Azam e Istehkam – matter of life and death for Pakistan

Pakistan, TTP, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Azam e Istehkam

Pakistan is amongst those countries in the world, which are perennially combating terrorism and militancy for a long time now. After fierce show downs, spread over two decades, Pakistan eventually turned the tide and quelled the militancy across its length and breadth, in an effective manner. However, the sudden US departure from Afghanistan left behind a security vacuum, to be filled only by negative forces like Taliban. Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), patronized the nexus of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their Afghan chapter TTA and let them thrive in areas bordering Pakistan. All this resulted in enhanced security issues for Pakistan.

Many of the terror incidents that have taken place in Pakistan recently, their connections can be traced back to the Afghan soil- the traditional hotbed of terrorism. Terrorists attack on Chinese nationals in Besham area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is a case in point.

To address the ever-looming threat of terrorism, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has accorded approval for Operation ‘Azam e Istehkam’ (resolve for stability), during the Apex Committee meeting of National Action Plan (NAP).

Operation Azm-e-Istehkam reflects Pakistan’s unyielding resolve to eliminate terrorism and bring about stability. Formulated in 2014, sequel to appalling attack on Army Public School (APS), NAP offers a comprehensive strategy to tackle terrorism and extremism. The heinousattack that claimed 141 lives including 132 children was a wakeup call for Pakistan to prepare for such attacks. Operation Azm-e-Istehkam is clear manifestation of a new push that seeks to combat the threats of extremism and militancy, indiscriminately.

The approval of Operation Azm-e-Istehkam follows needful consultation with four provincial governments besides other relevant stakeholders. The focus of the Apex Committee on a rejuvenated approach highlights the greater need for national unity. It also shows that there is a national consensus towards a broad-based approach to tackle the menace of terrorism.

Militancy is not an endemic but a multifaceted phenomenon, which requires synergetic and synchronized application of all elements of national power, to uproot it. Prime Minister Sharif’s statement at the meeting is unequivocal: “It is not the job of one department but the whole Government and especially all the provinces will have to join hands”.

This statement emphasizes on the fact that it is not the responsibility of one department alone but it is the responsibility of the Government (s) as a whole. The war against militancy involves Federal and Provincial Governments, LEAs and the Armed Forces of Pakistan.

The situation with internal security as well as the counter-militancy operation, discussed in the Apex Committee, underscored the missing links in the implementation of NAP. It is therefore, imperative that gaps in its implementation are filled without further delay. The revamped approach necessitates better legislation, improved coordination and synchronized implementation of NAP.

As for the political and diplomatic aspects of Operation Azam e Istehkam, one of the primary goals is the cooperation with the regional countries. This will result in building increased pressure on the militants, curtailment of opportunities for them, while making the environment unfavorable for extremism. The assistance given to LEAs through proper legislation can also be taken as a major achievement. It remains important that LEAs are empowered to deal with legal issues that influence prosecution of militancy related cases.

However, the fight against militancy cannot be solely focused on the military and law enforcement actions, there are socio-economic factors, which needs to be taken into account. The operation will have to be accompanied with socio-economic activities that will seek to solve the real issues affecting the people.

Preventing the emergence of extreme attitudes and behaviors means not only the use of negative incentives, but also the provision of positive stimuli for the formation of a stable personality or society. Similarly, education and counter-radicalization remain essential for the general public. The information space will have to be used to create a coherent and consistent narrative in support of the anti-militancy campaign. This entails a process of sensitization of the public, creating awareness and disseminating positive and constructive messages that advocate for peace and stability. The media and educational institutions will have to play a very crucial role. To counter militancy, people’s perceptions and attitudes need to be altered, in order to foster harmony and acceptance.

It is impossible to revive the economy without affording safe and secure environment to the local and foreign investors. Counter Terrorism Departments (CTDs) are the responsibility of respective provinces after 18th Amendment.

Provincial Governments should therefore, step-forward and ensure that LEAs functioning under provinces are provided with all the necessary resources and training to effectively combat militancy. The commitment of Provincial Governments to NAP, remains to be a critical factor in its implementation.

Good governance, rule of law and the writ of the government are pre-requisites to countering militancy. Without these attributes, the confidence of investors or economic stability cannot be guaranteed. The war against militancy is not the war of the military alone but it is the war of every other institution of the state as well. Key clauses of National Action Plan (NAP) are enlisted as under:

  1. Execution of death sentences: Enforcing death penalties for terror suspects as a measure of discouraging such acts in the future.
  2. Establishment of special trial courts: These courts are under the military supervision and are intended to try terrorism-related cases as fast as possible.
  3. Strengthening NACTA: The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) will be strengthened to improve its capacity in leading counter-terrorism activities.
  4. Action against hate literature: Measures to ban or limit the circulation of materials that incite hatred, extremism, and sectarianism.
  5. Disrupting terror financing: Cutting off funds and other sources of support for militant groups.
  6. Registration and regulation of religious schools: Making sure that madrassas are registered and properly monitored so that they do not become incubators for extremism.
  7. Prohibition of militant glorification: Reducing the glamour of militants through media and other related avenues.
  8. Reforms in criminal justice system: Strengthening the criminal justice system in order to enhance prosecution and conviction of terrorists.

In nutshell, the ‘Operation Azam e Istehkam’ can be seen as a significant development towards Pakistan’s continuous fight against militancy. National Action Plan (NAP) is based on the principles of integration and cooperation of all levels of government. Its implementation in true letter and spirit is important. ‘Operation Azam e Istehkam’ can only be successful if all the state institutions, provincial governments, and most importantly the people of Pakistan are on the same page. It is not just a question of strategic interest, but a matter of life and death for Pakistan in its fight against militancy.

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  1. It was Pakistan army that gave birth to militancy. Now their own Frankenstein wants to kill the creators.


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