December 16 was a bad enough date for us in Pakistan before 2014. And then the Army Public School (APS) tragedy happened to ensure we never forgot the day. The APS was a reminder that something must change in the state of Pakistan to prevent this kind of violence. Perhaps a National Action Plan was in order.
Soon after December 2014, a plan was put in place. The only thing different was it was going to be a consensus plan, duly stamped by the parliament. The 20 points covered everything that there was to cover, to fight terrorism and restore peace. But the latent message was this — a change of narrative. Henceforth, there would be, to use a clichéd term, zero tolerance for terrorism and the extremism that bred it.
Two years down the road, it is time to take stock. So much has happened in these two years, both by way of implementing the NAP and figuring out how much is left undone.
There were apprehensions about the tone of retaliatory violence, to be realised in the form of a parallel criminal justice system, by the civil society from the word go. A lot of their fears have been proved right. In most cases, it came at the cost of human rights, due process and independence of judiciary. Yet, even the special anti-terror framework proved inadequate for the likes of sectarian killers like Malik Ishaq who had to be then removed through a police encounter.
Read also: NAP a review
No wonder that despite the resolve and the apparent consensus, there has been no let up in incidents of terrorism in these two years. People hint at the reduction in the number of terrorist incidents without taking into account how bloodier the incidents actually have been. Take the example of just two recent incidents in Quetta alone where hundreds of lawyers and young police personnel were mercilessly killed.
In the face of relentless terrorism, there are renewed curbs on freedom of speech and expression, all as part of a ‘Plan’.
Two years down the road, we hope the makers of the National Action Plan too are taking stock of its efficacy or otherwise. If they are, here are some sincere suggestions that might help.