For too long, the work the government, its agencies and political leadership should have undertaken and finished to confront and control terrorism had been cut out; that the urgency that it should be done was to be dictated by the blood spilt in the classrooms of Peshawar Army Public School is nothing but rank national failure. What a price the nation had to pay. How frivolous were the inhibitions which had held back national consensus for a unified action against the modern-day Herods the Great; indeed very frivolous. No wonder then it hasn’t taken the political leaders across the board more than a day to turn the page on their ego-centric perennial squabblings and join hands against terrorists. No beef with those who paint the unanimity arrived at the Governor’s House on the day after as the Pakistani nation’s inherent strength to rise to the occasion. But who is to be blamed for the continuing lack of will and action against monsters who kept spilling innocent blood wherever they wanted, and when caught were not punished? We will watch as the joint declaration issued at the end of a multi-party conference (MPC) chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif plays out. Given the enormity of the terrorists’ barbaric act the Peshawar declaration cannot be allowed to be another déjà vu.
In the wake of the school carnage quite a few important developments have taken place. One, the MPC has formed a committee, headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, to work out a national plan for counter-terrorism within a week, which will be then discussed with all stakeholders, including the armed forces, before implementation. Though we set no great store by ‘committees’ set up from time to time, but given the gravity of the situation, we trust this time it would be different from the routine. And also that the timeline would be hermitically observed, particularly when debates and discussions of “good” Taliban and “bad” Taliban and if they are fighting for the glory of Islam have lapsed. Two, with a complete agreement of the MPC participants the government has lifted the nearly decade-old moratorium on executions following courts verdicts. This was long overdue, and the law-enforcement and security agencies had been asking for it, but as much for the pressure exerted by the European Union and various rights groups as for a lack of clarity on the part of the government of the day, executions were not carried out, with the result that, as of now, there are no less than eight thousand convicts on death row. Death penalty is an essential part of the Pakistan Penal Code and should not have been placed under moratorium, especially of the convicted terrorists. From now on those convicted of terrorism-related offences would be sent to the gallows. How adversely the moratorium impacted counter-terrorism actions the classic case is that of the convict who while in prison had succeeded in breaking the same prison. But that said it would be pertinent to point out that all those convicted by anti-terrorism courts may not be the ones who were involved in the kind of terrorism the lifted moratorium is expected to counter.
At the same time Imran Khan’s change of heart reflected from his decision to wrap up his 126-day long sit-in is no doubt a good omen for the nation’s renewed pledge to win the war against terrorists. But one should not forget that his ‘dharna’ did cause a lot of national loss, the most grievously hurting being inability of the government to receive Chinese President Xi. All that he wanted to achieve was, and is, possible through peaceful means. In politics, past of a leader is more important than his future and it lives with him throughout. Good that he is convinced of what the Peshawar Corps Commander told him about the dangers lurking on the horizon: But isn’t it crassly weird that he didn’t know of it before? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this was the instant visit of army chief General Raheel Sharif to Kabul with an undeniable proof that the attack on the Peshawar Army Public School was organised and conducted by the Kunar-based Mullah Fazlullah. Even when quite a few other terrorist outfits, some on their own and some as proxies, are presently engaged in the countrywide terrorism in Pakistan the most active is the Mullah Fazlullah’s group. The ball is now in the court of new Afghan government, and they have to play it. And there are also quite a few others in Pakistan who wonder how come Mulla Fazlullah has survived the otherwise ubiquitous presence of American drones and the Coalition troops’ fire.