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December 16, 2019

Tackling terror


December 16, 2019

Five years ago today, 144 people, the majority of them children, were killed during a terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar. For their families, and the families of countless others who have been killed by the militant plague, there is nothing that can fill the void in their lives. On the rest of the country rests the grave responsibility of ensuring that those whose lives were so cruelly taken away from them are never forgotten. Today, the families of many victims of the APS attack have renewed the pledge to serve humanity in memory of their children. As on every anniversary, words of solidarity will come today too – from the government, from the opposition, and from other stakeholders. But they must also be accompanied by action and it is there that our track record has been mixed. Certainly, we have significantly disrupted militant networks, and for that there should be unreserved appreciation and acknowledgment. But our track record in implementing the National Action Plan, devised in the aftermath of the APS attack, has been decidedly mixed.

What has been welcome recently has been the decided crackdown on militant groups and their leaders – including some of those that have in the past been molly-coddled by being ignored far too obviously. Nacta was supposed to be fully functional under NAP, madressahs were supposed to be reformed and militant messaging was supposed to be tackled. While there has been some progress, a lot is still left to be done. For NAP to be fully implemented, we need to ensure that we tackle not just the day-to-day security needs of our citizens – which are most important – but that we also challenge those that are polluting the minds of our youth with extremist thinking. For that, the state will have to come up with strong counter-narratives that resonate with all of the population.

There must also be a recognition within the state that legitimate grievances of people from what we conveniently call ‘marginalised areas’ need to be addressed. Discouraging dissent, unpunished violence by law enforcement, islands of privilege within the power structure and the obvious disparity between regions with the country – all this just makes any progress on counterterrorism slow down, not speed up. The promises made to the families of those who lost their children on December 16 five years ago – and the promises made to the hundreds of thousands who have been devastated by violence in the last two decades – must be kept.

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