Radd-ul-Fasaad: Now or Never

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While the government has come quite heavily against sectarian violence and religious persecution, it clearly failed to initiate any meaningful initiative to reform our criminal justice system

With a full media blitz Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad has been launched nationwide. What differentiates it from Operation Zarb-e-Azb is perhaps the resolve now visible within the political leadership to go for a comprehensive elimination of the “latent and residual threat through a broad spectrum security and counter terrorism operations” across the country as mentioned in the ISPR Press Release. Before dilating on the resolve and the comprehensiveness of Radd-ul-Fasaad it is essential to first evaluate the implementation of National Action Plan so far, so that the weakness are brought to fore before a few suggestions are proffered for the successful execution of Radd-ul-Fasaad.

Out of 274 convictions so far by the military courts, and 161 death sentences awarded, only 12 have made it to the gallows, while the remaining are under process with the government in various forms of review. With NACTA envisioned to be strengthened as part of NAP, it is still far from an effective body commensurate to its spirit and the threat spectrum confronted. Security operations against militant organizations and armed gangs across the country especially in FATA have witnessed great successes in dismantling their strongholds while reducing their abilities to plan and conduct terrorist operations. With militant leadership intact mostly in Afghanistan, this effort is also far from being over. There has been hardly any progress on controlling financial flow to the terrorist and its affiliated organizations across the country. Similarly there has not been any impressive progress on the registration and regulation of religious seminaries, considered an important part of NAP. There has been a clearly visible lack of political will on the ongoing operation in Karachi and commencement of a meaningful operation in Punjab. Though there has been meaningful progress on the raising of counter-terrorism force by the respective provinces, but its training and employment lacks focus as most of them are visibly seen performing VIP duties rather than counter-terrorism operations for which they were raised. Not completely but to a great extent the government has progressed in reducing cyber space to terrorist organizations and media glorification of their terrorist actions with effective cooperation of both print and electronic media. On the administrative and political reforms in FATA and return of IDPs, the government’s actions are still on papers while some IDPs are still languishing in camps to be relocated to their towns and villages. Similarly the issue of repatriating Afghan refugees is still in the process of working out modalities by Ministry of SAFRON with UNHCR and other government bodies. On empowering Balochistan government for political reconciliation with dissident elements, the government has made sincere efforts, though without achieving much, mainly due to weak foreign policy initiatives as most of these elements resides outside Pakistan. Finally, while the government has come quite heavily against sectarian violence and religious persecution, it clearly failed to initiate any meaningful initiative to reform our criminal justice system considered to be the mother of all ills in our society.

A brief and dispassionate evaluation above clearly indicates why we have so far not been able to comprehensively defeat the menace. The spectacular achievements of Zarb-e-Azb militarily could not be pursued in the politico developmental areas with the same momentum by other elements of national power for capacity issues, and in some cases lack of will for reasons of political expediencies. Additionally since the menace has a foreign dimension to it, mainly due to the ongoing tug of war in Afghanistan and the increasing footprints of India with the tacit support of US, no domestic effort alone will guarantee us lasting peace both within the country and region unless the foreign policy instrument is geared up on war footing in support of the overall national effort.

It therefore is of utmost importance, that the government and the security apparatus undertakes a dispassionate review of its policy framework and strategy to make it palatable and responsive to the threat that is not only real but dynamic. It needs to be clearly understood that the enemies design is to perpetuate the threat on the inner front in order to create and widen the cleavages besides sapping the potential and energies of security apparatus simultaneously attempting to weaken our national resolve to defeat the menace.

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad will only make a difference when both the politico military leadership persist with the resolve seen after the Sehwan blast

With the announcement and commencement of Radd-ul-Fasaad across the length and breadth of the country, the enemies within and outside have gone more active to inject an ethnic tinge to their failed efforts to isolate Pakistan. The response, therefore, has to be not only long term and comprehensive but dynamic as well so as to effectively respond to the evolving threat in a befitting manner.

At national and strategic level there must be a counter narrative that must be wholesome in its conception and implementation. Broad strands of the narrative could be as covered.

One, the state needs to communicate with its people to expose the deviant takfeeri ideology. More civilians and soldiers have been killed during this war than in our wars with actual enemy. It is generally believed by the people that the threat is transitory and due to US presence in Afghanistan alone, though there is much more to it and about which the larger community need to be informed and educated.

Two, to confront and challenge the takfeeri ideology needs a scholarly work of intellectual domain rather than leaving it in the military domain alone. There is a greater need to clarify the differences between takfeer and jihad for better understanding of common folks.

Three, to contain their ability to communicate with the common people through effective measures like blocking their print material, websites, blogs and financial flow both from within and outside.

Four, to counter the takfeeri narrative not through increasing liberalization which has neither worked nor likely to deliver but through the solid and authentic teachings of Islam. The counter narrative should not only target the general public but the takfeeri community to reintegrate them back into the main stream. At minimum it will create doubts in their thought process about the cause they are fighting for. While more print material should be distributed in affected areas, efforts be made to deny any opportunity to the militants to print and distribute anti-state hate material.

Five, to engage with the larger community through the intellectual community, Ulemas, political leaders and social workers etc. Engagements with ex militants and using them to pursue radicalized elements to give up their deviant approach and return to mainstream. Similarly the implementation effort can incorporate the parents and relatives of known militants to pursue the militants to denounce violence and revert to society as productive citizens.

Six, the state is like a mother and hence it must continue all efforts to rehabilitate those who have either surrendered or are arrested. This will reduce the fear of reprisals and encourage militants to surrender. Some sort of amnesty scheme can also be thought by the government.

Seven, there is a greater need to correct some policies and the misperceptions created in the minds of majority common people especially in the rural areas. A perception that large number of women and children were killed during Lal Masjid operation, led to 43 suicide bombing attacks within five months after the incident as compared to only 33 suicide attacks in six and a half years from 2002-2007. There is a lot that can be done to address gaps in the policies and remove the misperceptions.

Eight, there is a greater need to incorporate the issue of takfeer and related matters in the curriculum of text books at different levels. Islamic teachings which forbid takfeer of a person or group are of special concern to the subject. Similarly in our madrassa curriculum, there is more need for incorporating subjects like serving humanity, social responsibilities, respect for judicial laws and human rights etc. Such like subjects would face minimal resistance as compared to other subjects, which they brand as a ploy of the west.

To confront the threat up front in the short-term some immediate priority measures are; first, the institutions directly responsible for countering the menace in the physical domain need to be revamped and reorganized on war footings to make these more responsive to the evolving threat. Law enforcement agencies including intelligence apparatus needs a serious review.

Second, the general confusion prevailing among the political leadership on the ownership of this war need to be dispelled and removed. A more overt ownership across the political divide is the need of the time.

Third, on the inner front, such operations have their own negative fallout that is more often exploited by the enemies. All concerned especially those operating on ground need to be thoroughly briefed against any display of ethno sectarian biases while conducting routine search and other security related operations. Defaulters need to be given exemplary punishments as any unprofessional conduct assists the enemies more in exploiting these individual misconducts.

Four, with space for conventional wars shrinking we are more likely to continue operating in a Fourth Generation War. There is a greater need for the government and security apparatus to prioritize its developmental effort commensurate to the threat spectrum.

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad will only make a difference when both the politico military leadership persist with the resolve seen after the Sehwan blast. This resolve need to be clearly manifested in formulating our policies, response strategies and subsequent implementation. It needs to be kept in view that to win this war comprehensively a wholesome response incorporating all elements of national power is mandatory. We not only have the wherewithal but the desired military potential to defeat the enemy. All that is required is a greater sense of ownership and resolve from the political leadership.

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