The National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism has not been fully implemented due to various reasons, including lack of civilian ownership of the plan for its execution, confusion on the definition of terrorism, and absence of a national narrative on terrorism. However, the successful Karachi operation and merger of the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were important achievements under the plan.
This was the crux of deliberations at a ceremony organized by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a German political foundation Pakistan and Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad based think-tank here on Sunday to launch two reports- “Defining Terrorism in Pakistan” and “Assessing the National Action Plan to counter terrorism and defining terrorism in Pakistan.”
The speakers stressed the need to have a clear definition of terrorism and to execute the NAP in letter and sprite with its ownership by the government to eliminate terrorism from our country. They said that 14 committees were formed to work on the NAP but only two of them became functional.
Humayun Khan, Program Coordinator FES, briefly introduced both reports and explained the working of FES in Pakistan. “These two reports have come out at a very important time in our history when are faced the sword of FATF for a fairly long time and at the time when Pakistan has suffered for almost two decades from the menace of terrorism where we have lost more than 50 thousand lives and billions of dollars and battle are still not over,” Khan said.
Dr. Safdar Sial, Director of PIPS, talked about the content of both reports in detail. He said that the definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 was broader and vague. “The Supreme Court of Pakistan asked Parliament of Pakistan in 2019 to define terrorism in Pakistan,”. He explained how the report discussed all the issues related to defining terrorism. He also discussed the contents of the second report that assessed the NAP to counter-terrorism and extremism. “We need a clarity of authority to make sure that NAP is implemented in Pakistan.”
Ahsan Ghani, a former senior police official who also headed the NACTA, termed both reports a timely intervention by FES and PIPS to bring the focus of government and other stakeholders back to the menace of terrorism in the country. “ATA 1997 used for political purposes to an extent that anti-terrorism courts overloaded with the cases. This made these courts almost redundant,” he said we lost focus. “All stakeholders and political elements need to sit together to define the pathway to fight terrorism,” he requested to PM on Interior and Accountability to make sure recommendations of both reports would reach PM and parliament.
ANP’s MPA Samar Bilour said that the state must have made sure that control on the use of violence was not given to any private militia. “These two reports must be discussed in the parliament and there is a dire need to have a clear legal definition of terrorism in Pakistan to make sure it is not misused,” he said.
Abdul Kareem Khan, CM’s Special assistant confessed that the focus of government might have shifted from terrorism and extremism to other issues. He termed both reports as a wake-up call and promised to make all the PM and Parliament recommendations.
He said that all stakeholders would have to play their role to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. “When the status quo is broken, then the problems will be solved.”
Those who spoke on the occasion included members of parliament, civil society leaders, senior journalists, and religious leaders, Shagufta Malik MPA (ANP), Jalil Jan (JUI-F), Wilson Wazir MPA, Mehmood Jan Babar, Sabookh Syed, Safi-ul-Allah Gul, Fida Adeel, Irfan Khan, Kashif-ud-Din, Tariq Waheed, Islam Gul Afridi, Zulfiqar Ali, Aziz Buneri, Shahnawaz Tarakzai, Lehaz Ali, Ghulam Dastagir, Prof Dr. Faiz-ul-Allah Jan, Professor Bakhat Zaman.
Hamayoun Khan from FES added that FES will launch these two reports in all provinces of Pakistan and administrative units and will continue to generate debate on these important issues.