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EDITORIAL: The Taliban have pledged not to allow Afghanistan become a base for terrorists who could threaten the security of other nations. Yet their success could embolden violent extremists to endanger security and stability of countries like Pakistan where terrorists challenging the writ of the state have been committing unspeakable atrocities against civilians and soldiers alike. Facing up to the situation, the civil and military leadership held a meeting of the National Action Plan (NAP) Apex Committee on Thursday, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended, among others, by COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI Director General Lt-Gen Faiz Hamid, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, and Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry later told journalists the main focus of the meeting was to "eliminate new and old terrorists and extremist groups who are trying to be active again against the backdrop of recent developments in Afghanistan." How concerning is the situation was earlier articulated by Gen Bajwa in his "Defence of Martyrs Day" speech, saying "a few people are being exploited by the enemies of the state. We will not allow their designs to succeed." Heartening were his words that violence and extremism would 'no more' be tolerated and no one would be allowed to blackmail the state on the basis of ethnicity, regionalism, language, ideology or religion.

The meeting reviewed and revised the political consensus-based NAP, launched a month after the December 2014 Army Public School massacre in Peshawar. This is important considering that several crucial requisites of the 20-point NAP were put into cold storage, such as disallowing militant outfits and armed gangs to operate in the country; choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organisations; ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organisations, and registration and regulation of religious seminaries - some of which serve as breeding grounds of violent extremists and suicide bombers. The plan to strengthen the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) also fell by the wayside due to turf issues. The renewed determination to do the needful should make the NAP more effectual. According to an official press release, the apex committee set short-, medium- and long-term targets also deliberating on the role and responsibilities of all stakeholders, including the federation, provinces and law enforcement agencies. It was decided to fast-track implementation of various measures to meet emergent security challenges with a focus on cyber security and espionage, judicial and civil reforms, capacity building of law enforcement agencies, and countering extremism and other issues having direct bearing on national security.

Reports emanating from the event say the committee also affirmed that no one would be allowed to take up arms and no violence from any group would be tolerated. This should mean the same would apply to those unarmed groups which incite violence by blackmailing legitimate authority, like the small religio-political group that forced a humiliating capitulation of the state in November 2017, and encouraged by that triumph again waged a countrywide agitation in October 2018 against the apex court verdict in a false blasphemy case calling for the assassination of the honourable members of the court who exonerated the innocent accused as well as the Prime Minister, also urging revolt against the army leadership. And yet it was not made to pay for those momentous crimes. Hopefully, lessons have been learnt from such dangerous experiences, and there would be no tolerance for any brand of extremism. The external challenges will also be best met when our own house is in order.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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