children to government schools because of their poor standard particularly in the rural areas, where there primary education system has totally collapsed. (3) Financial reasons and not merely religious reasons are behind sending children to madrassas. Therefore, most of the students in these madrassas come from outside Karachi. (4) Madrassas not only provide them education but also meal and accommodation.
Late Mufti Muhammad Jamil was an outstanding Islamic scholar. I once asked him about the perception that madrassas are the breeding ground for terrorists. He laughed and said, “who has stopped the intelligence agencies, police or army to arrest any student, if he is found involved in terrorism?”
It is possible that some students might join armed groups after completing their education from madrassas, but we don’t teach terrorism or train terrorists, he added.In the past few years, there had been disturbing reports about increasing sentiments of extremism in the Campuses. Have we forgotten the incident at the Islamic University, Islamabad, a few years back in which a suicide bomber blew himself up and killed several students. Police and law enforcement agencies had also arrested students from the Karachi University and other Campuses in connection with their alleged involvement with outlawed groups. Those who attacked the protestors in Lahore were not members of any outlawed group.So, it is time to apologise to 150 children and teachers of Army Public School Peshawar that despite their sacrifices our leaders have courted hypocrisy at the time of taking action.

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